Ashri Anurudran is honored to serve as the first Sri Lankan PD Soros Fellow. Born into a family of Sri Lankan Tamils, an oppressed ethnic minority, amid the 26-year Sri Lankan Civil War, Ashri spoke her first words “Amma” and “Appa” in her mother tongue of Tamil. Ashri’s loving parents inspired not only her first words but also her guiding philosophies of unconditional love, service, and the lottery of birth.
To this day, Ashri proudly speaks Tamil, but over time, her accent took on new notes—transformed by British colloquialisms, Malaysian slang “lah” and the Texan drawl “y’all”. Her language closely tracked the nomadic trajectory of her childhood, marking her family’s cross-continental moves, from England to Malaysia and to the United States.
Across her diverse homes, Ashri found community, inspiration, and purpose in connecting with women around her. Through their stories, Ashri began to understand the universal roots of gender injustice—this first sparked what would become Ashri’s life’s mission: advocating for women everywhere.
For almost a decade, Ashri has committed to elevating the voices of survivors of gender-based violence through prevention, research, and advocacy. From war zones in Sri Lanka to her classrooms at Harvard, Ashri has partnered with diverse communities to implement violence prevention strategies. In 2016, Ashri founded a sexual violence prevention program for adolescents in Kenya, which has trained over 2000 students in 10 primary schools. In 2019, she ran a randomized control trial of 1,200 students to evaluate her program’s efficacy—she was awarded the Harvard Hoopes Prize and the Harvard Cheng Social Innovation Fellowship for this work.
In 2020, Ashri spearheaded the COVID-19 Taskforce on Domestic Violence, a nonprofit to investigate, educate, and advocate on behalf of survivors. From designing a database of domestic violence resources to launching over 20 educational seminars, Ashri led the taskforce of 117 activists to increase survivors’ access to safety—her nonprofit was featured on BBC World News and published in academic journals. As a Harvard Presidential Public Service Fellow, Ashri works to memorialize the taskforce.
Ashri graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College with a degree in economics and global health in 2019. In 2020, she graduated first in her class from the University of Cambridge with a MPhil in public health. She then worked at the Stanford Intimate Partner Violence Research Laboratory before starting Harvard Medical School.
As an aspiring physician-advocate and leader in global gender justice, Ashri believes the healthcare treatment of survivors serves as stress test for the system, a way to measure our society’s standard of gender equity. Thus, Ashri remains committed to bridging the gap between survivors’ lived experiences and global health practice.