Mallika Dutt, founder of global human rights organization Breakthrough, is one of today’s most innovative, admired, and effective leaders in cultural transformation. Dutt has reinvented the delivery of social and behavioral change through a potent mix of stirring multimedia campaigns, cutting-edge pop culture, smart social media, and authentic community engagement. Breakthrough’s unique formula has earned Dutt accolades in the global human rights community and the media and technology industries — and has helped ignite the next generation of human rights leaders. Newsweek/The Daily Beast called her a “breakout star” of the 2013 Women in the World conference.
Working through centers in India and the United States, Breakthrough seeks to challenge violence and discrimination against women by engaging a diverse range of actors to promote values of dignity, equality and justice. Breakthrough’s most recent multimedia campaign, Ring the Bell: One million men. One million promises to end violence against women launched on March 8 with events in New York City, New Delhi, Rio de Janeiro, Johannesburg, and with leading promise-makers including Sir Patrick Stewart, Sir Richard Branson, Michael Bolton, and Russell Simmons. Ring the Bell builds on Breakthrough’s award-winning Bell Bajao (“Ring the Bell”) campaign, which launched India in 2008 and has reached more than 150 million people and been adapted in several countries. Breakthrough is also spearheading innovative campaigns to address of early marriage, unequal sex ratios and the rights of immigrant women.
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: an award-winning album and music video — featuring Bollywood’s most popular vocalist — that brought domestic violence into India’s public conversation for the first time ever and reached more than 150 million people worldwide. Dutt’s multimedia campaigns in the U.S., including groundbreaking and award-winning video games with hundreds of thousands of downloads, challenge Americans to bring compassion and dignity into the immigration debate. Dutt’s efforts to place respect, equality and justice into the hands of a new generation of leaders has attracted support, partnerships and awards from human rights leaders and artists including UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, President Bill Clinton, Eve Ensler, Cynthia Nixon, Reese Witherspoon, Harold Perrineau, Cherry Jones, Victor Garber, Anthony Rapp, Margaret Cho, Mira Nair and more. Most recently, Dutt received an honorary doctorate from Mount Holyoke College in recognition of her pioneering accomplishments.
Breakthrough’s campaigns are as provocative as they are uplifting. Past campaigns also include What Kind of Man Are You?, a multimedia campaign that spotlighted HIV/AIDS transmission within marriage; Is This Justice?, a multimedia campaign that brought public attention to the stigma and discrimination faced by women living with HIV/AIDS; America 2049, a transmedia Facebook game that explores assumptions about racial justice, human rights, migration and democracy; Restore Fairness, a comprehensive multimedia initiative that uplifts the human rights impact of current U.S. policies on immigration, criminal and racial justice and national security and seeks to reframe public dialogue; and I Am This Land, a youth-focused online space that asks participants to share views on diversity, pluralism, identity, gender and sexuality, immigration, and racial justice.
Dutt has served on several boards, including the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Human Rights and India, the Open Society Institute’s U.S. Programs, the Human Rights Watch Women’s Rights Project and WITNESS. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Games for Change Advisory Board, and the Rights Working Group Steering Committee. She is a co-founder of SAKHI for South Asian Women.
Dutt 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.