Human and Women's Rights Associate
Larissa Abaunza joined URI’s violence prevention team as our first Human and Women’s Rights Associate. Through this new position, Larissa will support URI's mandate to reduce religiously motivated violence worldwide.
Larissa first engaged with human rights work at the age of five. Having “grown up” in the offices of Amnesty International, where her mother served as a director, she has dedicated her life to grassroots human rights and social justice advocacy. Larissa received her BA in International Relations, with a concentration in Genocide, Human Rights, and Holocaust Studies from Claremont McKenna College, culminating in her award-winning thesis, titled "Rape and Sexual Violence Used as a Weapon of War and Genocide." In 2018, Larissa was selected as a Fulbright recipient through the U.S. Department of State where she conducted research into the educational segregation and racial discrimination of Roma children and communities in Eastern Hungary. Upon her return to the United States, Larissa pursued an MA in Human Rights Studies from Columbia University's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, focusing her studies on the intersection of gender and terrorism, specifically on how women and girls are the keys to combatting violent extremism. Her graduate thesis examined the motivations of women combatants in Nicaragua's Sandinista movement and Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers. Larissa specializes in open-source research, data, and policy analysis, as well as rigorous qualitative and quantitative research. Some of her other research and advocacy interests include gender dimensions of technology, indigenous feminism in Latin America, post-conflict transitional justice, and racial disparities in maternal healthcare in the US. Involved with charitable organizations in Ecuador and Nicaragua (where her family is from), she is a native Spanish speaker and loves traveling and reading.