International Women's Health Coalition
Denise Hirao joined IWHC as Program Officer for Latin America in October 2006. Denise is a Brazilian lawyer who has worked on human rights and women's rights issues in both Brazil and at the international level. Her grassroots experience began while still a law student in São Paulo, when she became involved in various social projects—one of which provided legal information to underserved communities in Brazilian shanty towns—furthering her commitment to protecting human rights. Early in her career, Denise noticed that women were often absent at the policy table, and she became an active participant in Brazil's feminist movement.
From 1999 to 2001, Denise was a Councilor of the São Paulo Women's Council—a collection of government and NGO representatives that propose and evaluate state public policies on women in all governmental areas, including sexual and reproductive health. For five years, Denise was a member of the Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of Women's Rights (CLADEM) and served as its Regional Co-coordinator on violence against women in 2005.
Before joining IWHC, Denise worked for two years at the Sao Paulo-based law firm Rubens Naves Santos Junior and Hesketh Advogados. She holds a law degree from the University of São Paulo Law School and a Master of Laws (LL.M) degree, with a specialization in international human rights law, from the University of Notre Dame. Her graduate studies at the University of Notre Dame were supported by a Fulbright Foundation scholarship. A native speaker of Portuguese, she is also fluent in English and Spanish.
The Pope's presence in Brazil represents a challenge for politicians in the world's largest Catholic country, due to an already heated debate between public health concerns and church policy.