“I will never forget the first time I locked eyes with a woman outside a brothel in the red light district of Calcutta. She was my age, born into a different set of circumstances. Her eyes were vacant. Every time I think of that moment, I think of her emptiness. I vow to use my voice and resources to uncover opportunities for her and others in her situation. It could have been the other way around.”
Executive Director and Co-founder, LCSW, Connecticut Advocate
Appreciating that circumstance is all that separates her reality from those of marginalized populations, Kristy has spent 17 years leveraging her social worker background as an advocate for the vulnerable among us. Empower Her Network benefits from all Kristy learned and experienced during her time as Executive Director of Boys Hope Girls Hope of Baltimore and Her Future Coalition. She runs transparent programs with the goal of building up those in need towards a day where they can support themselves. As Dorothy Day stated, “We have all known the long loneliness, and we have found that the answer is community”.
“I believe in Empower Her Network’s mission at it’s core. The first survivor that I encountered made me think of my favorite poem “Footprints”. These women are resilient and able to walk on the sand with both feet. At times they may face obstacles that may hinder them for whatever reason. EHN is there to provide extra support and carry them during these times so they can get back on their feet and work towards self-sufficiency.”
Atlanta Advocate, MSW, CLC
Melba Robinson has an extensive history of working for and collaborating with trafficked and commercial sexual exploitation victims throughout Georgia. Currently Program Director of Haven Atlanta, Melba’s expertise is in working with children and families, case management, and program & curriculum development. She joined Empower Her Network because she believes aftercare support is crucial for survivors on their road to independence.
“When I think of Empower Her Network, I think a lot about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. By collaborating with organizations already meeting the critical basic needs of survival and healing at the bottom of the pyramid, we at EHN can set our sights high and accompany survivors on the path of self actualization.”
New York Advocate, LCSW-R
As a clinical social worker who has spent the last eight years focused on the advancement, health, and healing of people affected by gender based violence, Kate Okamoto, LCSW-R joins Empower Her Network as our New York Advocate and Program Committee member. Her experience as the Supervisor of the Anti-Trafficking Initiative at Sanctuary for Families’ Legal Center and therapeutic expertise counseling and advocating for victims of human trafficking and other extreme abuse makes her an invaluable resource as we build out survivor programs and evaluate nominations. Kate received her master’s degree from the Silberman School of Social Work, Hunter College, and completed post graduate training at the Trauma Studies Center at the Institute for Contemporary Psychotherapy.
“I believe that healing begins when an individual is no longer sitting alone with overwhelming emotions. Empower Her Network stands by survivors side, providing the healing and empowering advocacy enabling survivors to live safe and fulfilling lives.” -Jaycie Hu
New York Advocate
Jaycie is graduating from NYU Steinhardt’s Counseling in Mental Health and Wellness program in May 2019 and is currently receiving her training as a trauma therapist at Crime Victims Treatment Center. She has previously worked with survivors of human trafficking, sexual exploitation, domestic violence and other forms of gender violence. She was drawn to Empower Her Network as a result of her passion to empower survivors and her strong belief in their resilience. She is also a Yoga Alliance certified RYT-200 yoga instructor and is training to become a certified MBSR (Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction) teacher.
“The Empower Her Network is exactly what we female survivors of abuse need to recreate a healthy life. For years, I have served women whose urgent needs fall between the cracks of our mental health and social service system. I feel truly grateful to be a part of this Network and to use this platform to transform lives. The future is female. Investing in women is the best way to transform our world; empower her.”
–Dr. Ileana Abreu
Dr. Ileana Abreu, EdD (ABD)
Dr. Ileana Abreu, EdD (ABD) is a holistic educator that specializes in transformational mentorship. By providing education and motivational coaching, she leads clients to experience authentic, life-changing breakthroughs. Ileana believes in the power of the brain to heal and transform itself after trauma. She has a background in international development and community organizing, and presently serves survivors of abuse through her private practice in the Tampa Bay.
“I am thrilled to be a part of this work with Empower Her Network. It is an honor to walk alongside survivors in their journey, and I am in awe of their creativity, strength, and resilience. The support offered through Empower Her Network expresses, “You are not alone,” a vital thread of both hope and action as survivors navigate transitional territory into new states in life.”
Southern California Advocate
Camille has worked to address human trafficking in various capacities across the country through awareness, aftercare, community engagement, and prevention efforts. She has worked with NGOs, a state government agency, nonprofit organizations, university students and professors, aftercare agencies, clinicians, service providers, and law enforcement personnel. She currently serves as an advisory board member for SAFE Coalition for Human Rights and a consultant for the Human Trafficking Legal Network in Los Angeles. Camille is currently pursuing her PhD in Psychology from Meridian University. She is a registered yoga teacher (RYT-200) and has received training in trauma-informed yoga and dance, somatic psychology, mindfulness, and expressive arts therapy. She was drawn to Empower Her Network in belief she shares in the creative resilience of survivors.
“I strongly believe life is about using your skills, gifts and talents to help others. It is one thing to face adversity, but it is another to overcome, reach back, give a hand and help others in similar situations soar into greatness. Survivors have a transcendent power deep within ready to take flight. With added support, they can launch into a life of fulfilled dreams and goals. This is why I believe in Empower Her Network.”
Shamere McKenzie is a consultant, activist, subject matter expert on human trafficking and a sought-after award winning internationally recognized speaker. She is the Chief Executive Officer for Sun Gate Foundation, an anti-trafficking organization that provides educational opportunities for survivors of human trafficking. In addition, she serves as co-chair for the victim’s services committee of the Maryland State Human Trafficking Task Force and the Anti-Trafficking Ambassador to Jamaica.
Marianna Wells is currently an undergraduate student at Connecticut College studying International Relations. She became involved in Empower Her Network through an Anthropology class, “Security, Trafficking and Violence,” where she, for the first time, began to critically examine her position in the world and the importance of women standing up for one another. Additionally, she was recently admitted to the Holleran Center for Community Action and Public Policy, where she is learning the power in solidarity, collective action, and grassroots activism. She hopes to further her understanding of the impacts of trafficking and the resilience of women.
Board of Directors
“Once you know about the reality of human trafficking you cannot un know. Luck alone granted me a safe childhood where education was valued and provided. Leveraging my undeserved privilege to benefit the resilient, ambitious survivors collaborating with Empower Her Network is an honor.”
Chair and Co-founder Abby Fabiaschi is a mother, novelist, and human rights activist that has long been a believer in economic solutions to social and cultural problems. When she read HALF THE SKY five years ago it ignited a fierce desire to fight the human trafficking epidemic, and she joined the board of Her Future Coalition, which works with survivors in Asia. She came to learn there are three main components to the movement: exiting the life, change advocacy, and rebuilding lives. That last piece is particularly important: Exiting the life without an aftercare plan results in re-trafficking, further exploitation, or a life of poverty. It’s also tricky: There isn’t a one-path-fits-all solution. Abby is thrilled to bring the tenants of what she learned with HFC to help transform the lives of survivors domestically at Empower Her Network. With resources and effort, a path to independence is attainable.
Maureen has had a long career in finance, starting at a time when there were few senior female role models. Coming of age in the early days of feminism made its mark and she was determined to be financially independent. That belief found an avocation when she initiated her fundraising work with Women’s World Banking, a global women’s focused micro finance group. Hearing first hand from women whose incomes “helped me keep my daughter from being trafficked” opened up a new passion for ensuring women had education and access to financial independence. Two years ago she heard a presentation about the size and scope of the US trafficking industry and her thoughts expanded towards the US. Maureen met Abby and Kristy during a brief interlude at Her Future Coalition. When asked to join the board of their new effort she jumped at the opportunity to work with these committed women, in an area that seems to be the culmination of years of work.
After learning about the human trafficking epidemic in India, where Chet’s parents were born and extended family remains, Chet became determined to be a part of the solution. Appreciating the correlation between education and opportunity led Chet to Empower Her Network, where she is excited by the possibilities presented to the survivors among us. Chet graduated from Johns Hopkins University and The London School of Economics. She lives with her husband and two boys in Tampa, Florida.
Read Celebrating Diwali by Chet Gowda
“I joined Empower her Network because I found a group of individuals who are not waiting a single moment to “improve the world.”
