Mallika Dutt is founder, president, and CEO of global human rights organization Breakthrough, whose mission is to build a world in which violence against women and girls is unacceptable and all people enjoy their full human rights.
Under Dutt’s leadership, Breakthrough has reinvented the delivery of social and cultural change through a mix of stirring multimedia campaigns and deep community engagement. Breakthrough’s groundbreaking partnerships range from grassroots groups and government agencies to entertainment leaders and influencers including UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, President Bill Clinton, Sir Patrick Stewart, Amitabh Bachchan, Eve Ensler, and more.
Working through centers in India and the United States, Breakthrough’s initiatives rally individuals and communities to address issues including early marriage, gender-biased sex selection, domestic violence, and sexual harassment. Breakthrough has inspired millions around the world to challenge the deeply entrenched norms and attitudes that fuel discrimination against women and girls.
More than a decade ago, Dutt, a longtime attorney and distinguished human rights advocate, resolved to bring the values of human rights out of ivory towers and policy papers and into the lives and actions of real people. Result: the internationally award-winning album and video Mann ke Manjeere, featuring well-known Bollywood musicians. This initiative brought domestic violence into public dialogue in India, reached more than 50 million people worldwide, and led to the creation of Breakthrough.
Breakthrough’s campaigns are as provocative as they are uplifting. Past multimedia campaigns and projects include Bell Bajao/Ring the Bell, launched in India and then pushed global, calling on men and boys to challenge violence against women; What Kind of Man Are You?, rallying men and families to prevent HIV/AIDS transmission within marriage; Is This Justice?, inspiring communities to end the stigma and discrimination faced by women living with HIV/AIDS; America 2049, a transmedia Facebook game encouraging players to take action for human rights in the U.S.; Restore Fairness, a video initiative sparking action for humane immigration policy and racial justice; and I Am This Land, a youth-focused online space incubating creative activism.
Prior to founding Breakthrough, Mallika served as Program Officer for Human Rights and Social Justice at the Ford Foundation’s New Delhi Office. There, she initiated the Foundation’s work on police reform and forged unique partnerships among police, NGOs, and civil society groups. Mallika acted as Associate Director of the Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers University, working at the forefront of the global movement for recognizing women’s rights as human rights. She also served as the director of the Norman Foundation, where she supported civil rights, economic justice, and environmental justice programs across the United States.
Dutt has served on numerous boards and committees, including the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Human Rights and India, the Open Society Institute’s U.S. Programs, Human Rights Watch Asia, Sister Fund, Asian American Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy, and WITNESS. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Games for Change Advisory Board, and the Board of Public Interest Projects. She is a co-founder of SAKHI for South Asian Women.
Dutt is frequently interviewed on national and international media and has received multiple awards. She began her career as an associate at Debevoise & Plimpton. She graduated from NYU Law School, received a Masters in International Affairs and South Asian Studies from Columbia University, and an A.B. in International Affairs from Mount Holyoke College. Most recently, Dutt received an honorary doctorate from Mount Holyoke College in recognition of her pioneering accomplishments.