Who we are

Spotlight Initiative is the United Nations high-impact initiative to end violence against women and girls.

We are a disruptive and innovative model for implementing programmes that change the world for the better. We are committed to ending violence against women and girls by coordinating a wide array of global resources and partners and delivering impact at the grassroots level through civil society and other stakeholders.

Since 2019, Spotlight Initiative's investments ensured that:

  • The overall conviction rate for gender-based violence doubled across 13 countries.
  • 548 laws or policies were signed to end violence against women and girls.
  • USD 195 million was allocated to civil society organizations (49 per cent of activity funds).
  • National budgets to address gender-based violence increased nearly13-fold across 13 countries.
  • More than 5,000 local and grassroots women's rights organizations reported having greater influence.
  • Close to 3 million women and girls accessed gender-based violence services, including long-term recovery services.
  • Nearly 8 million young people participated in in- and out-of-school programmes promoting gender-equitable attitudes and behaviours.
  • Close to 6 million men and boys were educated on positive masculinity, respectful family relationships and non-violent conflict resolution. 
  • 384 million people were reached by gender-based violence prevention campaigns.
  • 50 countries strengthened their National Action Plans to eliminate gender-based violence. 


Amina J. Mohammed
Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations
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Ms. Amina J. Mohammed is the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations and Chair of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group. She is a co-chair of the Spotlight Initiative's Governing Body. Prior to her appointment, Ms. Mohammed served as Minister of Environment of the Federal Republic of Nigeria where she steered the country’s efforts on climate action and efforts to protect the natural environment. Ms. Mohammed began her career working on the design of schools and clinics in Nigeria. She served as an advocate focused on increasing access to education and other social services, before moving into the public sector, where she rose to the position of adviser to three successive Presidents on poverty, public sector reform, and sustainable development. She is a co-chair of the Spotlight Initiative's Governing Body.

Man standing in front of EU flag
Josep Borrell Fontelles
High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission for a Stronger Europe in the World
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Mr. Josep Borrell Fontelles is the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission for a Stronger Europe in the World. He is a co-chair of the Spotlight Initiative's Governing Body. Mr. Borrel is in charge of coordinating the external action of the European Union. Prior to his appointment, he was the Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs. He is a former member of the European and Spanish parliaments, and a professor of mathematics.

Jutta Urpilainen
European Commissioner for International Partnerships
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Ms. Jutta Urpilainen assumed office as European Commissioner for International Partnerships in December 2019. She is a member of the Spotlight Initiative's Governing Body. Ms. Urpilainen oversees the European Commission’s work on international cooperation and sustainable development. She is a strong advocate for gender equality, social justice and youth participation. Ms. Urpilainen is no stranger to breaking glass ceilings herself: she was the first woman to chair the Social Democratic Party of Finland, the first female Minister of Finance and now she serves as Finland’s first female European Union Commissioner.

A smiling woman in a white blouse and black jacket
Sima Bahous
UN Women Executive Director
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Ms. Sima Sami Bahous became UN Women’s third Executive Director on 30 September 2021. A champion for women and girls, gender equality, and youth empowerment, as well as a keen advocate for quality education, poverty alleviation, and inclusive governance, Ms. Bahous brings to the position more than 35 years of leadership experience at the grassroots, national, regional, and international levels, coupled with expertise in advancing women’s empowerment and rights, addressing discrimination and violence, and promoting sustainable socio-economic development towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Ms. Bahous most recently served as Permanent Representative of Jordan to the United Nations in New York. Prior to this position, she served as Assistant Administrator and Director of the Regional Bureau for Arab States at the United Nations Development Programme from 2012 to 2016 and Assistant Secretary-General and Head of the Social Development Sector at the League of Arab States, from 2008 to 2012.

She has also served in two ministerial posts in Jordan as President of the Higher Media Council from 2005 to 2008 and as Adviser to King Abdullah II from 2003 to 2005. She was Media Adviser and Director of Communication for the Royal Hashemite Court from 2001 to 2003, Acting Executive Director for the King Hussein Foundation from 2000 to 2001 and Executive Director of the Noor Al Hussein Foundation from 1998 to 2001. She also worked for UNICEF and with a number of United Nations and civil society organizations, and taught development and communication studies at different universities in Jordan.

Ms. Bahous holds a PhD in mass communication and development from Indiana University, United States, a Master of Arts in literature and drama from Essex University, United Kingdom, and a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from Jordan University. She is fluent in Arabic and English, and proficient in French.

Global Advocates

Cecilia Suárez
UN Global Advocate for Spotlight Initiative
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A Platino Award winner, Ariel Award nominee and the first Spanish speaking actress to be nominated for an International Emmy, Ms. Suárez raises awareness on violence against women and girls and other forms of human rights violations, including to more than one million people on her social media platforms. Ms. Suárez has been actively engaged with Spotlight Initiative since 2018, with a particular focus on ending femicide in Latin America. She was designated a UN Global Advocate for the Initiative effective 1 July 2020.

