Civil Society Engagement

We believe that civil society is at the core of transformative and sustainable change.

The Spotlight Initiative’s work is rooted in research that amplifies the belief that the leadership and deep engagement of civil society is at the core of transformative and sustainable change in the elimination of violence against women and girls. Civil society, in particular women’s rights and feminist activists and movements, is therefore a central and paramount partner of the Spotlight Initiative. This includes those representing groups facing intersecting forms of discrimination.

Spotlight Initiative’s partnership with civil society is guided by:

  1. A human-rights based approach
  2. The “Leaving No One Behind” principle, and
  3. National ownership

Civil Society Reference Groups

“To be a part of this group has been an important space of learning and has enabled us to strengthen our links and relationships.” - National Reference Group member, Argentina

Civil society is systematically engaged at national, regional and global levels through the partnership with Civil Society Reference Groups. The Reference Groups represent civil society at the governance and decision-making bodies of the Initiative and aims to advise the Initiative, to advocate for the realization of its objectives and to hold the Initiative accountable for its commitments.  

At the Global level, the Civil Society Reference Group is comprised of 20 diverse members, selected by a civil society-led selection committee in April 2019. 

Toolbox: Reference Group members can find relevant resources, templates and guidelines here.

Please find the biographies of the Global Reference Group members below, and the biographies of the National and Regional Reference Groups here.

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Civil Society Funding Dashboard

Civil Society Global Reference Group Members

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Anne Marie Blanche Manga
Psychologist and lecturer
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Anne Marie Blanche Manga is a Ph.D Psychologist, a Feminist, Lecturer at the University of Yaoundé I and Facilitator of seminars on SOGIESC related issues and Gender-Based Violence in Cameroon (her living Country) and across the Western and Central African subregions. She has specialized on these thematic areas through her academic research, her clinical experience of accompanying Sexual and Gender Minorities (SGM) survivors of violence, and a good number of participation in workshops and conferences on SOGIESC/GBV issues. Anne Marie has worked for years with local organizations, providing mental health support to SGM and implementing research activities that could be used for evidence-based advocacy. Anne Marie’s main interests are focused in documenting Sexual and Gender Minorities lives through research, promoting well-being and self-care for Womxn, learning how to improve Womxn and girls’ lives, providing trainings as needed, participating in seminars and conferences on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, especially on Womxn issues; and finally fighting for a better world for all Womxn. Email:

Basobe Arsène Kanyanduru
Training planner
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Of Congolese nationality, Arsène Basobe Kanyanduru is a training planner who received a Master’s in International Development from the Higher Institute for Rural Development ISDR/Bukavu. Basobe has been passionate about organizing since his childhood. In 2012, Basobe pursued his 3-month internship at the ADMR organization, where he worked in several projects related to the theme of women’s rights. In 2013, he had already participated in several multi-sectoral need assessment missions, seminars and forums on women’s rights. In that same year, Basobe was appointed coordinator of MOVULAC where he has worked until now. Thanks to MOVULAC, he has come to know several organizations and networks of the defense of women’s rights including ATD/Fourth World, IFE, FAP, UECOP, RACOJ, AWID. Since 2021, he has been part of the Self-Care Trailblazer Group, which is a dynamic forum working on shared approaches, promising practices and lessons learned on advocacy and political efforts to advance self-care on a national level. He coordinated the group in DRC from June 2021 and December 2023. From 2020 to February 2023, Arsène Basobe worked on two EVAWG projects as monitoring officer and advocacy focal points for ADMR NGO and Panzi foundation. Email:

