We are a team of feminist researchers with a wide range of skills and experience. We love what we do, and we do it with passion. We look forward to working with you.

Dr Tara Patricia Cookson

Co-founder and Director of Research

Tara is author of Unjust Conditions, an award-winning ethnography of women’s experiences of the world’s biggest anti-poverty programs, and Substantive Editor of UN Women’s flagship report, Progress of the World’s Women 2019-2020: Families in a Changing World. Tara is an Assistant Professor of Gender and Development at UBC’s School of Public Policy and Global Affairs. Her research explores how power operates in development, with a focus on gender data, social protection, and care work. She is a Gates Cambridge Scholar, and was a proud board member of the Kelowna Women’s Resource Centre, not far from her grandmother’s birthplace, Ladysmith.

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Dr Lorena Fuentes

Co-founder and Director of Practice & Advocacy

Lorena is an expert in social norms and gender-based violence. Her current research explores the relationship between GBV and social protection, and the role of data and reporting in making GBV visible and catalyzing action around it. She earned her PhD from the University of London as a School of Social Sciences Fellow and as Chair of the Gender & Social Policy in Latin America Academic Working Group. Lorena’s extensive advocacy work is driven by a commitment to connecting grounded needs and knowledge to policy formulation and service provision. Lorena is also a Lecturer in Gender and Development Studies at UCLA’s International Institute. Her work has appeared in Gender, Place & Culture, Antipode, and Global Public Health, among other outlets.

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Alex Berryhill

Gender Policy Specialist

Alex oversees Ladysmith’s partnership development and program management, and supports with strategic planning. She is the Director of Digital Operations for Ladysmith’s Gender Data Kit, including in Cartagena, Colombia, where she has been working alongside women’s rights organizations for over eight years. Alex’s research centers around technology, gender data, and gender-based violence. She holds a Master of International Affairs from Columbia University’s School for International and Public Affairs (SIPA), with a specialization in gender and humanitarian policy.

Email Alex about Ladysmith’s service offering, and how we can work together:

Dr Julia Zulver

Senior Researcher

Julia is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Global Fellow at the UNAM (Mexico) and the University of Oxford (UK). She earned her PhD in Sociology from the University of Oxford, where she was a Commonwealth Scholar and a SSHRC Doctoral Fellow. Her research looks at women’s mobilization in high risk contexts, with a focus on Latin America (including Colombia and El Salvador). Julia is the Director of Field Operations for Ladysmith’s Gender Data Kit. Her work has appeared in Gender and Development, Gender, Place & Culture, Third World Quarterly, the Guardian, and Ms Magazine. She is currently based in Bogotá, Colombia.

Abha Saxena

Senior Researcher

Driven by a deep sense of equality and social justice, Abha specializes in M&E and policy and program analysis to ensure that all perspectives and voices are represented. Abha is a trained social worker and social psychologist, and her method is rooted in a natural ability to empathize with and understand people and their stories. Her extensive work in South and Southeast Asia includes two landmark studies on the implications of economic integration on women migrant workers for the ASEAN Economic Community, and women’s political participation in radically inclusive local governance structures in India.

Dr Melissa Langworthy

Senior Researcher

Melissa is a feminist economist with a PhD in International Development from Tulane University, where she studied the role of gender norms in women’s economic empowerment programs and policies in post-conflict Sri Lanka.  She consults for the Kuwait Women’s Union and is currently researching the relationship between women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship in Kuwait. She has worked at the National Council on Women’s Health and the Women’s Refugee Commission.  Melissa specializes in feminist approaches to economic development, M&E, humanitarian action, and building better options for women through the capabilities approach and participatory research methods.

Jennifer Bitterly

Junior Researcher

Jennifer supports Ladysmith with research and research communications, including through strategic engagement, mixed-methods analysis, and partnership development. Jennifer’s research interests centre on migration, gender-responsive social protection, and the relationship between media representation and gender-based violence. She is a Thomas J. Watson Fellow and a Princeton in Latin America Fellow, and holds degrees in Philosophy and English from Rhodes College.

Lucía Mesa Vélez

Country Director, Cosas de Mujeres

Lucía is the Country Director for the Cosas de Mujeres project. She is a decolonial feminist and has dedicated her academic and professional career to studying and applying dialogue as a tool for the peaceful resolution of conflicts, reconstruction of social fabric and construction of common goals in the context of Colombia’s armed conflict and peace agreement. She has been a vocal advocate for peacebuilding through the civil society organization Rodeemos el Dialogo. Her research interests centre on linking the legacies of colonialism to current inequalities, discriminations, and violence against women and LGBTI populations. Lucía is a Chevening Scholar and holds a Masters in Postcolonial Culture and Global Policy from Goldsmiths, University of London.

Jackeline Alba Contreras

Outreach Manager, Cosas de Mujeres

Jackeline is the Outreach Manager for the Cosas de Mujeres project, and also socializes the project with women as a gestora comunitaria in Cúcuta, Colombia. She is a social worker by training and is currently working towards earning a diploma in Public and Social Projects Management. She has 6 years of experience working with families. Her graduate practice research focused on women’s empowerment with the International Rescue Committee.

Yuliet Moreno

Digital Operations Manager, Cosas de Mujeres

Yuliet is the Digital Operations Manager for the Cosas de Mujeres project, in which she manages our platform, supports service mapping, and leads our virtual socialization campaigns. She studies Political Science and International Relations at the Technological University of Bolivar. For the last 5 years she has been a strong advocate for gender equality in the region, including through leadership in various feminist collectives and research groups.

Maribel Martinez

Gestora Comunitaria, Cosas de Mujeres, Cartagena

Maribel Martinez graduated with honours in Social Work from the University of Cartagena. She is a Gestora Comunitaria with Cosas De Mujeres in Cartagena, where she socializes the platform, engages with service providers, develops trainings for our Red de Lideresas, and assists in the development of our policy briefs. Before joining Ladysmith, she worked with a diversity of national and local agencies in program socialization, monitoring, and reporting.

Yetsali Mata

Gestora Comunitaria, Cosas de Mujeres, Cúcuta

Yetsali Mata is a 29 year old Venezuelan migrant and mother of two. She is a Gestora Comunitaria for the Cosas de Mujeres project in Cúcuta, where she socializes the platform with migrants, returnees, and the host population at the Venezuelan border and in the centre of the city. She studied at the University of Carabobo and UNEFA. Recently, she achieved her dream of opening a beauty salon, which is one of her passions.

Nayibe Fuentes

Gestora Comunitaria, Cosas de Mujeres, Bucaramanga

Nayibe Fuentes is a social worker and Gestora Comunitaria. She is an advocate for women’s human rights, and takes an intersectional approach in her work. She has seen firsthand the reality of trafficked women and those who are victims of different forms of violence, and believes that if we work collectively we can contribute to social transformation.

Bibiana Cadena

Gestora Comunitaria, Cosas de Mujeres, Bucaramanga

Bibiana Cadena is a social leader in the Municipality of Piedecuesta. She has been working in her community for more than 13 years, and participates in various spaces with multiple organizations, training (mostly) women in feminist issues. She is currently a Gestora Comunitaria with the Cosas de Mujeres Project.

Luz Aragón

Operadora de Telefono, Cosas de Mujeres

Luz Angélica Aragón is a social worker, and graduated from the University of Cartagena. She has worked in projects that accompany victims, as well as development programs in vulnerable communities. She is a Phone Operator with the Cosas de Mujeres project, where she supports the mapping of services and leads virtual socialization campaigns. Luz is motivated by her commitment to human rights and her passion for service and social justice.

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