Priscilla Angenor is the Owner and Principal Attorney of Angenor Law Office. Priscilla is a member of American Immigration Lawyers Association, Black Caucus of the American Library Association, Massachusetts Association of Hispanic Attorneys, and the Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association. Growing up as an inner city kid left her acutely aware of the challenges faced by people with limited means and resources. Her commitment to the community shines through with Project Bread, helping to get SNAP benefits out to more people, and fighting for her underserved clients in the courtroom.
Read Choice and Decriminalization of Sex Work by Priscilla Angenor
Kerri McKeever, CFA
Kerri McKeever, CFA was valedictorian of her MBA class at Babson College and has been in finance over 15 years, starting as a bond trader and working her way up to specializing institutional investments. She understands the power of funding and how its existence often determines whether potential is realized. Upon learning about EHN’s mission and commitment to transparency, Kerri raised a hand to bring her expertise to the table.
Dr. Kellie McElhaney
Dr. Kellie McElhaney founded the Center for Equity, Gender And Leadership (EGAL) at Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley and is a leading expert on equity fluent leadership, value-creating strategies of diversity and inclusion, and corporate social responsibility. The Center for Gender, Equity and Leadership, launched in November 2017, educates equity fluent leaders to ignite and accelerate change. Kellie helped develop this leadership concept and teaches it globally. Kellie authored a book entitled Just Good Business: The Strategic Guide to Aligning Corporate Responsibility and Brand. Kellie consults and keynotes for Global 1000 companies and organizations all over the world on her areas of expertise. She earned her B.A. from the University of North Carolina, her M.A. from Ohio University, and her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.
Katisha is a nonprofit human services administrator with a passion for social justice, poverty alleviation, and racial and gender equality. She brings over a decade of experience working with Sanctuary for Families— delivering holistic services to victims of domestic violence, commercial sexual exploitation, human trafficking, and other related forms of gender-based violence—to Empower Her Network’s Program Committee. A graduate of Union College, Katisha went on to be a member of the first graduating class of the Austin W. Marxe School of Public and International Affairs at Baruch College, where she earned her Executive Masters in Public Administration. Her dedication to be a part of the solution is inspiring.
Dr. Kimberly Mehlman-Orozco
Dr. Mehlman-Orozco currently serves as the CEO of an anti-trafficking consulting firm, Mahn, Mehlman & Associates, and teaches human trafficking and social justice material at her alma mater George Mason University. Her book, Hidden in Plain Sight: America’s Slaves of the New Millennium, is a leading resource for anti-trafficking advocates.
Read Domestic Trafficking by Kimberly Mehlman
Designer Lisa Salzer-Wiles founded jewelry brand Lulu Frost in 2004 with the purpose of spreading meaning through each of her works. Lulu Frost is beloved for its modernistic approach to celebrating the past, coupled with a brand commitment to create lasting value and meaning in each and every piece. Lisa believes, “Metal is from the earth, it is so rich and elemental. The power and energies it carries, become those that the wearer can carry”.
“I think about EHN every time I work with a female executive on accessing her own power. The survivors EHN has the privilege of working with teach us all that our power is entirely in our own hands, and that the choice to use it is what sets you free.”
Julie Zuraw is CEO of the Julie Zuraw Group, a consultancy that has been committed to developing executive leaders, and particularly women, since 2003. She is an expert in corporate positioning strategy, having been the strategy lead for the Publicis Brand Optimization Systems Group, where she built the group’s brand education practice and oversaw global client operations and brand identity initiatives. She has held various management roles in New York City political campaigns, and has been a faculty member at both Columbia University and Barnard College, where she has taught courses to undergraduates on skill-development pedagogy and to graduate students on pitching their professional projects, in addition to developing the renowned “Speaking Fellows” program, which builds young women’s voice and power. Julie is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College.
Read Women’s Voices? They’ve Been There All Along by Julie Zuraw
After fourteen years volunteering for her local Big Brothers Big Sisters, Laura now focuses her fundraising experience and charitable enthusiasm on organizations with less staff. Empower Her Network is hugely fortunate to have this helper by nature, whose passion is to advocate for marginalized populations ready to go the next mile, on the team.