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Governing Council

Our Governing Council

The Governing Council consists of 15 seats: 5 regional representatives, 5 “at large” grassroots women representatives, 4 facilitating NGO representatives, and 1 Founding Network representative. We are thrilled to introduce your newly elected Governing Council.

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Violet Shivutse

Chair & Africa Regional Representative For over 10 years, Violet has worked as a community health worker and home-based caregiver in the Shibuye sub-region of the Shinyalu constituency, Kenya. She provides direct care and support to hundreds of HIV-positive community members, including orphans, elderly and the critically ill. She is the Founder and Coordinator of Shibuye Community Health Workers and a regional watchdog group, which works with local authorities to enforce land and inheritance rights of women and orphans. She works to build community resilience and combat climate change, and negotiates with authorities for gender-responsive policy. She trains women and local authorities in Local- to-Local dialogues to ensure equitable implementation of development policies. Violet has represented the Huairou Commission in policy fora all over the world, continuously pushing for rural and grassroots women’s inclusion at higher levels of dialogue. She is a grassroots representative on UN Women’s Global Civil Society Advisory Board.

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Lana Finikin

Vice Chair & Caribbean Regional Representative Lana Louise Finikin has 40 years of experience with the Sistren Theater Collective as a founding member and Executive Director since 2004, leading programming on gender-based violence and crime prevention for the last 20 years. Using the creative arts as a tool for analysis and action at the national, regional, and international level, the organization implements workshops, the performing and visual arts, and psychosocial rehabilitation in inner city communities across Jamaica. Themes vary from teenage parenthood, health and sexual violence, and crime to issues like HIV/AIDS, housing, migration, justice, and economic policy. Lana has travelled extensively with the Collective on tours as a performer, Tour Manager, and training mediator. Lana views the performing arts as a means of inciting social change, providing services through community mobilizing and organizing around community development. She puts an emphasis on collective analysis of issues and discussion of possible solutions through networking with organizations at all levels. Lana is responsible for building a local chapter of GROOTS International in Jamaica, and she also serves as President of the West Cumberland Citizen Association and sits on the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean.

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Bindu Shrestha

Asia Regional Representative Bindu Shrestha is the founder and chairperson of Community Women’s Forum (CWF). CWF is a federation of grassroots women who manage and operate saving and credits cooperatives in Nepal. The organization has a membership of 22 cooperatives and around 29,000 women. CWF is also provides support to new, smaller groups and cooperatives during their registration process to join the federation. Bindu is also the founder of Thankot Mahila Women and Saving Cooperative; she currently serves as an advisor. She has worked to organize grassroots women of the Thankot community with savings initiatives, resulting in the establishment of a Thankot cooperative. Through this cooperative, Bindu has led community development activities, including the formation of a committee to manage the local health post. Another space where Bindu represents CWF and grassroots women is in her role as Treasurer in the NGO Forum for Urban Water and Sanitation, a network of NGOs working on water and sanitation issues in Nepal. She is also a member of Action Aid Nepal as well as the micro-finance subcommittee of the Nepal Federation of Savings and Credit Cooperative Unions Ltd. (NEFSCUN). Bindu holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Commerce. She has attended a number of training, national, and international workshops that have sharpened her understanding of development issues. These workshops have made her even more dedicated and committed to the causes of poor and vulnerable women, motivating her to help these women develop various skills, improve their access to resources, and bring socio-economic transformation to their lives.

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Haydee Rodriguez

Latin American Regional Representative Working as a farmer since her childhood, Haydee Rodriguez grew up with the knowledge that women’s roles are undervalued and disadvantaged, and experienced firsthand how devastating natural disasters can be for the livelihoods of local communities. Since then, Haydee has dedicated her life to empowering women through raising awareness of women’s rights and bringing gender issues to the attention of authorities, with the goal of achieving gender-equal rights. She is part of the Board of Directors for the Cooperatives of Women Producers “Las Brumas” in Jinotega-Nicaragua; the organization is a member of the global network of the Huairou Commission and GROOTS International. In recent years, her work has focused on disaster risk reduction, making land and housing accessible for women, strengthening women’s leadership, sustainable and smart agriculture, environmental protection through Community Resilience, and the implementation of strategic alliances with local governments through the Community Practitioners Platform. Haydee has been a strong leader in the sustainable agriculture movement, particularly in soil conservation work. Her vast experience in leading Last Brumas has resulted in it being the only female-led cooperative to be invited to the National Agricultural Forum hosted by the Honduran government to share sustainable agricultural practices.

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Rut Kolinská

North America/Europe Regional Representative Rut is a pioneer in supporting mothers and young families throughout the Czech Republic as the founder of the first Mother Center (established in 1992) and the Network of Mother Centers in the Czech Republic (established in 2002; renamed as Network for Family in 2016). Today, a nationwide network of around 300 Mother Centers has been established in the country. The centers meet the practical needs of families with young children, while collectively working on a broader set of values that demonstrate why and how Czech society must become more family friendly. Rut sees the Mother Centers’ greatest benefit in their function as “real schools of civic life.” Members demonstrate how childcare and motherhood, traditionally considered part of the private domain, can be brought into the public sphere to create recognition of women’s contributions to the social fabric of society. Ultimately, the network is aimed at strengthening the values of family in society, in Mother Centers, and in companies. Rut has received many honors for her work. She was awarded the title of Woman of Europe in 2003 and was named a Social Entrepreneur of Schwab Foundation in 2005. Rut was recognized as one of the 25 TOP women from the public sphere in the Czech Republic in 2016 and was included in the documentary cycle of Czech TV “Gallery of Elite of the Nation” in 2017.04.

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Arlene Hache

Secretary & At Large Grassroots Representative Arlene Hache is a grassroots woman who has experienced homelessness and traumatic impacts of childhood and youth violence. She is well known across the Canada’s Arctic as an advocate for social change and, as a result, her work was awarded the Order of Canada in 2009 and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012. Arlene is a published author and has participated on several research teams that give voice to people with lived experience. She currently works as a Program Developer with the Temiskaming Native Women’s Support Group and provides technical support to the District of Temiskaming Elders Council. Arlene is the founder of an urban-based family resource centre that supports marginalized women and their families, the majority of which are Indigenous. She led the organization as its Executive Director for 25 years. Under her leadership, the Centre for Northern Families established a broad range of services including an emergency shelter for women who were homeless, a poverty law program, childcare services, assessment and case management services, and third-party intervention and child supervision services for families impacted by violence. She designed a family support model to counter colonial and racist practices of the child welfare system that continues to apprehend Indigenous children today at an alarming rate. It was accompanied by a training curriculum that helped families strengthen and negotiate internal and external interpersonal relationships in a way that promotes healthy interdependence. Arlene also co-developed and co-managed a gender specific trauma recovery program for First Nations, Inuit and Métis women who were impacted by colonization, systemic oppression, and extreme levels of violence.

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Delores Robinson

At Large Grassroots Representative Delores Robinson is an advocate, caregiver, counsellor, policy maker, net-weaver, mother hen, and organizer at the grassroots level. In 2001, after over a decade of working in a diplomatic mission, Delores went back to her roots. An active member of the women’s movement for over 30 years, she began working with the Sistren Theater Collective of Jamaica, then became a member of Women Working for Social Progress in 1988 and spent seven years with ASPIRE. She has served as a board member for numerous NGOs and is the founder and co-director of GROOTS Trinidad & Tobago. Since 2007, Delores has been a volunteer Cultural Liaison Officer with the Emancipation Support Committee of the country and in 2012 she was elected as co-vice chair for the English speaking Caribbean representatives to the UN CSW CoNGO LAC. In July 2012, she was inducted into the Rotary Club of St. Augustine West, becoming the second female president in the Club’s 32 year history in 2015. From 2016-17, she served as her Club’s first female — and Trinidad and Tobago’s only female — Assistant District Governor for Rotary District 7030. One of Delores’s landmark advocacy achievements has been lobbying for Jamaican married women living outside of the country to be able to pass their Jamaican nationality on to their children. Her determination to raise concerns with the Deputy and High Commissioners as well as the then Prime Minister of Jamaica has resulted in her son being the first Caribbean recipient of Jamaican citizenship via his mother as a married woman.

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Ana Lucy Bengochea

At Large Grassroots Representative Analucy is a leader in bringing the voice of grassroots women and indigenous peoples to the global stage. She has 15 years of experience as a community organizer within Garifuna communities, empowering women through income-generating projects and other community development activities. She is a member of GROOTS International, and part of the Huairou Commission, through which she has worked with other organizations worldwide in disaster preparedness and response, has participated in Peer Exchanges with other grassroots groups, spoken at numerous UN conferences, and played a leadership role within both networks at the global level. She has also participated in various global conferences as a result of winning the UNDP Equator Initiative Prize Finalist in 2004.

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Relinda Sosa Perez

At Large Grassroots Representative Relinda Sosa Perez is a grassroots leader from Lima, Peru. She began doing social work in the Vaso de Leche committee in 1986, and since 1989 she has worked in organizing soup kitchens like the popular self-managed Virgen de Nazareth in the Augustinian district. After representing the organization of soup kitchens in the district from 1994 to 1997, Relinda presided over the FEMOCCPAALC from 1997 to 2000. During this time, she worked with other leaders to promote the creation of CONAMOVIDI, or Network of Women in Kitchens. The organization moves past a primary focus on food distribution to advance and strengthen the participation of women in processes of decentralization, particularly at the provincial government level where the budget for soup kitchen programs was transferred. Relinda’s organizational, social, and political work is based in grassroots connections and generating approaches to monitoring and advocacy at the local and national levels. For the last 10 years, Relinda has participated in global spaces facilitated by the Huairou Commission’s global network, taking on the priorities of grassroots women and their communities in the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the New Urban Agenda, and the Sustainable Development Goals.

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Jhocas Castillo

At Large Grassroots Representative Since 1996, Jhocas has been an organizer and founding leader of Damayan ng Maralitang Pilipinong Api (DAMPA), a federation of 235 women-led CBOs across the Philippines. Since her selection in 2003, Jhocas has also served on the Board of Directors of Asian Bridge and on the project management committee of the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction Network (DRRNET). Jhocas began her career in her hometown of barangay, where she was elected as a Youth Council Head during the 1972 election. In 1988, she led efforts to save her community on Luzon Avenue in Quezon City, when it was threatened to be demolished. She served as the chair of the board of NAMALU Home Owner’s Association, where her first fight on security of tenure lasted seven years; consequently, 421 families were awarded three hectares of land, and Jhocas has lived in the area for the last 30 years. She is a member of the Philippines’ Presidential Commission of Women and a member of the UN Women’s Global Civil Society Advisory Group. She holds a BS in Criminology and was trained as a community organizer and leader by the COPE Foundation

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Şengül Akçar

Treasurer & Facilitating NGO Representative Şengül Akçar is the founder and board member of the Foundation for the Support of Women’s Work (FSWW) in Istanbul, Turkey (Kadın Emeğini Değerlendirme Vakfı [KEDV] in Turkish). She has a BA in Civil Engineering and an MA in Public Policy from Boğaziçi University. After graduating as a civil engineer, Şengül spent four years working at a municipal housing project for low-income urban dwellers. She established the FSWW in 1986 to bring grassroots women’s issues and expertise to the front stage. Since then, Şengül has worked in close collaboration with grassroots women’s groups to develop and coordinate FSWW’s programs. The organization works to support improving the quality of life and economic situation of low-income women and to strengthen their leadership in local development. Şengül is also an ASHOKA fellow.

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Limota Goroso Giwa

Membership Committee Chair & Facilitating NGO Representative A prolific writer, feminist and renowned activist for women’s human rights and peace, Limota serves as the Executive Director of the International Women Communication Center (IWCC), a women’s human rights NGO committed to promoting and protecting the rights of women, girls and vulnerable groups in Nigeria. Limota is also the vice chair of the transition monitoring group in Nigeria, coordinating over 450 civil societies, and sits on the Board of WAEON, representing TMG Nigeria in sub-regional grouping. In 1994, she served as West Africa Countries Coordinator of Pan African Women’s Liberation Organization (PAWLO) in Kampala, Uganda, before returning to Nigeria to focus changing policies interfering with gender issues and development. As a recipient of a Fulbright scholarship, Limota recently completed her PhD research at the University of Huddersfield’s School of Human and Health Science (United Kingdom), with a focus on HIV and other sexually transmitted infections in polygamist Muslim society. In 2005, she was among the 1,000 women nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, for women who have contributed immensely to global peace and sustainable development.

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Mary Balikungeri

Facilitating NGO Representative Mary Balikungeri is a Gender, Peace and Conflict resolution advocate with over two decades of experience in championing women’s and girls’ rights. She is the founder of Rwanda Women’s Network, a non-governmental organisation dedicated to the promotion and improvement of the socio-economic welfare of women in Rwanda, with an estimated reach of 150,000 people annually. Ms. Balikungeri’s activism for social change extends to regional and international level. She is currently the Chairperson of the African Network of Women Shelters (ANWS), an affiliate of the Global Network of Women Shelters (GNWS), in which she serves as the representative of ANWS and board member of the Huairou Commission. Her ability to network widely has informed the gender equality and women’s human rights agenda at national, regional and international platforms. These include Profemmes Twese Hamwe, FEMNET, and Eastern African Sub-regional Support Initiation for Advancement of Women (EASSI) and Global Network of Women Peacebuilders. Ms. Balikungeri is a current recipient of the Commonwealth Points of Light award (2018) for her work, and continues to champion women’s rights through empowering women and girls to take up leadership roles, challenge the status quo, and promote social transformation.

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Magdalena Garcia Hernandez

Facilitating NGO Representative Magdalena Garcia Hernandez is an economist. She has worked as a public servant, bank official, professor and university researcher, as well as working for the United Nations and as a consultant for UN Women, UN-Habitat, UNDP, UNFPA, ILO, ECLAC, and the IDB. She served as co-chair of the Global Consultative Council of the Huairou Commission and as Technical Secretary of the Presidency of the Interagency Gender Group of the UN System in Mexico. Magdalena is a member of the National Council of Territorial Planning and Urban Development of SEDATU, as well as President of the Advisory Council of the Women’s Institute of Mexico City and Coordinator of the Binational Campus of Urban Thinkers Mexico-Peru of the UN-Habitat World Urban Campaign. She is a member of the Expert Group of the Policy Units on municipal finances and local tax systems, part of the UN Habitat III process. Since 2007, Magdalena has created and managed a virtual campus for training and education which seeks to influence public policy. She has supported the creation of Urban Observatories and designed, created, and supported the Observatories of Social Violence Against Women, as well as other observatories to monitor public expenditure for gender equality. Since 2017, she has served as co-chair of the Women’s Constituent Partner Group of the General Assembly of Partners of UN-Habitat.

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Kathryn Travers

Founding Network Representative

Kathryn Travers is Executive Director of Women in Cities International (WICI), Development Officer at Concertation Montréal, and Senior International Consultant for the Ending Violence against Women section of UN WOMEN. She has a successful history of developing and managing programmes in Canada and internationally and has effectively worked to broaden the understanding of women’s safety by bringing an intersectional approach to her work and by collaborating with different groups of women and girls to explore new related issues (accessibility, essential services, adolescence, etc.). Kathryn has led the development of new and innovative tools for capturing data about women’s and girls’ safety experiences in urban environments and has led training workshops in several countries. She has extensive experience in working with diverse populations in the global North and South including adolescent girls, women with disabilities, indigenous women, elderly women, women living in informal settlements, etc.