Shantha Rau Barriga is the founding director of the disability rights division at Human Rights Watch. She leads research and advocacy on human rights abuses against people with disabilities worldwide including: the shackling of people with psychosocial disabilities, denial of education for children with disabilities, violence against women and girls with disabilities, institutionalization of children and adults with disabilities, and the neglect of people with disabilities in humanitarian emergencies. Shantha also serves as co-chair of the Leadership Management Team at Human Rights Watch, and is head of the Brussels office.
Shantha is a founding member of the International Network of Women with Disabilities, member of the Amnesty International Advisory Group on Disability Rights, and expert advisor to the Catalyst for Inclusive Education Initiative. She also served on the UNICEF Advisory Board for the 2013 State of the World’s Children report.
Before joining Human Rights Watch, Shantha participated in the UN negotiations toward the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, working as part of a global coalition to advocate for strong protections on non-discrimination, accessibility, education, legal capacity, independent living and international monitoring. She also previously worked with UNICEF Tanzania, carrying out an assessment on children with disabilities in refugee camps in Kibondo.
Shantha received degrees from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and the University of Michigan, and was a Fulbright Scholar to Austria. She speaks German and Kannada. Shantha is married and has two sons.