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Our team

Cayathri - Co-Founder

Dr Cayathri Divakalala (she/her) has been grappling with issues of identity and connectedness since her adolescent days, as a Tamil girl from certain socio-cultural backgrounds living amidst a brutal ethnic war in Northern Sri Lanka. Then, she had neither the language nor the analytical tools to make sense of her experiences. While most of these were subjects of discrimination of different forms and levels she faced, a few were privileges. In the 1990s, her journey of questioning dominant identities and seeking people and platforms to resist began in this milieu. This was when her world slowly started to expand as she was displaced from one place to another seeking refuge from the brutalities of the war. 

The journey started with Tamilness, which was quickly accompanied by girlhood/womanhood. Though sexuality joined this dilemma in her early twenties, it took her a long time to be comfortable with this identity. However, it has been evolving since then. Feminisms and queer politics profoundly shape her ways of being, connecting, and doing.

Dr Cayathri has been an activist researcher with over 20 years of experience in the social justice realm working on a plethora of topics. She has lived, travelled and worked in a few countries, including those where anything other than heterosexuality has been criminalised, mostly since colonisation. 

Dr Cayathri completed her PhD in Sociology at the University of Waikato. Her research focuses on Queer Feminist Social Movements. Beyond this, her academic credentials include:

  • Graduate Diploma in Social and Political Thought from the Institute of Social Justice, Australian Catholic University, Sydney,

  • Master of Arts in Development Studies specialising in Women, Gender and Development from the Institute of Social Studies, The Hague, Netherlands,

  • Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Delhi, and

  • Anthropology and Psychology non-degree coursework at the Ivy-League University of Pennsylvania.

Dr Cayathri continues to grapple with social issues and aspires to uphold a sense of justice imagined by the survivors from oppressed and/or marginalised communities. Cayathri firmly believes that alongside the experiences of oppression exist the powerful instances and stories of resistance. She aspires to build critical and constructive communities that proactively shape their realities for the better. Adhikaar Aotearoa joins this trajectory that Cayathri co-founded with her first Queer South Asian friend in Aotearoa, Vinod Bal.

Vinod - Co-Founder

Vinod Bal (he/him) is an Indian man who is passionate about making positive changes for our communities. He grew up in Ngāruawāhia and completed his primary, secondary and tertiary education in the Waikato region.

He is an activist, policy practitioner, and researcher with seven years of experience in LGBT+ advocacy. Vinod has a Bachelor of Laws (First Class Honours) conjoined with a Bachelor of Social Sciences (Political Science and Sociology) from the University of Waikato. He has also studied human rights at the Humboldt University of Berlin, and international law more generally at the preeminent international legal institute, The Hague Academy of International Law. He has also completed non-degree coursework at Florida State University, United States of America. He has a background in law, policy, diversity and inclusion, and people management. He is an active researcher, and wrote his dissertation (published) on how the international legal system can be used to provide redress for LGBT victims of atrocity crimes. He is a commentator on LGBT+ rights, sits on the Wellington City Council's Takatāpui and Rainbow Advisory Council, and has taught law at the University of Waikato.

He is passionate about ensuring our communities get the outcomes they deserve, whether that be greater visibility or better material outcomes. People of colour (POC), statistically speaking, are the largest LGBTQIA+ group on earth and yet, if one were to look at popular queer culture, they would be hard-pressed to see this reality. 

Vinod is a part of the LGBTQIA+ POC rights movement because he wants to change this. He has an interest in legal and policy advocacy for queer and trans people of colour, both here in Aotearoa and overseas.

Shaneel - Trustee

Shaneel Shavneel Lal (they/them) is the founder of the Conversion Therapy Action Group, a group working to end conversion therapy in Aotearoa New Zealand. 

Lal is an executive board member of Rainbow Youth and Auckland Pride Festival. 

Lal is a signed model, a political commentator on queer and indigenous rights issues and a law and psychology student at the University of Auckland.

Kiran - Trustee

Kiran Patel (he/him) is a queer writer and activist living in Te Whanaganui a Tara. Growing up in Aotearoa in the early 2000s, Kiran has struggled with understanding his place in the world as both queer and Indian in the context of the heteronormative, Pakeha-centric society he existed within. This experience was extremely isolating and took most of his teenage and adult life to arrive in a place of self-acceptance and celebration of his identity.

After hearing about Adhikaar Aotearoa indirectly through his therapist and a bit of social media-sleuthing, Kiran reached out. From there Kiran met Vinod, and learnt more about the incredible work being done by the organisation in the policy and advocacy space. This developed a keen interest to get involved himself and become a more visible part of the community.

Kiran’s writing often comes from a place of introspection, and explores themes such as internalised homophobia, teenage angst and loneliness, edge-walking, intersectionality, coming out, and the power of vulnerability. Kiran has a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Victoria University of Wellington and is keen to explore the history and literature around queer, POC (particularly South Asian) identity in Aotearoa. He plans to begin his Masters in New Zealand Literature in 2023.

Shawn - Trustee

Shawn Dellon Wimalaratne (they/them) is a non-binary queer person whose roots lie in the tropical Island of Sri Lanka. As a Burgher/Sinhalese person from the metropolitan capital of Sri Lanka, Shawn carries on their shoulders a plethora of challenges and trauma they wish to mitigate through their mahi. Their ultimate life goal is to create a better place for the next generation than what was left for them, and most importantly to provide a voice they wish they had when they were a young queer person growing up in Sri Lanka and Aotearoa. 

Shawn’s journey with this kaupapa is dictated heavily by their queerness, accompanied by their rich ‘fruit salad’ whakapapa and their newly discovered adult-diagnosed neurodiversity. As an immigrant, Shawn’s work also carries an undertoned kaupapa of displacement and identity study, which they explored in their Masters (First Class) thesis and also through their continued art of storytelling. 

Shawn is currently employed as Human Centered Design Practitioner in the Equity Practice at PwC, where they are an engagement practitioner, writer, storyteller, and visual artist.  All this contributes to the kaupapa aimed at creating a more equitable Aotearoa.

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