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Sunita Viswanath of Hindus for Human Rights Among Center for American Progress’ 21 Faith Leaders To Watch

Sunita Viswanath of Hindus for Human Rights Among Center for American Progress’ 21 Faith Leaders To Watch

  • The progressive think tanks says the diverse faith leaders chosen are “instrumental in enacting progressive change.”

Sunita Viswanath, co-founder of Hindus for Human Rights is named among Center for American Progress’ 21 Faith Leaders To Watch in 2021. CAP says these diverse faith leaders are “instrumental in enacting progressive change.” This year, these leaders “are championing major progressive change, including the American Rescue Plan that will cut child poverty in half and the American Jobs Plan that will fund violence prevention programs and support the creation of well-paying jobs that will bolster the U.S. economy and climate.”

Viswanath sits on the board of both Hindus for Human Rights and Sadhana, a coalition of progressive Hindus. She is also the founder and board chair of Women for Afghan Women (WAW) and serves as the Hindu religious life adviser at Columbia University.

“My faith teaches me to strive to be radically inclusive and egalitarian, seeing the world as one, seeing the divine in the face of everyone I encounter, seeing the joys and sorrows of others as my own,” she says. “And also, to stand firm and fearless as I do my best to do my dharma (right action) according to who I am and what I stand for, remembering Lord Krishna’s advice to Arjuna: ‘It is better to do one’s own dharma imperfectly than someone else’s dharma perfectly.” If we truly live by these teachings, there can be no other.’”

Viswanath has edited “Women for Afghan Women: Shattering Myths and Claiming the Future” (Palgrave McMillan, 2003), a book of essays. For her work with WAW, Viswanath was awarded the Feminist Majority Foundation’s Global Women’s Rights Award in 2011. She was honored by President Obama at the White House in 2015 as a “Champion of Change” for her work with Sadhana. She’s an advisory board member of Population Media Center, which uses entertainment-education and mass media to promote social and cultural change. Sunita serves as Hindu Religious Life Advisor at Columbia University. 

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Previously, she worked with The Sister Fund and the Funders Concerned About AIDS. She lives in Brooklyn, New York and Taos, New Mexico with her husband Stephan Shaw and their youngest son Satya. Their older sons Gautama and Akash have flown the coop.  

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