Ritu Sharma, MPH

A first generation American, Ritu’s family left behind generations of violence in Punjab, India to build a new life in the United States. Her familial experiences prompted her to dedicate her life to helping women and men who struggle to leave poverty and violence behind them.Ritu Sharma is a seasoned and highly effective advocate who has successfully changed numerous policies and programs of the United States Government, United Nations, and national governments working in close partnership with locally-based grassroots organizations in developing countries.

In 1995, Ritu led a coalition of more than 100 organizations to influence the United Nations Summit on Social Development's Platform for Action on education and gender issues. Her leadership earned her a seat on the official United States delegation to the Summit, where she was able to influence the US negotiating position from the inside.

Ritu's long-term dedication to gender and development issues and her effectiveness as bridge-builder between the US government and NGOs led to an invitation to serve on the US delegation to the United Nations General Assembly Session on Women in 2000, also known as “Beijing Plus Five.” Her work on the delegation helped  hold at bay the efforts of conservative governments to water down the ground-breaking Beijing Platform for Action.

In 1998, Ritu founded Women Thrive Worldwide, a non-profit that puts the concerns of the poorest women and girls at the center of all US international assistance. Under 17 years of Ritu’s leadership, Women Thrive grew into a highly impactful $2M organization that successfully altered numerous US policies to benefit millions of women and girls.

Ritu’s advocacy was instrumental in the creation of the Millennium Challenge Account's Gender Policy as well as the deep implementation of that policy across MCC countries.  Women Thrive created long-term partnerships with locally-based women's organizations in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Honduras, Nicaragua, Sri Lanka, and other countries to influence these nations' proposals to the MCC and demand that programs worth billions of dollars included women's priorities. A fundamental part of these partnerships was ongoing advocacy capacity building and coaching for the local organizations over a 10 year period.

Women Thrive also played a key leadership role in the coalition of 200 organizations that pushed for the White House Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence Globally, which was announced by President Obama in August 2012.

Also under her direction, Women Thrive was the driving force behind the US Agency for International Development’s establishment of the Gender Equality and Female Empowerment Policy, also in 2012.

Ritu was an original architect of the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA), introduced into the United States Congress in 2007, and again in 2010, 2013, and 2015. Women Thrive, together with Amnesty International USA and CARE USA, developed the bill in consultation with more than 150 groups in the United States and abroad. Women Thrive gathered vital input from 40 locally-grown organizations working to prevent violence in developing countries; this input shaped the legislation from its inception.

In June 2014, Palgrave Macmillan published Ritu’s first book, Teach a Woman to Fish: Overcoming Poverty Around the Globe. Melinda Gates said after reading an advance copy: “In Teach a Woman to Fish, Ritu Sharma shows us what unites women around the world: devotion to their families, pride in their children, and a willingness to sacrifice for a better future. Using highly accessible prose, she helps make the sometimes abstract concept of women’s empowerment concrete, showing how no matter where they live, women’s hard work is absolutely essential to building thriving communities.” President Jimmy Carter also endorsed the book saying: “Every citizen and lawmaker should read this book.”

Ritu is also the author of An Introduction to Advocacy: A Training Guide, which has been translated into three languages and is a primary reference for advocates around the globe. She has trained numerous organizations and advocates in the US and overseas in the art of advocacy and holds a certificate in learner-centered adult education.


Ritu’s many media appearances and credits include: MSNBC, CNN, ABC News Channel 11, Fox News Strategy Room, PBS To the Contrary, C-SPAN, and numerous national radio shows including the Diane Rehm Show and Stand Up with Pete Dominick.

Ritu now hosts her own special on SiriusXM's Insight Channel (121)--Radio Ritu: Conversations About the Real Lives of Women Worldwide.

Her op-eds, letters and interviews have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Washington Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, Politico, The Hill, The New York Daily News, The Boston Globe, The Baltimore Sun, The Arizona Daily Star and many more. Ritu is also a regular contributor to the Huffington Post.

An acclaimed speaker, Ritu regularly inspires audiences from the hundreds to the thousands around the globe. Ritu was chosen to deliver the opening keynote at the Hilton Humanitarian Prize Symposium alongside Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Muhammad Yunus. She and Women Thrive were also highlighted at President George W. Bush’s White House Summit on Global Development.

Her appearances include the 2014 Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Texas Conferences for Women, the Jimmy Carter Presidential Center in November 2014, and the White House State of Women Summit in  2016.


With Ritu at the helm, Women Thrive Worldwide received numerous awards from prestigious agencies including: Charity Navigator, The Catalogue of Philanthropy, Working Mother Magazine, Independent Charities of America and the Web Marketing Association.

Parade magazine featured Ritu and the International Violence Against Women Act and in 2010, Lifetime Television for Women honored Ritu’s lifelong dedication to advocacy for women as part of its series, “Lifetime Celebrates Remarkable Women.” In 2013, Ritu was recognized as one of the American Association of University Women’s “Women of Distinction.”


At 17, Ritu left her home in Arizona and traveled to Wales to attend the United World College of the Atlantic, an international school created by HRH Prince of Wales and Lord Mountbatten to foster global understanding among youth. There, Ritu completed an International Baccalaureate degree and then returned to the United States to study at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.  After graduating with a BSFS in international economics, Ritu went on to receive a Masters of Public Health from the Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Hygiene and Public Health.


Ritu lives in Annapolis, Maryland with her two sons. When not building the capacity of advocates around the globe, you can find Ritu in her sailboat on the Chesapeake Bay.

Ritu Sharma advocates for gender integration into international agriculture programs at the 2013 World Food Prize conference with Tony Blair, Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Howard Buffett, President of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation.