Dr. Tara Patricia Cookson is Co-Founder and Director of Ladysmith. She is author of Unjust Conditions: Women’s Work and the Hidden Cost of Cash Transfer Programs, 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 earned her PhD from the University of Cambridge as a Gates Cambridge Scholar, is a SSHRC Research Fellow at the University of British Columbia, and was a proud board member of the Kelowna Women’s Resource Centre, not far from her grandmother’s birthplace, Ladysmith. Email Tara at


Dr. Lorena Fuentes is Co-Founder and Principal of Ladysmith. Lorena earned her PhD from the University of London, Birkbeck, as a School of Social Sciences Fellow and as Chair of the Gender & Social Policy in Latin America Academic Working Group. Her recent research analyzes how gender norms shape and constrain policy interventions around gender-based violence and insecurity. Lorena is a Lecturer in the department of International Development Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles and also proudly serves as an Advisory Board Member of the Justice for My Sister Collective. Email Lorena at


Abha Saxena is an Affiliate Researcher at Ladysmith. Driven by a deep sense of equality and social justice, she 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.

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Julia Zulver is an Affiliate Researcher at Ladysmith. From March 2020 she will begin a three year Marie Skłodowska-Curie Global Fellowship between 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). She has worked for the Centre for Reproductive Rights, and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative. Her work has appeared in Gender and Development, Gender, Place & Culture, Al Jazeera, the Guardian, and Ms Magazine. She is currently based in Bogotá, Colombia.


Fabienne Doiron is an Affiliate Researcher at Ladysmith. She is currently completing her PhD in Gender, Feminist, and Women’s Studies at York University, where she has held a Paavo and Aino Lukkari Human Rights Fellowship at the Centre for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean (CERLAC), a Helena Orton Memorial Scholarship at Osgood Hall Law School, and a SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship. Her research on gender issues in post-conflict Guatemala have been informed by her solidarity and social justice work, since 2005, with the Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network, on whose Steering Committee she also serves.  She specializes in transnational, postcolonial, and anti-racist theory and in feminist understandings of gender-based and racialized violence.


Dr. Melissa Langworthy is an Affiliate Researcher at Ladysmith.  She 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.


Abbey Willett is the Social Media Intern at Ladysmith. She is an undergraduate student majoring in International Development at the University of California, Los Angeles where she is the Executive Director of the Global Development Lab. She has a certificate in International Women’s Health and Human Rights through Coursera via Stanford University and is passionate about the intersection of gender with human rights and public policy.

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Austin Nelson is the Development Intern at Ladysmith. She recently earned her degree in French and Honors International Studies from Seattle University, focusing on the global uprising of neo-nationalism in the 21st century. Over the next year she’ll be in France perfecting her French language skills while teaching English to high school students. She is a passionate intersectional feminist interested in women’s empowerment, human rights and development work.