Miriam Yeung, Executive Director
Miriam W. Yeung, Executive Director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) guides the country’s only national, multi-issue, progressive organization dedicated to social justice and human rights for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women and girls in the US. With offices in NYC and DC, and chapters in 13 cities, NAPAWF’s current priorities include winning rights for immigrant women, exposing the myths behind sex selective abortion bans, leading community-based participatory research with young AAPI women, and conducting national AAPI opinion polling.
Prior to NAPAWF, Miriam held many positions during her 10-year career at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center (the Center) in New York City, the last of which was Director of Public Policy & Government Relations where she oversaw policy matters on the local, state and federal level and was responsible for raising over $40 million dollars in capital campaign and programming funds over three years. She started her career at the Center as a Youth Worker responsible for empowering young people to fight bullying and create safer schools.
Miriam is published in diverse publications in print and online and is a sought after speaker and workshop presenter. In 2014 Miriam was honored at the Ms. Foundation’s annual Gloria Awards; A Salute to Women of Vision. In 2012, Miriam was recognized by the National Council for Research on Women (NCRW) with the Making A Difference for Women award. In 2007, Miriam received special recognition from the New York City Council for her work with the LGBT youth community.
Born in Hong Kong and raised in the projects of Brooklyn, Miriam is a proud queer Asian-American immigrant woman activist who is committed to social-justice movement building and raising her two young daughters to be fearless. Miriam holds a Master of Public Administration from Baruch College and a bachelor’s from New York University.
Shivana Jorawar, Reproductive Justice Program Director
Shivana coordinates the organization’s reproductive justice policy priorities. She is passionate about uplifting the status of women in communities she identifies with, and has a background in legal advocacy and community education around issues of gender-based inequity and violence. Her experience includes working with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as a legal clerk, working with the the anti-domestic violence organization Sakhi for South Asian Women, co-chairing a chapter of Law Students for Reproductive Justice, and co-founding the Indo-Caribbean women’s organization Jahajee Sisters, where she is now a member of the Steering Committee. In August, 2012, Shivana completed a one-year fellowship with NAPAWF through Law Students for Reproductive Justice. Originally from New York, she now works out of NAPAWF’s Washington, D.C. office.
Shivana holds a B.A. in Political Science from Fordham University and a J.D. from Emory University School of Law.
Jennifer Chou, Reproductive Justice Fellow
Jennifer Chou is a Reproductive Justice Fellow through Law Students for Reproductive Justice (LSRJ). Jennifer graduated in 2014 from the David J. Epstein Program in Public Interest Law and Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law. During law school, she was active in clinics, arguing a prisoner’s rights case in front of a panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and representing a young victim of domestic violence in her successful application for asylum. Jennifer also interned at the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office and the ACLU of Southern California, where she worked with staff attorneys on reproductive health access, inmate religious freedom, and immigrant rights in education. At UCLA, Jennifer served on the boards of UCLA’s chapter of LSRJ, the Asian Pacific Islander Law Students Association, Law Women of UCLA, and the Women’s Law Journal. Before law school, she spent three years as a paralegal for the Public Policy Litigation and Law Division of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Jennifer did her undergraduate work in Political Science and Women’s Studies at Wellesley College, with a concentration in Asian American Studies.
Melissa Kwon, Reproductive Justice Leadership and Research Associate Director
Melissa Kwon, PhD, Reproductive Justice Leadership and Research Associate Director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) leads the organization’s reproductive justice leadership and research efforts on AAPI women and girls in the US. She also serves as Faculty for the Minnesota Young Women’s Collaborative (MYWC), which is currently hosted at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. Additionally, Melissa is currently Co-Chair of the newly founded Twin Cities Chapter of NAPAWF.
Dr. Kwon has over 12 years of experience conducting health and educational research with the AAPI community and has worked with numerous programs that aim to eliminate health disparities and increase access to higher education for AAPIs. She is Affiliate Faculty in Asian American Studies at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities Campus. She has been a researcher and evaluator at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities Campus, University of California at Irvine, University of California at Santa Barbara, and WestEd. She has served as Chair of the Asian American and Pacific Islander Health Coalition (AAPIHC), a coalition of AAPI serving nonprofit community organizations in Minnesota. She has also volunteered her time to local community organizations and has served as the Executive Director of the Midwest Asian American Students Union (MAASU), a Board Member of Neighborhood House, Member of the Minnesota Minority Education Partnership’s (MMEP) Research Collaborative Table, Board Member of United Cambodian Association of Minnesota (UCAM), and Board Member of The Cambodian Family. She is currently located in the Twin Cities Metro Area in Minnesota.
Dr. Kwon earned her B.A. in Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. She earned her M.A. in Education-Research Methodologies and Ph.D. in Education Cultural Perspectives and Comparative Education from University of California, Santa Barbara.
Son Ah Yun, National Field Director
Melissa Cariño, Field Organizer
Melissa is a proud Filipina-American who was born in San Francisco and grew up in the Bay Area. As part of a hard-working family and a child of immigrant parents, she knows what it is like to struggle in America and understands the importance of critical education, equality, and giving to the greater community. Her passions lie in social / economic / global justice, systemic change, grassroots organizing, progressive philanthropy, transformational processes, and community empowerment. She has over 15 years experience within community-based organizations and the not-for-profit sector. Her former workplaces include The Open Pantry of Greater Lowell, the Funders Network on Transforming the Global Economy (now EDGE Funders Alliance), Boston Women’s Fund, and the United Teen Equality Center.
