Who we are

The Spotlight Initiative's governing body is chaired by United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed and European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission Federika Mogherini, who provide the Initiative's overall strategic direction. Country-level implementation is led by the United Nations Resident Coordinator, in partnership with UN agencies, European Union delegations and civil society organizations.
EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica and UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed. (Credit: UN Women/Ryan Brown)

Staff

Nahla

Valji

Senior Gender Adviser Executive Office of the United Nations Secretary General
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Nahla Valji is the Senior Gender Adviser in the United Nations’ Executive Office of the Secretary-General (EOSG) where she coordinates the UN-EU Spotlight Initiative to Eliminate Violence against Women and Girls as well as the Secretary-General’s Gender Parity Strategy among other efforts. She joined the Transition Team of then Secretary-General-designate Guterres in November 2016 and the EOSG in January 2017. Prior to this she was the Acting Chief/Deputy Chief of the Peace and Security section in UN Women’s headquarters in New York, where she led for some years the organization’s work on peacekeeping, peace negotiations, transitional justice, and rule of law, involving both global programming and policy work, particularly with regards to the Security Council. In 2015, she headed the Secretariat for the Global Study on implementation of resolution 1325, a comprehensive study requested by the Security Council for the 15-year review of women, peace and security. She founded and managed the International Journal of Transitional Justice and is the co-editor of the Oxford Handbook on Gender and Conflict.

Olga

Aleshina

Head of Programme Management Unit
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Olga has 15 years of professional experience in development and humanitarian affairs. She is joining us from the UN MPTF Office, where she had worked as the Senior Portfolio Manager since 2008, managing an annual portfolio of US$ 400 million/year of humanitarian, transition and development financing instruments. Olga also served in the capacity of the Head of the Secretariat for other UN Trust Funds, including Secretary-General’s UN Ebola Response MPTF, UN Avian and Human Influenza Fund, and Secretary-General’s Haiti Cholera Response MPTF. She has worked with the UN, World Bank and government in post-conflict settings, including UN missions settings. She has a PhD in Public Policy from the University of California, Berkley and a Masters in Public Administration from the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California.

Erin

Kenny

Head of the Technical Unit and Senior Technical Adviser
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Prior to joining the Spotlight Secretariat, Ms. Kenny was the Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Team Leader within UNFPA’s Humanitarian and Fragile Contexts Branch where she provided strategic and technical direction on all issues related to addressing GBV in humanitarian contexts. Prior to joining UNFPA, Erin worked with the International Rescue Committee and Child Fund International to design and implement GBV and reproductive health programs in conflict and post-conflict settings. Erin holds a Master of Public Health from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Richmond. Erin regularly lectures at universities around the world and is an Adjunct Professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

Sonya

Thimmaiah

Reporting Officer
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Sonya was a key member of the Pre-secretariat of the Spotlight Initiative and contributed to design and set-up of the Initiative, including the development of the Terms of Reference and the Latin America and Africa Regional Investment Plans. Ms. Thimmaiah was formerly a Programme Specialist at UN Women. Prior to joining UN Women, she worked in the non-governmental and private sectors in India on development and communications. She has a Bachelors in English Literature, Psychology and Economics from Mount Carmel College and a Masters in Non-profit Management from the New School for Social Research.

Philippe

Lust-Bianchi

Technical and M&E Officer
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Before joining the Spotlight Secretariat, Philippe was a Policy Specialist in the Ending Violence against Women Section at UN Women, focusing on the prevention of violence against women and girls. Philippe also worked in Sierra Leone as the Head of the Gender, Adolescents and Youth Team for the UNFPA Country Office, where he supported the design, implementation and monitoring of programmes related to violence against women and girls, sexual and reproductive health and rights as well as adolescent and young girls’ empowerment. He has previously worked in Ethiopia, in the Gambia and in Haiti, where he supported the humanitarian response to the 2010 Earthquake. Philippe has a Master’s Degree in International Organizations’ Law from the University of Paris (Panthéon-Assas).

Koye

Adeboye

Communications and Visibility Specialist
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Koye leads the Initiative's global communications and public relations efforts. Before joining the Spotlight team, he was a Communications Specialist at the United Nations Population Fund, where he oversaw systems, projects and initiatives to strengthen the Fund's strategic communications. He previously worked at the United Nations Volunteers programme in Bonn where he executed corporate communications activities for 8,000 UN Volunteers across the globe. He began his UN career in 2006, helping global and regional youth networks develop HIV prevention campaigns. Prior to joining the UN, he worked in sales and marketing at a private consulting firm. Koye holds a master’s degree in International Studies from the University of Sydney in Australia and is a graduate of Rutgers University in the United States.

Teresa

Benito Lopez

Coordination Specialist
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Teresa is a programme development and grants management specialist. She joined the UN in 2008 in Bangladesh in the Governance team at the UN Capital Development Fund and later led Civil Society work at UNDP Iraq. In New York she has worked with UN Women's Fund for Gender Equality, the UN Democracy Fund, the UN Alliance of Civilizations and the Police Division at DPKO. Prior to joining the UN, Teresa has also worked in Georgia for the EU Delegation and World Vision International, and in Sri Lanka for the Red Cross. Teresa holds a Bachelors in International business from the Ecole Supérieure de Commerce de Reims and ICADE in Madrid, as well as a Masters in Political Sciences from the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris.

Heran

Ayele

Capacity Development and Knowledge Management Specialist
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Heran is joining us from UN Women Ethiopia and the Liaison office with the African Union and UNECA, where she has worked as the Programme Specialist-EVAWG since 2012 overseeing the EVAWG programme development and implementation, and providing leadership and technical advisory services for the country office. Prior to joining UN Women, Heran has worked for various international and local NGOs on women’s rights and social justice issues in Ethiopia. She holds a Bachelor of Laws from the Addis Ababa University and a Master of Laws in International Law and Law of International Organizations, specializing in Human Rights from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands

Olga

Bespalova

Programme Associate
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Prior to joining the Spotlight team, she worked as a Budget/Finance Consultant for UN Women’s EVAW Section. Olga was with UN Women MCO Kazakhstan for approximately 8 years, working in areas of Finance, Procurement, and HR. Beyond UN Women, Olga has worked as Finance Specialist with Abt Associates Inc. and Counterpart International Inc., focused on implementing USAID projects in the Central Asia Region. Olga holds a 5-year diploma in mathematics from Novosibirsk University, and an MBA from Kazakhstan Institute of Management, Economics and Strategic Research.

Spotlight Initiative 2018 Annual Report

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