WOLA is excited to announce the launch of our first ever Honorary Council. This council will work with WOLA to strategically share our common mission and values to a diverse community. We hope that through this partnership, WOLA will be able to grow its message to a wider audience.
“For some time, the WOLA Board of Directors and our staff have discussed how to acknowledge some of our associates and influential leaders on the international stage whose own work amplifies our voice and increases our impact as we work to uphold human rights. We are delighted that an impressive group of 10 individuals have accepted our invitation to serve as members as we launch the WOLA Honorary Council, designed to do just that. I am honored and thank them wholeheartedly for lending us their support.”
Nancy Belden, Chair of the Board
“As we gear up for our 50th anniversary celebration, I’m excited to welcome our new Honorary Council to WOLA. This Council is composed of diverse voices across the arts, law, journalism, politics, forensic anthropology, and government. Although they come from many walks of life, one thing that unites them with WOLA is their commitment to the advancement of democracy and human rights in our hemisphere. We are thrilled to welcome these prestigious individuals to WOLA’s Honorary Council.”
Carolina Jimenez Sandoval, President
We are honored to have the following members join our council:
Alberto Barrera Tyszka is a Venezuelan novelist, screenwriter, and journalist. Through his writing, Barrera Tyzka addresses topics such as inequality, political unrest, and the experiences of marginalized communities. His acclaimed novels, "The Sickness", winning the 2006 Herralde Literary Prize, and "Patria o muerte," winner of the 2015 Novela Tusquets de España, offer readers a captivating insight into the complexities of human existence.
Bill Shipsey is an Irish human rights activist and philanthropist with a passion for social justice. Shipsey has dedicated his life to advocating for the rights of marginalized communities worldwide. As the founder of Art for Human Rights, he has spearheaded initiatives and campaigns that have raised awareness, generated funds, and promoted positive change. Shipsey's unwavering commitment to making the world a better place has earned him recognition as a leader in the realm of human rights activism.
Claudia Paz y Paz is a Guatemalan lawyer and human rights advocate. She became the first female Attorney General of Guatemala from 2010-2014. During this time, she brought to justice prominent human rights abusers from Guatemala’s civil war period, most notably leading the team that assembled the case against former Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt. In 2016, Paz y Paz became a WOLA Senior Fellow, aiding WOLA’s work on insecurity, judicial reform, and issues of impunity in Central America. Prior to joining WOLA, Ms. Paz y Paz served on the Group of Independent Experts convened by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to provide technical assistance in the investigation of the 2014 case of 43 disappeared students in Mexico. In 2013, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Currently, she is the Director of the Mexico and Central America Program, of the Center for Justice and International Law, (CEJIL).
Diego Luna is an actor, director, and producer of theater, film, and television. His career began acting on theater stages in Mexico where to date he has been part of more than 20 productions in the most important theaters in the country. He has participated in more than 30 films produced in Mexico, Spain, the United States, England, and Germany. Among those are Y Tu Mamá También (2001), where he won the Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best Young Actor at the Venice film festival, Star Wars: Rogue One (2016), and Narcos: Mexico (2018), where he was nominated for the Critics Choice Awards and earned a Platinum Award for his performance. In 2022, he starred and produced in the Disney+ series, Andor, for which he was nominated for the Golden Globes and Critics Choice Award in the category of Best Actor in a television series. In addition to his artistic career, Luna is committed to causes that generate social impact. He’s the founder of Ambulante, a traveling film festival that promotes cultural exchange through documentaries, and of El Dia Despues, an organization based in Mexico City that serves as a bridge between organizations and citizens that are willing to contribute to transforming the country.
Francisco Goldman is a writer, journalist, and Allan K. Smith Professor of English Language and Literature at Trinity College, known for his powerful storytelling. With a deep commitment to human rights and social justice issues, Goldman often uses his writing to explore themes of political turmoil, violence, and resilience. In one of his award-winning books, "The Art Of Political Murder", Goldman dives deep into the assassination of Guatemalan human rights activist and Catholic Bishop, Juan José Gerardi Conedera. Additionally, Goldman has published several notable novels including “Monkey Boy,” a Pulitzer Prize finalist, “The Long Night of White Chickens,” and “Say Her Name.”
Gina Chavez is a singer-songwriter and activist from Austin, Texas. In 2020, Chavez was nominated for a Latin Grammy for her first all-Spanish language album, La Que Manda. From features on NPR’s Tiny Desk to Brené Brown’s podcast to The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, this queer, bilingual, genre-bending musician has become a force to be reckoned with. Gina’s music is deeply personal. Her passionate collection of bilingual songs traversing cumbia, rumba, and soul take audiences on a journey to discover her Latin roots through music as she shares her story of life in Texas as a married, queer Catholic. Gina tours internationally as a cultural ambassador with the U.S. State Department and runs Niñas Arriba, a college fund she co-founded with her wife for young women in El Salvador.
Gioconda Belli is a Nicaraguan poet, novelist, and political activist. During the Sandinista revolution, Belli actively fought for social justice and women's rights. Her powerful poetry, including the acclaimed book "Linea de fuego", captured the struggles, hopes, and resilience of the Nicaraguan people. As a novelist, Belli enchanted readers with her gripping narratives, exemplified in works like "The Inhabited Woman". Gioconda Belli was awarded the 2023 Reina Sofía de Poesía Iberoamericana. Today, Belli continues to advocate for social justice in Nicaragua, despite being one of the 300 Nicaraguans who were stripped of their citizenship in 2023.
Mercedes Doretti is an Argentine forensic anthropologist based in New York. Known for her use of forensic science to uncover evidence of human rights violations, Doretti has played a crucial role in the identification and documentation of victims of mass atrocities, including cases of forced disappearances and genocide. She co-founded the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF) in 1984, an organization dedicated to investigating human rights abuses and providing forensic support to affected communities worldwide.
Sergio Aguayo is a Mexican scholar, human rights advocate, and political analyst. Through his dedication and experience, Aguayo has spent his career shedding light on social justice issues, human rights violations, and democratic governance in Mexico. He is a professor and researcher for El Colegio de México, a visiting professor at Harvard University, and a member of the Mexican Researchers National System (Sistema Nacional de Investigadores, SNI).
Senator Tom Harkin is an American politician and advocate known for his unwavering commitment to public service and social justice. Harkin embarked on a remarkable career dedicated to improving the lives of his fellow citizens. Serving in the United States Senate from 1985 to 2015, Harkin championed key issues such as healthcare reform, education, disability rights, and labor rights. With his signature tenacity and progressive vision, he co-authored the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a landmark legislation that reshaped the landscape of accessibility and inclusion for millions of individuals.
To learn more about our Honorary Council, click here.