Vice President of External Relations, Women’s Refugee Commission


Gayatri Patel is the Vice President of External Relations at the Women’s Refugee Commission. With nearly 20 years of experience in women’s rights and gender equality, Gayatri leads the organization’s policy advocacy on gender and humanitarian action globally.

Gayatri previously served as the Director of Gender Advocacy at CARE USA, where she drove initiatives on women’s economic empowerment, gender-based violence, and gender equality in humanitarian emergencies. Amongst her accomplishments in this role was leading advocacy efforts to enact the seminal Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act and co-authoring the framework for a feminist foreign policy in the United States.

Prior to joining CARE, Gayatri spent nearly 10 years advising the U.S. State Department on a variety of human rights and humanitarian issues, including spearheading a multi-stakeholder strategy in the Bureau for Population, Refugees, and Migration to improve protection for migrants caught in countries in crisis. She also co-authored the annual U.S. Trafficking in Persons Report and managed the UN Human Rights Council and UN Universal Periodic Review portfolios to promote respect for human rights globally.

Additionally, she served as the Director of Legal Programming at the Africa Middle East Refugee Assistance (AMERA) organization, which provides pro bono legal services to refugees and people seeking asylum in Cairo, Egypt. At AMERA, Gayatri led programs aimed at improving access to justice and social services for refugee survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.

Gayatri plays a leadership role in a number of coalitions and organizations focused on gender equity, human rights, and humanitarianism. She is a co-chair of the Coalition to End Violence Against Women and Girls Globally, the Vice Chair of Advocacy on the Board of the UN Association-National Capital Area, and a member of the Advisory Committee of the Council for Global Equality. She was a founding member of the Coalition for Women’s Economic Empowerment and Equality and has also served previously as a co-chair of the Girls Not Brides USA coalition and the Big Ideas for Women and Girls Coalition. She also currently sits on the Steering Committee of the Coalition for a Feminist Foreign Policy for the United States.

In 2021, Gayatri was honored to be recognized amongst the Apolitical List of the 100 Most Influential People in Gender Policy and to be selected to join the U.S. Delegation to the UN Commission on the Status of Women as a civil society representative.

Gayatri holds a law degree from American University’s Washington College of Law with a focus on international human rights and humanitarian law, a masters degree from American University’s School for International Service, and a bachelors degree from Mount Holyoke College in international relations.

Vision statement

Gayatri considers it an honor to serve and support the Advocacy Committee of UNA-NCA as we collectively address the challenges of our time. Facing unprecedented displacement and humanitarian need, a global pandemic that threatens decades of progress and development, and endemic poverty and human rights abuses that impact too many communities around the world, the mission of UNA-NCA to support and advance the work of the United Nations is more important than ever. Gayatri envisions collective advocacy built upon a strong foundation of active member engagement, drawing on the skills and voices of the diverse members of the UNA-NCA community. UNA-NCA advocacy should include clear and consistent outreach to Congressional offices and other U.S. Government stakeholders to advance – (1) a stronger grasp of the valuable contributions of the United Nations to “de-mystify” its work and highlight its achievements towards global progress; (2) a shared understanding of the importance of the UN’s work worldwide, including by drawing connections to concerns facing Americans too; and (3) stronger partnerships with established champions in Congress to amplify this work and elicit greater bipartisan support on the Hill for the United Nations. The power of collective advocacy cannot be underestimated – Gayatri envisions taking forward the strong foundation the Advocacy Committee has already built amongst U.S. policymakers to advance our commonly held goals and speak with one unified voice in support of the United Nations.

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