Geetanjali Misra
Co-Founder and Executive Director of CREA
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Geetanjali Misra is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of CREA. She has worked at the activist, grant-making, and policy levels on issues of sexuality, reproductive health, gender, human rights, and violence against women. She has taught as an adjunct professor on the intersection of LGBT issues, sexual rights and public health at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. Before joining CREA, she was Program Officer, for the Ford Foundation in New Delhi and made grants in the fields of Sexual and reproductive Health and Rights, Violence Against Women and Women’s Human Rights. She is currently on the Astraea Foundation Board and advisor Women Deliver 2023. She has served as Co-Chair, President, and Advisor for many organizational Boards including Mama Cash, Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID). Global Fund for Women, Amnesty International Task Force-Gender and Diversity and American Foundation for Aids Research (AMFAR) among others. In addition, Geeta is an author and regularly writes on issues of sexuality, gender, and rights. She holds master’s degrees in International Affairs from Columbia University and in Economics from Syracuse University. Email:

Gilda Rivera
Founder of the Centre for Women’s Rights
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Being a feminist is central to Gilda María Rivera Sierra’s life. A survivor of state violence in the 1980s in Honduras, she is one of the founders of the Center for Women’s Rights (CDM), a feminist organization that fights for the exercise and enjoyment of women’s human rights and gender justice. Gilda promotes alliances and joint work that helps rethink the situation of the women’s and feminist movement in the country to effectively respond to violence against women and girls. From her feminism, she states that the recognition and exercise of women’s sexual rights and reproductive rights is one of the great challenges that are imposed in a society such as the Honduran. Gilda is part of different national and regional articulations, among them the National Network of Defenders of Honduras, the Mesoamerican Initiative of Defenders, where she was part of the driving Group of both initiatives. She is also a member of the Platform 25 of November and the Coalition against Impunity. Email:

Itumeleng Komanyane
Development practitioner
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Itumeleng Komanyane is an accomplished development practitioner from Botswana with over 25 years of her life devoted to social and gender justice work. The range of issues she has worked on includes gender equality and women’s empowerment, gender-based violence, HIV and AIDS, sexual reproductive health and rights, youth development and leadership, engaging men and masculinities, sustainable livelihoods and support for orphaned and vulnerable children. She brings experience in programme management, governance and accountability, movement building, advocacy, feminist organizing, and building the capacity of organizations to undertake gender justice work. Tumie has been engaged in the global HIV and AIDS field since late 1990s. She has served as Botswana’s focal point for Youth Against AIDS, the secretary of the Youth Advisory Committee for the African Youth Alliance and is a four-time scholarship recipient to various International AIDS Conferences. In her professional capacity, Itumeleng has served as the Deputy Chair of the Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Civil Society Advisory Group to UN Women. She managed programmes across Africa (e.g. for Sonke Gender Justice) promoting gender justice and ending violence against women and children through partnerships with the African Union, SADC, East African Committee and the Pan African Parliament. She has served as a board member of the MenEngage Global Alliance, and today, she works as a Programmes Lead for Frontline AIDS. Email:

Krishanti Dharmaraj
Executive director and feminist human rights activist
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Krishanti Dharmaraj is a human rights advocate and a practitioner ensuring gender and racial equity and equality at local, national, and global levels. She is currently a Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington DC and is faculty at Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow ’s (and New York) M.S. program in DEI Leadership. Krishanti is the founder of Dignity Index, a rights-based methodology and process designed to address direct and indirect discrimination, and is the innovator of Dignidad360  to increase safety for women and girls in public spheres by using a de-colonial approach to addressing gender-based violence. KrishantiShe is an Executive Committee member of FAR (Feminist Alliance for Rights), and Chair of the Oversight Committee of the Dindigul Agreement in India to address and prevent  violence against women in the fashion industry.

Most recently, Krishanti was the executive director of center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) at Rutgers University, the global coordinator of 16 Days Campaign to end gender-based violence, implemented in 180+ countries. At CWGL, she  co-created of the Journalism initiative on gender-based violence (JiG) convening over 100+ journalists in six regions from 38 countries; restructured the Feminist Alliance for Rights (FAR) to ensure transnational feminist leadership; and working with advocates, unions and academics for the ratification and implementation of ILO C190, the convention on ending violence and harassment against women and men in the world of work.  Email:

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Lara Fergus
Independent consultant: policy, research and collaborative advocacy to end gender-based violence
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Lara Fergus works independently and collaboratively to advance policy, research and advocacy for the prevention of gender-based violence (GBV) and intersectional gender justice. She has previously held a number of executive and leadership roles: as Co-Director, with Muthoni Muriithi, of the recently-established Accelerator for GBV Prevention, coordinating advocacy for 'more and better' investment in evidence-based and practice-informed prevention work; as Director of Research, Knowledge and Advocacy at Mama Cash, leading work to strengthen knowledge-based case-making for the sustainable resourcing of feminist activism; and prior to that as Director of Policy and Evaluation at Our Watch, and with the Victorian Government, leading the co-design of domestic prevention of violence against women frameworks and policy in Australia. Lara has held a number of advisory roles with UN Women, including assisting preparations for the 57th Commission on the Status of Women as Expert Consultant and Rapporteur on prevention of violence against women and girls, and has undertaken major design and research projects for international development and rights agencies. Lara sees GBV prevention as a deeply transformative, necessarily intersectional project, one that is grounded in collaboration and the translation of learnings from research, practice and feminist activism into funded political and institutional action.

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Laxman Belbase
Global Networks Manager at MenEngage
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Laxman is Co-Director of MenEngage Global Alliance. Laxman is experienced in strategic planning, programs, monitoring and evaluation, research and advocacy in the areas of gender equality, women’s rights & child rights for the last 20 years. Laxman has worked with and provided technical support to various Human Right NGO and I/NGOs, UN Agencies and Governments in South Asia, Africa, Caribbean, Middle East, Europe and North America regions. Prior to joining MenEngage, Laxman worked for Save the Children Sweden for seven years, lastly as Global Gender & Health Advisor based in Stockholm, Sweden. Laxman is a founding core group member of MenEngage Alliance in Nepal and has contributed to the strengthening of the Alliance in various capacities at national, regional and global levels, including by coordinating MenEngage Alliance in South Asia (2009-2013). Laxman is a member of the Leadership Council of the Global Women's Institute/GWU. Laxman is a part-time faculty at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University, USA. E-mail :

Madeleine Rees
Secretary-General of the Women’s International League for Peace & Justice
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Madeleine Rees is the Secretary-General of the Women’s International League for Peace & Justice (WILPF), where she has served as Secretary-General since 2010. WILPF is one of the world’s oldest women’s rights organizations that consistently advocates for better protections for women in armed conflict and a greater role for women in peace negotiations to build peaceful societies. She began her career as a lawyer in 1990. In 1998, she started working as Head of Office in Bosnia and Herzegovina and as gender expert for OHCHR and between 2006-2010, she served as the Head of the Women’s Rights and Gender Unit. Her work involved describing and outlining how men and women can experience events differently, particularly in post-conflict situations. She plays an essential advisory role in Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace & Security, and focuses on ending violence against women and girls in the context of armed conflict. She was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire for services to human rights, particularly women’s rights, and international peace and security. Rees has brought an intersectional approach to ending violence against women and girls through her work on behalf of the Commission for Racial Equality and the Equal Opportunities Commission. Email:

Nathalie Margi
Senior Advocacy Officer at Urgent Action Fund for Feminist Activism
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Nathalie Margi is Senior Advocacy Officer at Urgent Action Fund for Feminist Activism (UAF), where she advocates with partners for better support for feminist activist movements. Nathalie was born in France to Lebanese and Polish parents and is now living in New York City. Prior to leading UAF’s advocacy work, she advocated for reproductive and economic justice, managed projects on LGBTQI rights and gender justice in post-earthquake Haiti, launched programs in Lebanon to prevent and respond to gender-based violence in the context of the Syrian crisis, organized workshops in the DRC on UN Security Council Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security, worked with the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran, and taught a university course on the UN. She earned an LLM in International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law from the University of Essex and an MA in Women’s and Gender Studies from Rutgers University. Nathalie often reflects on how to practice social justice values as the parent of two young boys and she manages an online community for feminist parents and caregivers. Email:

Nicolette Naylor
Advisor and human rights lawyer
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Nicolette Naylor is a thought leader and advisor within the global philanthropic community and a human rights lawyer in South Africa and the international human rights system, specifically the UN, European Court of Human Rights and African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. She is the Regional Director of the Office for Southern Africa at the Ford Foundation, working for gender, racial and ethnic justice with a targeted focus on eradicating violence against women and girls. Naylor has brought an intersectional approach to ending violence against women and girls through her work with minorities, men and boys, and LGBTQI+ groups and supports regional networks of sex work organizations.Before joining the foundation in 2007, Nicolette worked as a lawyer in the equality program at the International Centre for the Legal Protection of Human Rights (Interights) in London, focusing on international human rights and litigation, specifically women’s rights. Previously, she served as a public interest lawyer at the Women’s Legal Centre in Cape Town. Nicolette has been appointed to several advisory bodies, e.g. the Committee on Gender Equity set up to review draft legislation on violence against women in Nigeria. She has also served as a member of ACHPR’s expert committee for the protection of the rights of people living with, at risk for, or affected by HIV in Africa. Email:

Ofa Ki-Levuka Guttenbeil Likiliki
Director of Tonga Women and Children’s Crisis Centre
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Ofa Ki-Levuka Guttenbeil Likiliki is a women’s rights activist from Tonga and is the Director of Tonga Women and Children’s Crisis Centre and also an Advisory Board Member of the Pacific Women’s Network Against VAW, along with numerous other affiliations. Likiliki has urged equality in women’s economic and educational empowerment, in their political involvement and representation, in land reform, protection from violence, and has advocated for the ratification of CEDAW for over a decade. On 9 March 2015, her advocacy came to fruition when the Tongan government agreed that it was prepared to ratify the convention. Ofa has a B.A and M.A from the University of Auckland in Film, TV, Media Communications and a post graduate Diploma with the Thomson Foundation (Cardiff Wales) in International Broadcast Journalism and an LLB from the University of the South Pacific. She is currently pursuing an LLM in legal reform required to enhance women’s participation in Tonga’s parliament. Ofa is also a filmmaker, with her most recent film VAI about women’s empowerment through culture, written and directed with 7 other female writer/directors, officially having its World Premier screened at Berlinale Film Festival 2019 and its American premiere at SXSW 2019. Her goal is to become a writer of stories that breathe the lived realities of women and children’s journeys towards building a more just world! Email:

Salima A. Bacchus-Hinds
Gender and Development Specialist
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Salima Bacchus-Hinds is a Guyanese feminist, and an advocate for the full realization of women’s rights to live free from structural and interpersonal violence. Salima is an established Gender and Development Specialist, with over 10 years’ experience within the civil society sector. Her work has spanned issues around empowerment of women and girls, domestic violence, community violence, and reproductive rights and justice. She’s led a number of projects across Guyana and the Caribbean, aimed at raising awareness about VAW, connecting women and families to important resources, encouraging community dialogues about gender and rights, and promoting access to justice. She’s also an active member of a grassroots, intersectional feminist, women-led organisation based in Guyana, called Tamukke Feminists. Salima holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of the West Indies (St Augustine), and a Masters in Gender Analysis for International Development from the University of East Anglia (UK). Email:

Shamah Bulangis
Public speaker and human rights defender
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Shamah (she/they) is a young queer feminist from the Philippines. She started her activism at 14 as a Peer Educator on Violence Against Women in Northeastern Mindanao and is now the youngest member of the Global Civil Society Reference Group of Spotlight Initiative, focused on eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls everywhere. She serves as co-chair of Transform Education, a feminist coalition of youth-led networks and young activists with a shared mission to accelerate progress for gender equality in education, hosted by the UN Girls Education Initiative. Locally, she is coordinating Girls Congress, a non-hierarchical, girl- and young women-led, feminist organization focused on consciousness raising, feminist leadership building, participatory action research and lobbying work as a means of organizing young feminists towards a common agenda and developing the next generation of advocates in the city of Dumaguete.