Melissa holds a B.A. in Legal Studies/City Planning from the University of California at Berkeley and a Masters in Regional Planning/Community Development from Cornell University. Melissa works mostly from Massachusetts, but she also travels to and works from various chapter sites and the NAPAWF offices.
Melissa is excited to focus on building strong relationships and partnerships as we strengthen our movement. She finds her role at NAPAWF important by serving as a bridge between chapters and the National office as we all continue together on this important work that is necessary for API women’s justice in America and beyond.
Jes Rooks, Systems and Sustainability Director
Jes Rooks comes to NAPAWF with deep nonprofit experience and social entrepreneurship. Her last venture was as President and CEO of a start-up venture dedicated to employing formerly incarcerated people through food justice initiatives. Throughout her career she has worked to create holistic, collaborative initiatives in social, economic and environmental justice. She was the Deputy Executive Director of the Center for the Urban Environment, directed workforce development for the Osborne Association, managed education and volunteer programming for the Fortune Society, taught English at San Quentin State Prison, and directed crisis intervention programming in Alameda County, CA to address retaliatory youth gun violence.
Jes has a Masters in Public Administration from Baruch College, and a BA in Anthropology and Women’s Studies from the University of Wisconsin Madison, and spent a study year abroad in Nepal. She lives, plays and works in Brooklyn, raising a fiercely curious daughter.
Leng Leng Chancey, Communications and Development Director
Leng Leng was born and raised in Singapore and came to the United States to attend college, and received her BA in History and Asian Studies from Washington State University. Her longstanding passions revolves around social justice issues concerning AAPI women and beyond, with “equitable access for all” as her motto. In addition to holding numerous senior management positions in nonprofits such as the United Way of Greater Atlanta and Culture Connect, Inc, Leng Leng is a founding member of NAPAWF’s Atlanta Chapter. She is also a trained facilitator for the Anti-Defamation League and facilitates training around cultural competency and diversity. Her spare time includes social change advocacy via the soulful beats of an all-women Korean folk drumming group, which she co-founded.
Maya Pinto, Economic Justice Program Director
Maya coordinates NAPAWF’s economic justice work. She comes to NAPAWF with over a decade of experience providing research and campaign development support to community and labor organizations addressing economic justice issues facing low-wage workers. At the Service Employees International Union International in Washington, DC, she provided strategic corporate research support for building service worker organizing campaigns. At ALIGN: the Alliance for a Greater New York, she coordinated research and policy development for the New York Caring Across Generations campaign to improve the quality of home care and home care jobs, and for the Transform Don’t Trash NYC campaign to build a more economically and environmentally just commercial waste management system in New York City.
Maya holds an M.Sc. in Urbanization and Development from the London School of Economics and Political Science and a B.A. in Development Studies from Brown University.
Chuen Yan (Jamie) Lau, Office and Data Coordinator
Jamie is the Office and Data Coordinator of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF). She joined NAPAWF on the summer of 2013 as a temporary Administrative Assistant shortly after graduating from Baruch College with a BA in biology. While with NAPAWF, she has found a culture of sisterhood, activism, and fierceness – fertile grounds for growth. She decided to stay on with NAPAWF after her temporary period and is proud to be a part of such powerful work.
Nhia Lee, Office and Logistics Coordinator
Nhia is the Office and Logistics Coordinator of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) in Washington, DC. He took the initiative to join NAPAWF in the spring of 2013 as an undergraduate student in their Minnesota Young Women’s Collaborative (MYWC) class at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. Since then, he has used social science research to conduct campus-wide surveys to address the lack of research on Pap test and HPV vaccination for Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) women in Minnesota and created several campaigns to combat these issues. Continuing his work as an ally, he co-found Awareness4DV, a group that aims to de-stigmatize domestic violence and crimes against women in the AAPI communities through the use of storytelling on social media and art advocacy. Nhia believes that our nation’s future success is highly dependent on gender parity in all facets of society and works hard to critically challenge the status quo so that we may obtain legitimate change.
Nhia holds a B.A. in Communication Studies with a double minor in Political Science and Asian American Studies from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities.
Nikila Lakshmanan, Field Organizer Intern
Nikila Lakshmanan is a rising junior at Smith College aspiring to double-major in Philosophy and the Study of Women and Gender. Her experiences, both personal and political, have developed in her a keen interest in immigrant rights and reproductive justice. Her personal relationships with Indian-American women on H-4 visas who face domestic violence from their H1-B spouses have convinced her of the inseparable nature of women’s rights and immigration reform.
Her work as a research assistant on the project Strengthening Human Resources for Abortion Providers has made her realize how anti-abortion legislation hampers the ability of medical professionals to provide health care, and solidified her commitment to the reproductive justice movement. Next fall, Nikila will serve as a Student Liaison for the Philosophy Department and Co-President of the Feminist Club at Smith.
In her spare time, she enjoys watching television, from old Hindi and Tamil movies to Chinese and Korean soap operas. She can also be found drinking chai masala tea and reading science fiction novels written by women, from Ursula LeGuin to Octavia Butler.