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A black-and-white headshot of a woman with a full head of short, dark hair smiling at the camera. She is wearing a white-striped button-up shirt with the first few buttons undone. Behind her are three graphic circles: one teal, one light blue and one white.

Umama Zillur

UChicago Obama Scholars 2022-2023


Founder and Director, Kotha





Umama Zillur is a researcher, community organizer, and founder of the Bangladesh based feminist organization, Kotha. Kotha uses community building, education interventions, art, interactive theater, and accessible research to fight root causes of gender-based violence. Through Kotha, Umama launched Bangladesh’s first fully youth-led comprehensive sexuality education program, Kotha at School, with a vision to change mindsets and model behavior for a society free of gender-based violence. Under her leadership, Kotha at School has impacted 1,000 students through long-term partnerships with educational institutions and played a critical role in popularizing root cause solutions to tackle Bangladesh’s rape culture. Umama also focuses on national coalition building to connect the power of mass demonstrations and protests to policy advocacy and social change. Umama’s research work has taken her to low income communities across Bangladesh and most recently to the Rohingya refugee camps to analyze power and violence through a gendered lens.

Umama is pursuing a master’s degree at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy and is a Fellow at the Pearson Institute for the Study and Resolution of Global Conflicts.