Melissa Upretti, Independent Expert
United Nations Working Group on Discrimination Against Women and Girls

Melissa Upreti is a human rights lawyer and feminist who has spent over two decades advancing women’s rights through the use of national, regional, and international law and mechanisms. She has led fact-finding missions, undertaken strategic litigation, strengthened the capacity of civil society organizations, authored articles and reports, and advised governments to advance women's sexual and reproductive rights through norm-building, legal and policy reform and legal accountability.
Ms. Upreti started her career working for a feminist legal advocacy organization and The Asia Foundation in Nepal. Upon receiving her LL.M. from Columbia Law School in the United States, she joined the Center for Reproductive Rights where she was the founding attorney of the Asia program. Building on the success of a series of capacity building initiatives on strategic litigation in India and Nepal focusing on maternal mortality and access to safe abortion, she led the conceptualization and launch of the South Asia Reproductive Justice and Accountability Initiative which has resulted in precedent setting cases on contraceptive access and obstetric fistula in Asia. She was invited to participate in the first CEDAW Special Inquiry focusing on women's reproductive rights in Asia in 2012 and was co-petitioner in the landmark case, Lakshmi Dhikta v. NepaI, which recognized access to abortion as a constitutionally protected right. She has worked closely with regional mechanisms to advance women's reproductive rights, including the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation to strengthen regional commitments to end child marriage, and played a pivotal role in bringing about the adoption of the Kathmandu Call for Action to End Child Marriage in South Asia in 2014. Ms. Upreti has written and lectured extensively about women’s reproductive rights and the importance of legal accountability. Her articles and other publications on women's reproductive rights and discriminatory practices such as child marriage have been used by activists to develop legal strategies and in courses on human rights. 
Ms. Upreti is a Fellow in the University of Toronto Law Faculty's International Reproductive and Sexual Health Law Program and currently Senior Director of Program and Global Advocacy at the Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) at Rutgers University in the United States. At CWGL, she oversees and provides strategic guidance on the development and implementation of program initiatives and advocacy strategies at the intersection of macro-economic policy, peace and security, and women's human rights and, most notably, the Global 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence Campaign initiated by CWGL with feminist allies in the 90’s. 

In 2017, she was appointed by the Human Rights Council to serve as an Independent Expert on the United Nations Working Group on discrimination against women and girls.

All photos are courtesy of speakers or their affiliations unless otherwise indicated.