Siya Kolisi
UN Global Advocate for Spotlight Initiative
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Siya Kolisi was designated a Global Advocate for Spotlight Initiative effective 1 July 2020. Mr. Kolisi was named captain of the South African National Rugby Team, the Springboks, in 2018, making him the first Black test player to captain the team. In 2019, he led his country to victory in the World Cup finals against England, securing his position on the national and international stage and instilling pride in South Africans from all walks of life. Mr. Kolisi’s partnership with Spotlight Initiative, secured via Roc Nation Sports, includes activities that raise awareness of violence against women and girls, and the role men must play in ending violence for good. In March 2020, Mr. Kolisi and his wife Rachel Kolisi founded the Kolisi Foundation to alleviate extreme poverty, mentor underprivileged youth and promote equality.


Portrait of Michelle Gyles-McDonnough in front of UN flag
Michelle Gyles-McDonnough
Global Coordinator a.i.
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Ms. Michelle Gyles-McDonnough is the Director, Sustainable Development Unit, Executive Office of the Secretary-General at the United Nations, New York. Throughout her career, Ms. Gyles-McDonnough has practiced privately as a lawyer, and served as advisor to the Secretary-General of the Organization of American States.

Erin Kenny
Deputy Coordinator
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Erin provides technical and managerial oversight to a broad portfolio of programmes worldwide as part of the largest ever single investment in addressing violence against women and girls. Prior to this position, Erin was a Team Leader in UNFPA’s Humanitarian Division, overseeing their work on addressing gender-based violence in emergencies. Before joining the UN, Erin worked in East and West Africa, the Former Yugoslavia, and South-East Asia with a number of non-governmental organizations and foundations, including: the International Rescue Committee, Child Fund International, EngenderHealth, Save the Children, the Women’s Refugee Commission, and the Open Society Foundations. Erin served as an Adjunct Professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs from 2009-2017. Erin holds a Master of Public Health from Columbia University and was part of the first graduating cohort of the University’s Forced Migration and Health program.

Andrew Billo
Andrew Billo
Head of Partnerships
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Andrew leads Spotlight Initiative's resource mobilization efforts. Prior to joining the team, he led UNFPA's humanitarian partnership efforts, mobilizing more than $1.5 billion and increasing UNFPA's humanitarian revenue by more than seventy per cent over four years. Prior to UNFPA, Mr. Billo worked as senior policy advisor at USAID, as a humanitarian affairs officer at OCHA, and had various country office assignments with IOM in Asia and the Middle East. He holds Masters' degrees in international affairs and public policy from Columbia University in New York and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore.

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
Head of Communications
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Koye leads the Initiative's global communications and public relations efforts. Before joining the 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 more than 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
Head of Management
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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

Natalie Raaber
M&E and Reporting Specialist
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Natalie is a researcher and policy analyst who has worked with feminist and women’s rights organizations, the United Nations and government to advance women’s human rights. Natalie joined the Spotlight Initiative in March 2020 and works to support the Initiative’s monitoring, evaluation and reporting functions. Prior to Spotlight, Natalie worked at the UNFPA Evaluation Office, where she contributed to global thematic evaluations, including of UNFPA’s support to the prevention, response to and the elimination of GBV and harmful practices. Previously, Natalie worked with the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), where she contributed to several initiatives, including “Alternative Development Strategies,” which examined the failures of neoliberalism, and amplified alternatives for economic justice and “Where is the Money for Women’s Rights”, which analyzed financing for women’s rights organization and feminist movement building. Natalie has also collaborated with the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) and Cordaid on action research on financing for women, peace and security through the implementation of National Action Plans on UN Security Council Resolution 1325. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York and holds degrees from the London School of Economics and Political Science and the University of Michigan.

David Svab
Data and Budget Specialist
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Before assuming his current role, David was a Programme Management Specialist on women’s economic empowerment with the UN Women Regional Office for Arab States, leading a multi-country joint programme with the ILO for promoting decent work for women in the region. Prior to that, David worked for the inclusive growth and sustainable development programme portfolio at UNDP in Kosovo, concentrating on efforts for people and communities at risk of being left behind and their socioeconomic empowerment. Throughout his career, David has also explored data and social innovation, such as in big data or foresight for development. David holds a master’s degree in international relations and diplomacy from the Prague University of Economics and Business in the Czech Republic.

Dalys Rodriguez
Operations and Fund Analyst
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Dalys is a certified project manager with a focus on initiatives related to ending violence against women and women’s empowerment. Dalys joined the Spotlight Secretariat in January 2022 as the Operations and Fund Analyst, and prior to joining the team she worked as Coordinator for the Spotlight Initiative Latin America Regional Programme. She has also coordinated a national project with UNPD to transform the delivery of health services in Panama. Before joining the UN, Dalys worked for the Panamanian Office of the First Lady overseeing regional projects in gender and education and she also led a non-profit organization working to empower women living in poverty through education and employment opportunities. Dalys holds a master’s degree in international administration from the University of Miami and she’s a specialist in public policy and gender.

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.