Nimmi Gowrinathan, PhD                                                                                                                      


Formal Biography:

Dr. Gowrinathan is the Founder and Director of the Politics of Sexual Violence Initiative, a global study examining the impact of rape on women’s political identities in extremist movements, and a Visiting Research Professor, teaching courses on Gender and Violence at the Colin Powell Center for Global and Civic Leadership at City College New York.

Currently, she is a senior affiliated scholar at Berkeley University’s Political Conflict, Gender, & People’s Rights Project. As well, as the Executive Producer of the Vice News Women in/at War Series. She has recently been the Senior Expert on Gender, Political Voice, and Rights for the UN Women/ADB Benchmark Paper on Gender & the SDG’s, Gender Expert for the United Nations Human Development Report on Afghanistan, a contributing scholar to both the Countering Violent Extremism and Sexual Violence policy projects at the United States Institute of Peace, a Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Conflict, Negotiation, and Recovery and a policy consultant and analyst for the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue and the International Crisis Group, researching and analyzing gender inclusion in peacebuilding and women’s insecurities in conflict zones.  She was formerly the Director of South Asia Programs and UN Representative for Operation USA.

Dr. Gowrinathan received her PhD in Political Science from the University of California, Los Angeles,on “Why Women Rebel: Tamil Women in the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam”, which received the Jean and Irving Stone Award for Innovation in Gender Studies. She provides expert analysis for CNN, MSNBC, Al Jazeera, and the BBC, and has published both academic articles and journalistic pieces on humanitarian intervention, militarization, gender, and political violence.


I have tried, and continue to try, to take the lived experiences of women and insert them into multiple discourses and dialogues–highlighting insights with the potential to shift perspectives and policies.

As a humanitarian worker, I have supported community-based organizations living and working in Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan and elsewhere through while Director of South Asia Programs at Operation USA. I have also facilitated collaboration between humanitarian and advocacy INGOs through local and international working groups.

As an advocate, I have been the UN Representative for Operation USA as well as an expert analyst, conducting briefings at the United Nations, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Congress as well as for NGO collectives in the United States and abroad.

As a human rights researcher & policy analyst, I have conducted field research, investigative interviews, and peace-building dialogues. This work has situated testimonies of women’s insecurities and political exclusion into relevant policy frameworks.

As a scholar, I have examined the impact of militarization, displacement, and sexual violence on women’s political identities. I am also interested in the overlapping discourses of civilian agency and a critique of humanitarian aid and intervention (PhD, Political Science. UCLA 2012). I have also hosted conferences drawing together scholars and practitioners to broadly examine the politics of aid (Columbia SIPA), as well as addressing specific issues like re-imagining refugee camps (Rockefeller Foundation).

As an activist, I have been fortunate to work with deeply committed individuals and organizations. I have hosted workshops and lectures, mobilizing women within various South Asian Diasporas and connecting them to community-based projects abroad.

As a writer, I have drawn on women’s stories to challenge perceptions in academic and policy spaces, while pulling out the richness of their narratives in nonfiction writings.