2015 Conference Speakers

In addition to our speakers (listed below), we heard Podcast messages from: 

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer

UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka


Dr. Suja Lowenthal was elected to represent the Second District in a special election held on June 6th, 2006. She was re-elected to four-year terms in 2008 and 2012 and was selected by her colleagues to serve as Vice Mayor in 2014, conducting Council meetings and representing the City of Long Beach at special events in the absence of the Mayor.  She holds a Bachelor's degree in Economics from UCLA, a Master's in Business Administration from California State University, Los Angeles and a Doctorate in Policy, Planning and Development from USC.
Suja's professional background includes her work for the City of Los Angeles Department of Aging and the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office as the Coordinator of its Domestic Violence Unit. She also has over 15 years of experience in the water industry serving policy roles in the Central Basin Municipal Water District, West Basin Municipal Water District and Water Replenishment District of Southern California. In 2007, she joined the Geological Sciences faculty as an Adjunct Professor at California State University, Long Beach, teaching an upper-division class on California's water supply, water-pricing and best practices for water management and currently teaches a class on Public Policy.
Rowan Blanchard is a thirteen year old student, actress, activist and aspiring writer. She has been acting since she was five which led to starring in her own show, Girl Meets World in 2014. She just graduated from middle school and dreams of attending The Columbia School of Journalism and Oxford University. Rowan likes to use her platform to inspire kids her age to speak up and use their voices.
Samantha Sacher was born in Detroit, and raised in Santa Cruz, CA. You have seen her on MTV, CNN, HLN, Fox, Good Day LA, Versus Network, Current TV, filling in for Dr. Drew on Loveline, and more. Sam is currently a contributor to CNN & HLN, and hosts, writes, and co-produces her own segment for CNN on Sundays: Titled, Pop 5, “What to Watch in Pop Culture Next Week.”
Sam is one of America’s fastest rising young talents: A host, producer, business owner, former World-Ranked swimmer, and certainly someone who isn’t afraid to voice her opinions. Witty and quirky Sam is a pop culture & social media expert, dubbed “The Social Media Queen,” from numerous publications. Earning a degree in Sociology from UCLA, Sam was able to study the phenomena of what makes people, society – CULTURE, tick, which of course only fed to her addiction. Each night Sam joins Dr. Drew Pinsky, and guests, on Dr. Drew on Call, on HLN, discussing hot button topics and social stories, while focusing on human behavior. Sam hosts & produces the hit pop culture show, Pop Trigger. Pop Trigger not only dissects pop culture and social media stories on HULU & The Young Turks Network (The Largest Online News Show in The World), but also provides intellect and substance to an often fluffy and shallow genre. Sam also has a knack for debating key issues: Whether it be social, political, or pop culture; in fact, her wit and strong conviction has led to the creation of her own show for GSN Network, Debate Your Fate, a game show devoted solely to debates, in which the loser has to spin the dreaded ‘Wheel of Fate.’ Sam also serves as the show’s host, producer, and writer, and is a former producer of Judge Judy.
Tess Cacciatore is the founder of Global Women’s Empowerment Network (GWEN), a nonprofit organization using cutting-edge technology, multimedia programming, and product lines to raise awareness and funds to support and heal women, men and children who have suffered abuse of any kind. Throughout her career, Tess has spoken regularly at international platforms on behalf of children and the imperative use of media and technology to bridge cultures of the world. Cacciatore’s media appearances include: “The Today Show”, “Prime Time with John Stossel”, The Manny Alvarez Show (FOX) and local TV news in cities such as: Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas, Dallas, Austin, New York. 
In 2003 Cacciatore was awarded the Fete d’Excellence from Sub-Commission for Human Rights at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland for her work in educational entertainment and continues to use her voice to speak out and produce events in conjunction with the United Nations from 2000 to present day.
