Biography

For the past 20 years I have worked as an activist, journalist, manager and organisational and personal advisor dedicated to combating injustice in societies and unlocking potential.

My social engagement started during my youth. During my free time as a high school student, I tutored a homeless teenager in New York City to get his high school equivalency diploma so he could achieve his dream: to be the first in his family to attend college. Later on at university I taught English as a second language to newly-arrived Cambodian immigrants and once I graduated, I worked as a volunteer monitor in women’s shelters for the Coalition for the Homeless in New York, advocating for safer, cleaner and more adequate living conditions.

Once I joined the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in 1989, my interest in promoting political and social justice quickly took on an international dimension and I spent the next years documenting attacks against journalists and freedom of expression throughout Africa and in Haiti. During my tenure at CPJ, political liberalisation swept through sub-Saharan Africa and created the opportunity for many of Africa’s first independent media outlets to operate openly. At the same time, many journalists were being arrested and outlets shut down because many media actors had taken their new found freedom to heart! This backdrop gave a special urgency and pioneering element to my work at the time.

After a short stint with the United Nations as a human rights monitor in Haiti followed by two years of graduate school, I joined the Open Society Institute in New York to run their newly emerging Africa programme. Within a year I was transferred to Johannesburg and asked to establish the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA). I was responsible for selecting a governance board, recruiting and managing staff and developing an overall strategy for the foundation. At the same time I managed a media grant-giving programme. In 2000 my job was done, and I handed over responsibility to an all Southern African staff and moved to Dakar, Senegal for a year to support local staff to establish the operations of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA).

Since 2002, I have lived in The Hague, The Netherlands with my husband Kees Hommes. In the Netherlands I have worked both as a programme manager for the Netherlands Institute for Southern Africa (NiZA) and as a freelance consultant.

Through my practical work experience I have developed strong research, written, communication and public relations skills. My time as OSI’s Representative for Africa and with NiZA nurtured my coordination skills; christened my facilitation, management and coaching skills; and nurtured my interest and knowledge in organisational development and strategic planning. I have learned to understand the differences between implementing programmes from corporate headquarters and from “the field.” I have extensive project and programme management experience having overseen multi-million Euro grant-giving programmes and developing and overseeing politically sensitive media projects. During the last few years, I have developed a growing interest and experience in evaluation, organisational learning and leadership development.

So far I have had the opportunity to work in over a dozen countries worldwide, many of them in or emerging from conflict and in the midst of turbulent political change. I speak English, French and Dutch fluently and have written extensively for international publications and NGOs.

Whether I’m supporting others or serving as a team leader, I bring an entrepreneurial spirit and a results-driven attitude to what I do. I find I am able to cut to the core of what is required and quickly ascertain patterns and trends. I love embarking on new ventures and working in multi-cultural contexts.

My colleagues, clients and friends appreciate me for my ability to make contact with people and gain trust. They value me for my openness, my ability and willingness to listen and to work in a participatory way. At the same time they say I am able to take tough decisions when needed. They welcome the fact that I acknowledge complexity while often being able to squeeze clarity out of confusion.

I obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree from Smith College in Anthropology and Third World Studies and a Masters Degree in International Relations from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.