About

About

Ilana is a labour and human rights lawyer, and is a passionate advocate for the rights of women and children. She spent eight years at the United Nations, with the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), where she worked as the Agency’s CEDAW Advisor (the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women). During this time she travelled extensively in the global South, working with grassroots women’s groups to apply human rights conventions and standards in their struggles against female genital mutilation, gender-based violence, and all forms of discrimination. She went on to co-create a programme (with IWRAW Asia Pacific) that brought local grassroots women’s rights activists into the UN CEDAW Committee chambers to provide direct information about discrimination in their countries – a tactic that proved so successful, it has since been integrated into the official proceedings of that body. Ilana was one of the dedicated UNIFEM staff instrumental in bringing into existence and managing UNIFEM’s Trust Fund on Violence against Women, which was created to fund grassroots women’s groups in developing countries.  While working at the U.N., Ilana was co-founder and first President of UNGLOBE, a group advocating for the rights of LGBTQ U.N. employees.

In 2003, at the height of the AIDS pandemic in Africa, Ilana, along with her father Stephen Lewis, co-founded the Stephen Lewis Foundation to partner directly with community-based organizations that were – and are – at the heart of the response to the AIDS pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa. Ilana was the Founding Executive Director of the Stephen Lewis Foundation (SLF) from its inception in March, 2003 to February, 2019.  She then took on the role of Senior Advisor to the Board until February, 2020. Having recently left the Foundation, Ilana is taking a moment to reflect on the last 25 years of international human rights work – working on the podcast, speaking, writing, consulting, and, of course, making herself available to the SLF whenever needed as a Senior Advisor.  During her tenure, the Foundation partnered with over 330 grassroots organizations, raising and disbursing over 130 million dollars to more than 1800 different community HIV & AIDS-related initiatives. The Foundation’s internationally recognized Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign has grown, since its launch in 2006, into a movement involving thousands of committed and passionate grandmothers across Canada (now with groups in Australia, and the U.K.) who have raised over 30 million dollars for community-based organizations run by and for the dignified, indefatigable and expert Grandmothers of Africa, and the orphaned children in their care.

In 2009, Ilana was the recipient of the YWCA Women of Distinction award for International Development, and in 2012 she was named one of the Top 25 Women of Influence in Canada, and received an Alumni Award from the University of Toronto in 2017. She is a proud Board Member of Gender at Work.

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