The new Executive Committee took office on March 19th, 2020.
Executive Committee ChairS
Maria Fornella-Oehninger, Soroptimist International
Maria is the newest of six Soroptimist International U.N. Representatives, having joined the team in March of 2019. Originally from Montevideo, Uruguay, in 2018 Maria moved to New York City from Norfolk, Virginia, where she had taught International Politics and directed the Model United Nations Program at Old Dominion University for 23 years. She also worked in the local chapter of Virginia Organizing as a Human Rights and Comprehensive Immigration Reform advocate for five years (2010-2015), and was the co-chair of the policy committee for the American Association of University Women (Virginia Beach branch) for 2017-18, focusing on Immigration, Human Trafficking, and Equal pay issues. Maria is fluent in English, Spanish and French. As SI UN Representative Maria focuses on Social Development and has been active in the Working Group to End Homelessness.
Monica Jahangir-Chowdhury, International Movement ATD Fourth World
Since 2017, Monica has been the UN Representative of the International Movement ATD Fourth World, a global movement working in partnership with the poorest communities and families in over 30 countries and accompanying them in the realization of their rights. At the United Nations, Monica’s main mission is to create and maintain spaces where people with the direct experience of poverty participate in UN processes by sharing their experience and knowledge of poverty. Monica served as a member at large and secretary of the executive committee of the NGO Committee for Social Development, as well as the Chair of the Advocacy subcommittee of the NGO CSocD. She holds a Masters in International Relations from Panthéon Sorbonne University (France) and Bachelors degrees in both French Law and Common Law from Paris Nanterre University (France). She was born to Bangladeshi parents and raised in Paris, France.
Gillian D’Souza – Nazareth, Red Dot Foundation
Gillian is an Economics and Sociology graduate, with a Masters in Marketing. She transitioned from a career in commercial airlines to Social Development and is the Director of Global Partnerships and Principal Representative to the United Nations for the Red Dot Foundation.(safecity.in) She is currently pursuing dual certification in Sustainable Development and Mindfulness . In addition to being a member of the NGOCSocD, She is a also a member of the NGO Committee on FfD as well as the NGOMG She is an amateur gardener and a trained classical Indian (Bharat Natayam )dancer. Gillian also volunteers at her local church as a Eucharist minister and is PGC (Protecting Gods children) compliant. Gillian’s preferred pronouns are she/her/hers.
Cynthia (Annamma) Mathew, Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Loreto
Before moving to New York in 2017 to take up her role as NGO Representative, Cynthia practiced law and was a member of advocates Association at Patna High Court, India. She was also a member of Buxar District Bar Association where she practiced in the District Court. Closely connected with this aspect of her work was that of Director of the NGO – ChiragEducation, Culture and Health Awareness Center, working with Dalit women, children and youth in the State of Bihar and a member of Prison Ministry India (PMI,) a voluntary organization working for the welfare of the prisoners. She is a member of the Religious Forum for Justice and Peace, India, where she has also acted as secretary. She has been the social action coordination for her organization Congregation of Jesus (CJ) Patna, India, and a member of Asian Movement of Women Religious against Human Trafficking (AMRAT). She recently worked with the local District Consumer Protection Council and District Vigilant Committee for inspecting Cable & Television Channel operators. Cynthia holds Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) and Bachelor of Law (LLB), degrees.
Recording and Communications Secretary
Durstyne Farnan OP, Dominican Leadership Conference
Sister Durstyne is from Southwestern Michigan, on beautiful Lake Michigan in the small town of St. Joseph. She entered the Adrian Dominican Sisters in August 1965. She now lives in New York City since 2020. She enjoys gardening, singing, and beautiful Lake Michigan. Her ministries have included elementary teacher for four years, ministered in initial formation with African congregations in Ghana and Kenya, Social Justice Promoter for the Dominicans of Adrian and the North American Co Promoter of Justice. She recently completed seven years as Vocation Director for the Dominicans of Adrian in June 2015 and Prior to moving to New York as the Dominican Leadership Conference NGO Rep she ministered with the School Sisters of St. Francis in Milwaukee, WI as their promoter of Justice and Peace. In January, 2015 Sr. Durstyne along with two other Dominicans travelled to Iraq on behalf of the Dominican Family in the U.S. to witness the displacement of the Dominicans of St. Catherine Mosul, Iraq and the Christian Community. The Christians and Sisters became displaced August 6, 2014. She is a member of the U.S. Dominican Iraq Coordinating committee.
Mary Ann Dantuono, International Association of Charities
Mary Ann Dantuono, is an attorney and NGO consultant. For most of her career she has worked on issues of poverty and social justice and with organizations that do the same. From 1996 to 2016, Mary Ann held the position of Associate Director of the Vincentian Center for Church and Society at St. John’s University. Prior to that she was the Director of Legal Affairs and Public Policy at Catholic Charities, Diocese of Rockville Centre, NY. She is also an adjunct professor of law and public policy and an author and trainer in the area of Church management. A native New Yorker, Mary Ann is a member of the International Association of Charities (AIC) where she is presently serving on the Executive Board and is a NGO representative to the UN. As part of the Vincentian family, she helped with the creation of the Working Group to End Homelessness and is a member of the NGO Committee for CSocD. AIC is also a member of the NGO Committee on CSW. MaryAnn served President of Ladies of Charity of the United States of America (2015-2016) and is a member of the Ladies of Charity at St. John’s University, Queens, NY where she also earned a JD degree. Since 2003, she has served the Holy See Mission as an expert on Women covering the General Assembly agenda on Women, UN Women, the Commission on the Status of Women. She resides in East Williston with her husband Michael. They have three married children and eight grandchildren.
Despoina Afrodita Milaki, International Presentation Association
I am the new NGO Representative for the International Presentation Association. I earned my Ph.D. in Germany, in International Politics. For over ten years, I provided policy advice to senior government officials in Greece, on International Relations topics. I further joined esteemed academic institutions and worked as a Research Associate on UN subject maters. I was also an external consultant at a Law Firm in Uganda, monitoring and keeping ahead of UN advocacy opportunities.
Margaret O’Dwyer, Company of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul
Margaret is a member of the Company of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, and the Vincentian Family. She has represented the Daughters of Charity at the UN in New York for four and a half years. She is very involved in the Grass Roots Task Force and is co- chair of the NGO Working Group to End Homelessness. Prior to moving to New York, Margaret served for ten years in the Cook Islands in the South Pacific. She holds a JD from Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, Michigan.