Rochelle A. Fortier Nwadibia, Director of Legal Affairs, is an international attorney and former Chair of the Missouri Commission on Human Rights with over twenty-five years experience as a human rights litigator, leader, adjudicator and advisor.
She is a graduate of Washington University School of Law, Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs and California State University, East Bay.
Ms. Nwadibia’s representation of refugees resulted in landmark decisions before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Her work has been recognized by the Congressional Research Service and Washington University School of Law.
Ms. Nwadibia taught African politics to undergraduates at Washington University before beginning her career in federal and state government and higher education, including:
- The Federal Reserve Bank providing in house legal services;
- The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission litigating employment discrimination and sexual harassment cases;
- The Director of Affirmative Action at the University of Missouri at St. Louis;
- Assistant General Counsel at St. Louis Community College, St. Louis;
- Missouri Department of Mental Health, as an employment investigator and advisor;
- Hearing Officer and Legal Advisor for the Department of Education of the State of Missouri; all while raising three children.
Fluent in French, her legal and international experience came together in an asylum and immigration law practice beginning in 1999. She presently serves on the board of No Bully and the Community Advisory Board for San Francisco Pride. Read more at http://law.wustl.edu/alumni/magazine/fall2009/Nwadibia.pdf.
Melanie Nathan, Executive Director, holds a B.A. LL.B from The University of The Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. She practiced as an attorney in South Africa before immigrating to the U.S.A. in 1985, where she founded a conflict resolution and advocacy practice, specializing in LGBT equality and international human rights.
She developed a renowned international blog, consisting mostly of unique content, on equality issues including LGBTQI asylum, sexuality violence and human rights issues around the globe, with a special focus on Africa, which enabled the development of a wide network of sources throughout the continent, including the press, grass roots activists, government officials, individuals, and non governmental organizations. She is well known for her advocacy on behalf of binational same-sex couples and LGBT asylum seekers.
As an advocate, she orchestrated and led the advocacy effort to successfully obtain the introduction of a rare Private Bill (# 867) by Senator Feinstein in April 2009, on behalf of Shirley Tan, a lesbian mother who faced immediate deportation. This resulted in a stay of deportation and later testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the issue.
She advocated for the release of undocumented lesbians and gays from detention; provided written testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) in June, 2009; and offered testimony in California Assembly and Senate for a state resolution in support of UAFA.
She is an OP-ED contributor to The Advocate, SDGLN, LGBTQ Nation and other publications. Her work is used as a resource by universities, governments and press around the world.
In South Africa, Ms. Nathan provided leadership and focused on drawing international attention to the issue of “corrective rape” of lesbians in South Africa. She participated in the Parliamentary meeting with The Ministry of Justice in 2011, where she played a lead role in the establishment of a government-led Task Team for reforms on the issue of hate crimes in South Africa.