Sutapa Basu, Ph.D. is the executive director of the University of Washington Alene Moris Women’s Center, a vital place where women and men partner to build a community culture of gender equity. Under Dr. Basu’s leadership, the Moris Women’s Center is one of the country’s largest university-based women’s centers. Dr. Basu is recognized as a global leader and advocate for women’s issues, girls’ education, gender equality, sustainable development, human rights, and particularly those who have been victims of human trafficking abuse. Her areas of academic specialization are women in developing economies and international development, with primary research and activism on ending the global human trafficking and violence against women and children. Dr. Basu ensures that through educational, professional, and personal support programs, women and girls have the choices and resources to make the best decisions for their future.
In 2001, under Dr. Basu’s leadership, the UW Moris Women’s Center hosted the first-ever anti-human trafficking conference attended by over 300 participants in Washington state. Because of Dr. Basu’s anti-human trafficking work in India and extensive activism, human trafficking was framed as a public health issue at this pioneering conference. Dr. Basu said, “a public health focus helps make the cost of this illegal but profitable trade more visible. There is a great need for more intervention and services to deal with the health problems of trafficked women.” Since then, health has become one of the major frameworks for contextualizing human trafficking. She also helped create the first statewide anti-trafficking legislation, and similar legislation has now been introduced in all 50 states.
Dr. Basu’s lifetime work is grounded in a dedication to empowering women to speak out more, take leadership roles, demand better working conditions, seek support against domestic violence, and improve education and family health for women and children. “Women worldwide need support systems, and many have taken on leadership roles that have defied cultural norms. In every society, women account for nearly two-thirds of the aggregate labor market, and despite the inequities, we are seeing women taking on more responsible roles and leadership positions in civil societies,” says Dr. Basu.