Who we are
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 Josep Borrell, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Nahla Valji is the Global Coordinator of the Spotlight Initiative. She served most recently as the Senior Adviser, Gender in the United Nations’ Executive Office of the Secretary-General (EOSG) for the current Secretary-General's first term, where she was responsible for leading gender policy priorities for the Office and drafting and supporting the implementation of the SG’s Gender Parity Strategy among other efforts. Ms. Valji has been recognized as one of the 100 most influential people for gender policy for 2021 by ‘Apolitical’, a global social network for civil servants.
Prior to her current role, she served as 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 was managing editor of the International Journal of Transitional Justice and is the co-editor of the Oxford Handbook on Gender and Conflict. Prior to joining the UN, Nahla worked in South Africa, where she led the regional transitional justice work of the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation and managed the African Transitional Justice Research Network.
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.
Prior to joining Spotlight Initiative, Alessandra Roccasalvo managed the UNDP Office in Kosovo. Before that, she was part of UNDP’s internal management consulting team, facilitating change processes globally. Ms. Roccasalvo joined UNDP in 2005 as a Programme Officer at UNDP Indonesia, focusing on the post-tsunami recovery portfolio. In addition, she served several times as Surge Adviser in Afghanistan and Sudan. Ms. Roccasalvo started her career at McKinsey & Company in Germany and India. She holds a MSc in Development Studies from the London School of Economics, as well as an MA in Economics and History from the University of Tübingen and the University of St. Andrews.
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 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 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 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 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.
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.
Caroline supports the global communications efforts with a focus on social media. Prior to joining the Spotlight Initiative team in 2018, she worked as Communications Officer in various organizations in Taiwan and Thailand for six years, including with UN Women Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific’s Ending Violence Against Women team, where she contributed to the 2016 UNiTE campaign on ending violence against women and girls. She holds a Master’s degree in Political Science and Institutional Communication from Sciences Po Aix, the Political Science Institute of Aix-en-Provence, France. Caroline is passionate about engaging young people in changing social norms and contributing to a fairer and safer world for all.
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.
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.
Anne edits the Spotlight Initiative’s website and supports with global communications efforts. She joined the team in 2020 and has worked as a journalist in the United States and Australia for more than 15 years. After working as Features Writer at Marie Claire Australia, she contributed to numerous mastheads and websites including News.com.au, Nine News, Vogue Australia and ELLE. Anne is passionate about storytelling that centres the voices of women and girls and she holds degrees in Journalism and International Studies from the University of Technology, Sydney.