Birthrights is pleased to announce the appointment of Shanthi Gunesekera and Janaki Mahadevan as joint Chief Executives, who will lead our mission to protect human rights during pregnancy and childbirth in a job share from January 2023.
Shanthi and Janaki join Birthrights after Amy Gibbs stepped down in July 2022, who – amongst a significant period of growth for the team – oversaw our inquiry on systemic racism in maternity care and our work to protect basic rights in the face of COVID-19 restrictions.
Shanthi and Janaki said:
‘We are honoured to be joining Birthrights at such a critical time for maternity care in the UK. Since 2013, Birthrights has consistently shone a spotlight on the importance of rights-based care to ensure women and birthing people receive the respect and dignity they deserve, including through its recent landmark report Systemic Racism, Not Broken Bodies.
‘As Birthrights prepares to celebrate its 10th anniversary, we will continue to focus on the protection of human rights through pregnancy and birth, challenge the structures and practices that perpetuate racial injustices in maternity care, and champion investment in the NHS workforce.
We are excited to join the excellent team at Birthrights to work in partnership with women and birthing people, those who deliver maternity care and partners to drive forward Birthrights’ mission to ensure safe, personalised and equitable care is prioritised throughout pregnancy and birth.’
Elizabeth Prochaska, co-founder and Chair of Birthrights said:
‘We are absolutely delighted to welcome Shanthi and Janaki as the next Birthrights’ CEOs. They bring fantastic leadership experience from the GLA and passion for our cause. We are also excited to model job-sharing at a senior level in the charity sector, reflecting Birthrights’ strong commitment to inclusion. As Birthrights turns 10 in 2023, we are thrilled that Shanthi and Janaki will lead Birthrights into its next decade championing the rights of women and birthing people.’
Shanthi and Janaki have worked previously as a job share since early 2019 during which time, they led the Greater London Authority (GLA)’s policy and programmes delivered under the Mayor of London’s Social Integration Strategy. This included efforts to address labour market inequality, increase active citizenship and democratic participation, strengthen relationships across London’s communities and support people newly arrived in the Capital and those with insecure immigration status to access their rights and thrive in London.
Before their job share at the GLA, Janaki was Head of Policy and Public Affairs at the London Borough of Newham and prior to that worked as a journalist on publications including Children & Young People Now. Shanthi led migration policy at the Greater London Authority under the previous Mayor, and prior to that worked at the London Borough of Enfield on programme and change management, and equalities.
Birthrights is the UK charity that champions respectful maternity care by protecting human rights. We provide advice and legal information to women and birthing people, train healthcare professionals to deliver rights-respecting care and campaign to change maternity policy and systems.