Shantha Rau Barriga is the founding director of the disability rights division at Human Rights Watch. She leads research and advocacy on human rights abuses against persons with disabilities worldwide including: the shackling of people with psychosocial disabilities, denial of education for children with disabilities, violence against women and girls with disabilities, institutionalization of children and adults with disabilities, and the neglect of people with disabilities in humanitarian emergencies. She has worked on projects on Australia, Brazil, Central African Republic, China, Croatia, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Iran, Morocco, Nepal, Peru, Russia, Serbia, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, the United States, and Zambia.
Shantha is a founding member of the International Network of Women with Disabilities, member of the Amnesty International Advisory Group on Disability Rights, expert advisor to the Catalyst for Inclusive Education Initiative and a senior advisor to the Global Campaign for Mental Health. She is also a Juror for the Inaugural Her Abilities Award (honouring the achievements of women with disabilities) and served on the UNICEF Advisory Board for the 2013 State of the World’s Children report.
Before joining Human Rights Watch, Shantha participated in the UN negotiations toward the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, leading NGO advocacy on a number of provisions in the treaty as part of a global coalition.
Prior to her work in the disability rights field, Shantha was Communications Director for the Coalitional for the International Criminal Court. She also worked with UNICEF Tanzania, carrying out an assessment on children with disabilities in refugee camps in Kibondo.