Building Power and AAPI Feminist Leadership

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OPAWL members at a community event in a home

About Us

OPAWL is a grassroots member-led community organization dedicated to social justice. We are building a strong intersectional feminist community with the purpose of building power and progressive leadership in Ohio. Founded in Central Ohio in 2016 under the original name “Ohio Progressive Asian Women’s Leadership”, we are now called OPAWL – Building AAPI Feminist Leadership. OPAWL now has regional hubs in Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton, and Cleveland as well as an online community of members across the state and beyond.


Our Members

We are a multi-ethnic, multigenerational, intersectional feminist community centered around immigrants, refugees, and adoptees; women; and queer and trans individuals. Our members represent the diverse diaspora of Asia and the Pacific Islands, including those of South Asian, Southeast Asian, East Asian, Central Asian, Southwest/West Asian, Pacific Islander, and Native Hawaiian descent.

Land Acknowledgment

Many of our members reside in what is now known as the state of Ohio, which is the traditional territory of hundreds of different indigenous tribes and nations, including the Erie, Wyandotte, Mingo, Shawnee, Delaware, Miami, Huron, Ojibwe, Potawatomi and Odawa. Indigenous people are still here, and an acknowledgement is just the first step of repairing broken relationships caused by genocide, broader oppression, and unrecognized sovereignty. To find out more about the traditional territory where you are, you can visit native-land.ca.

Our Mission

OPAWL is a grassroots community that organizes for social justice and elevates the voices, visibility, and progressive leadership of Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women and nonbinary people in Ohio. By co-creating an organized and intersectional feminist member-led community, we are building collective power. Our primary strategies for building power are through community building, art and storytelling, political education, and organizing campaigns.

OPAWL is not a registered entity in the state of Ohio. OPAWL currently has a 501(c)(3) fiscal sponsor relationship with Ohio Voice.

image of cake in front of zoom call for #IWillEatWithYou program event

Our Strategies

Our primary strategies for building collective power are through community building, art and storytelling, political education, and organizing campaigns.

Community Building

Bring members together in a joyful space where we feel seen and heard, building relationships and trust through events and a culture of shared leadership.

Art + Storytelling

Tell our stories and promote activism through art, to disrupt and change dominant narratives.

Political Education

Members grow and learn together by facilitating / engaging in workshops and discussions about social justice issues, community organizing, and movement building.

Organizing Campaigns

Fight to solve specific problems in our environment through regular cycles of collective action and reflection.

OPAWL members in group photo

Our Theory of Change

By co-creating an organized and intersectional feminist member-led AAPI community, we will build collective power. We believe our approach to building collective power will allow Ohio AAPIs to grow and transform ourselves, change dominant narratives and institutions, and take visible leadership in progressive social movements in solidarity with Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color.

Our Values

  • Shared Leadership
  • Solidarity + Collaboration
  • Transparency + Honesty
  • Community Care + Accountability
  • The Power of Storytelling
  • Joy + Belonging
  • Mutual Respect + Appreciation
  • Trust + Vulnerability
  • Growth + Learning
  • Justice + Fairness
  • Dignity + Humanity
  • Creativity + Imagination

We believe that everyone has a gift to contribute and a meaningful role to play. We appreciate our community’s many gifts and talents by organizing with a mentality of abundance rather than scarcity.  

Our Leadership


Photo of a Bhutanese Nepali woman

Tika Adhikari

Civic Engagement Organizer


Jona Hilario

Statewide Co-Director

Photo of a Chinese American woman with 2 huskies

Lisa Hong

Transformative Justice Conflict Guide


Photo of a South Asian woman wearing glasses

Arianna Kelawala

Educating for Ohio's Future Campaign Organizer


Photo of a Filipinx/Latinx person standing in front of a body of water

Christine Santos

Transformative Justice Organizer


Tessa Xuan staff photo

Tessa Xuan

Statewide Co-Director

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OPAWL would not exist without the early efforts and dreams of our Founding Members: Suparna Bhaskaran, Chau-Sa Dang, Jona Hilario, Kelly Hill, Rebecca Nelson, and Helen Yee. Thank you to all of the volunteers, past and present, whose generous gifts of time and talent have helped grow and shape OPAWL into the organization it is today! We are also grateful to learn from the rich legacy and stories of previous generations of AAPI, Black, and Brown feminist changemakers, both here in the U.S. and overseas.

Interested in becoming a member?

OPAWL seeks to connect and mobilize AAPI women and nonbinary people across Ohio to join and lead social movements that impact their own lives and the lives of all Ohioans. OPAWL also creates spaces for community members to come together to support each other and talk about politics, society, arts, and everything in between. 

You can become a member if:

  • you identify as AAPI (Asian, Asian American, or Pacific Islander)
  • >you identify as a woman or nonbinary person
  • you commit to our mission and values; to learn more about our mission, theory of change and values, please visit our About page
  • you’ve joined an event, followed or supported our work, or helped with an OPAWL initiative

For more information or any questions, please contact us.

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