Viva Bianca is an Australian actress, writer, gender equality activist, and co-founder/editor of SheRa Mag. Having starred in the US Starz original series Spartacus, Viva moved her life to Los Angeles where she continues to work in film and television. This year, she starred alongside Elizabeth McGovern, Uzo Aduba, Cicely Tyson, and Maggie Grace in the female driven ensemble drama, Showing Roots (2016 theatrical release). Viva also starred in The Reckoning (2015 Cannes Film Festival premier), Turkey Shoot (2014), Scorned (2013), and X (2011). Viva co-wrote and starred opposite Akon in Road to Redemption, a human rights film about early child marriage and fistula in Africa (2015 theatrical release).
In 2014, I Want You, a short film she wrote and directed, screened at Cannes Film Festival. Viva is also a regular writer for pop culture think-tank Thought Catalog, and last year, exhausted by the limited content repeatedly regurgitated by the female magazine market, Viva co-founded SheRa Mag, an online magazine for girls who think. Now on the Los Angeles hosting committing of the Its Time Network (#ItTime2015), Viva continues to use her profile as an actress to endorse gender equality and promote female leadership worldwide.
Commissioner Ceri Zamora breathes passion into the CSW’s mission by addressing issues that directly impact women’s economic futures.  With the support of her fellow Board Members, Commissioner Zamora hosted the first-ever Latina Financial Boot Camp at City Hall where more than 200 women learned the fundamentals of wealth building and asset planning.  She also helps manage the Commission’s efforts on international issues that affect women, which is especially important considering LA’s rank as one of the most diverse cities in the world.
Commissioner Zamora resides in the Mid-City area of Los Angeles and touches the lives of thousands through her support of local and national charities.  Never wavering in her commitment to building bridges, Ceri Zamora advocates for the voiceless while simultaneously nurturing partnerships to help make economic security a reality for all
Autumn Burris is the Founder/Director of Survivors for Solutions, offering direct client services, advocacy, community education and outreach, public policy work, and consultation services to non-profit organizations and various institutions.
In December 2012, Ms. Burris was a panelist at the UN-Women’s Stakeholders’ Forum on Preventing and Eliminating Violence Against Women in preparation for the Commission on the Status of Women’s 57th session in March 2013.  As a panelist, she highlighted the gaps between existing global norms and standards and policy implementation in the area of sexual exploitation.  
Ms. Burris, as Administrative Director, provided organizational leadership in establishing and developing Standing Against Global Exploitation (SAGE) in San Francisco. She addressed the demand side of sexual exploitation by providing education on the impact of prostitution on behalf of the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office First Offender Prostitution Program (FOPP) in addition to assisting other jurisdictions in the replication of both SAGE and FOPP programs.
Autumn is currently an approved Expert Consultant with the Office of Victims of Crime, a Trainer and Public Policy Consultant with Runaway Girl, FPC, a board member of Prostitution, Research and Education and a member of the Women’s Equity Council (WEC) of the United Nations Association of San Diego.
Jeta Amata grew up in the film industry, following his family’s passion for film, and developing a talent for story telling at a young age. He holds 53 nominations and 10 wins for Film Awards in Africa, Europe and the United States, and is considered one the most successful filmmakers to come out of West Africa.
He has made a name for himself writing, directing and producing films circulating around woman’s issues and raising awareness for political and social causes. In 2000, his film Fears of a Woman covered female circumcision. Jeta toured communities and secondary schools to raise awareness. In 2003, his film Dangerous Desire targeted the issues of domestic violence and gender inequality. His film, Will of Change covered the affect of HIV/AIDS on young women in Nigeria and was based on true stories of women in Nigerian high schools. He's also been recognized for Mary Slessor covering the story of a Scottish Missionary who fought to stop the killing of twins in Nigeria and battled for Women’s rights.
Jeta is currently in development on a film which will cover the stories of the Chibok girls who were kidnapped and rescued from Boko Haram.
Dr. Kristie Holmes is a professor that specializes in topics related to global health, gender and media, as well as technology’s impact on relationships. She has spent a significant amount of time in the past five years working on projects related to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals and human rights, including gender equality with Zero Mothers Die and Millennia 2025 Foundation, and is now active in helping shape post-2015 goals.
She currently teaches Global Development, Violence Against Women, Human Behavior and Grant Writing at the University of Southern California and has been published in peer review journals such as Ethnicity and Disease and RAND. Kristie has a passion for helping other women find their voice. She has acted as moderator for an NGO at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, as well as participated as a panelist at the Women Leaders Forum as part of the United Nations General Assembly. Currently, she serves on the board of U.S. National Committee for UN Women, the Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy and works with Give an Hour, which donates clinical time to veterans in need of services who are often on a waiting list. Holmes ran for Congress in 2014 in California’s 33rd Congressional District.
CeCe Sloan was born and raised in Brooklyn. She moved to the Boston area after marrying her husband, Irv, and soon began guiding an alternative newspaper through the controversial Vietnam war period. Next, she helped run an art magazine that brought contemporary art news to Boston. In 1982, she accepted an assignment with Art New England Summer Workshops, held annually at Bennington College in Vermont, where female artists gather for instruction and unfettered access to materials and studios in an effort to sharpen their skills and share their angst-ridden stories about the elusive perfect paining. CeCe is now retired and living in sunny Southern California, but returns each summer to help manage the program.
In 2004, CeCe connected with a group of women from UNIFEM (now known as UN Women) and was immediately drawn to their creativity and commitment to global women's issues. By the following year, she, with the help of Christine Griftner, had enticed nearly 60 women to become members or patrons of a new SoCal chapter. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the SoCal UN Women USA chapter which has raised critical funding for the organization. CeCe uses her creative background in the arts to connect UN Women's global work with her local community, hosting film screenings, dinners, walks, and a variety of events with female artists. Three of the women CeCe has mentored through the SoCal chapter have gone on to serve on the executive national board, including Maggie Forster Schmitz who currently serves as president and Lori Vandermeir who heads the national communications team.
In addition to her work with UN Women USA, CeCe travels the world, connecting with women and art everywhere she goes. In the past year, she's visited London, Cuba, New York, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, and San Francisco. However, her most inspiring trip came 20 years ago when she traveled to Beijing and first heard Hillary Clinton declare to the world that, "Women's rights are human rights and human rights are women's rights."
Jeanette Cheng studied International Business and Anthropology in Southern California, Europe and China before embarking on a career in business management and consulting in 2005.
Jeanette’s management background is diverse in industries, but the core of each position lies innovation and helping organizations achieve and sustain change. She tirelessly seeks to make strategic and pragmatic improvements with any project she interacts. She served as the Interim Executive Director of Kingdom Causes Long Beach where she acted as essential bridge builder between the faith-based community and the unmet needs of the city of Long Beach. In that role, she also founded the Long Beach Human Trafficking Task Force, is a multidisciplinary, survivor-centered, collaborative community effort by law enforcement agencies and community based organizations to combat human trafficking by identifying, rescuing and empowering survivors and assisting in the prosecution of traffickers.
After working in the Middle East, Jeanette returned home to work on public policy education and outreach. She currently serves as the Director of Public Policy and Advocacy at Crittenton Services and continues to facilitate the Long Beach Human Trafficking Task Force.
Megan Henry is originally from Orange County but has resided in Los Angeles since graduating from USC with a BA in communications. Ms. Henry  has been pursuing many endeavors both within the entertainment industry and outside. One of her proudest achievements was co-founding the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of UN Women USA for UN Women. Currently she is working with Makeovers That Matter Foundation as both assistant program director and member of the board.
Always nurturing her creative side, Megan is currently co-writing a one-hour pilot and comedic webseries, and co-producing and starring in a short film. Some of her past endeavors include a dating documentary and a play.  Grateful to all who believe in her sometimes offbeat ideas, she is anxious to see her projects through to fruition and hopes in some way, no matter the subject matter, to relay a message that inspires positive change and insight.