ILGA-Europe’s team consists of people from different countries and backgrounds. We are all united by our pride to be part of a professional, driven team, steadfastly committed to the principles of equality and justice.
For security reasons, certain staff members aren’t listed on this page.
Our Executive Board is the organisation’s main governing body. Board members are elected every year at the AGM, which takes place at the Annual ILGA-Europe Conference and represent member organisations.
A note for Bachelor’s and Master’s students: While we believe in and understand the importance of research and the role of education in advancing LGBTI rights, due to our limited capacity and large workload, we are unable to accept your interview and meeting requests. If you are writing a thesis on LGBTI people’s rights in Europe, our Rainbow Map and Annual Review may be particularly useful for you, as will be many other sections of our website.
Chaber provides the overall leadership and strategic direction for the organisation and leads management..
They joined ILGA-Europe in 2018. Before becoming our Executive Director, they were our Finance Director – managing ILGA-Europe’s financial resources, implementing all financial aspects of strategic and operational planning, monitoring and reporting.
Prior to joining ILGA-Europe, Chaber worked as the Executive Director of Campaign Against Homophobia (KPH), a Polish LGBTQI organisation. Additionally, they’ve served on the ILGA-Europe Executive Board as Treasurer, and the International Trans Fund Board as Treasurer and Co-Chair.
“The LGBTI movement is my community and where my chosen family is. The injustice and mistreatment so many people in the community face have kept me going since I was a teenager. I’ve found that working within the movement is where I can channel my privileges, anger and motivation into attention, thoughtfulness and strategic thinking about making progress. Working at ILGA-Europe makes me feel like my time matters and makes a difference.”
Brian leads ILGA-Europe’s communications. This includes communications strategy and development – and managing ILGA-Europe’s communications channels, including media relations, publications and digital and social media.
Before joining ILGA-Europe, Brian was the Managing Editor of GCN, Ireland’s LGBTI community magazine – which is published by an ILGA-Europe member organisation, the National LGBT Federation.
He led GCN during a period of significant change for LGBTI people in Ireland; at the time, he was a media spokesperson on LGBTI issues and wrote extensively for national and international press. He is also ex-Director of the GAZE, Dublin’s International LGBT Film Festival; he served on the festival’s board for five years. He is the author of two novels, both of which deal with LGBT issues among others.
“Since I became politicised in my 20s, I have had an innate belief that communication is at the core of change. It was illegal to be gay in my home country at the time and I made it my personal mission in life to communicate about LGBTI issues – so that people outside our community would learn about the truth of our lives and the impact of inequality, oppression and isolation. Working with ILGA-Europe and our members allows me to build on my original mission by striving to contribute to cohesion, inclusivity and positive change for LGBTI people and communities. It allows me to work alongside a great and innovative team in Brussels and brilliant, passionate activists across the regions to help make a real difference. It’s a dream job for me in every respect.”
Katrin is in charge of the overall coordination of the policy, advocacy and strategic litigation work of ILGA-Europe. This includes leading the advocacy work of ILGA-Europe towards the EU institutions, EU Presidencies, the Council of Europe, OSCE and UN. In close cooperation with member organisations, Katrin also oversees our advocacy support at national level and ensures strong links between ILGA-Europe’s advocacy and strategic litigation work.
Katrin has over 15 years of experience in policy, research and advocacy in the fields of gender and feminist theory and politics, anti-discrimination and fundamental rights. She worked as political advisor to a member of the European Parliament, as well as with several NGO networks on EU level and in Uganda. Katrin has a master degree in political science and English language and literature.
“I have a real passion for equality, justice and politics, for negotiations and strategising, and I thrive on the thought that my experience and knowledge of political processes can support others – in my team as well as the amazing community of LGBTI activists across Europe and Central Asia. It is them who know the realities on the ground, the needs as well as what can work. And I continue to learn from them and do my part to make sure that their voices are fully heard and integrated into European policy-making. It makes me proud to think that through my work, I can help people grow and reach even higher.”
Anastasia is leading ILGA-Europe’s work on supporting the LGBTI movement in Europe and Central Asia. She is in charge of the overall direction and management of ILGA-Europe’s programmes that bring funding, learning and networking support to LGBTI organisations and groups across our region to uplift their work. She also works with our member and partner LGBTI organisations, funders, and international partners to ensure that the movement has access to better and more resources beyond ILGA-Europe.
Anastasia joined ILGA-Europe in 2014. Before becoming our Programmes Director, she was a Senior Programmes and Policy Officer and developed and implemented a range of funding and learning programmes to support and propel the work of LGBTI organisations and their organisational development.
Anastasia’s experience prior to ILGA-Europe is rooted in the LGBTI movement. She led a coalition of Russian LGBTI organisations to amplify their international campaigning, advocacy and fundraising work, contributed her expertise as a consultant and advisor to foundations and international human rights organisations funding LGBTI equality work, and was a fundraiser and programme manager for the Russian LGBT Network. Anastasia came to LGBTI activism and human rights work from teaching and programme management roles she held in academia in Russia and the United States. She has an MA in Sociology and an MA in Linguistics and Cross-cultural Communication.
Anna manages ILGA-Europe’s corporate partnerships and collaborations, leads private sector engagement and develops our non-institutional fundraising. She also coordinates the annual European Equality Gala — the biggest fundraiser for the European LGBTI movement.
Before joining ILGA-Europe in 2017, Anna held fundraising and events roles in London at the Kaleidoscope Trust and Sarcoma UK. She also worked with LGL, the national LGBTI rights organisation in Lithuania. Anna holds a Master’s degree and worked as a translator, editor and technical writer for several years before entering the non-profit sector.
“It’s motivating to help raise funds for ILGA-Europe to ensure that our team can continue to work for LGBTI rights and equality across the region. I’m inspired by each and every person who makes a donation, organises a community fundraising event, attends the European Equality Gala, sets up a birthday fundraiser… And the companies big and small that take a stand for LGBTI equality and support our work. Even when times are trying for the LGBTI movement, I’m often reminded there is solidarity for our cause and that people care.”
Arpi is responsible for ILGA-Europe’s litigation. She works with ILGA-Europe members and partners to develop strategies for using litigation to protect LGBTI people’s human rights across Europe.
Her tasks include conducting international and comparative law research, drafting case submissions and bringing third party interventions to the European Court of Human Rights. She helps LGBTI groups build up the capacity they need to engage in strategic litigation in Europe and mobilise resources.
Arpi is an international human rights lawyer with over 15 years of experience in research, publication, advocacy, capacity development and litigation before the European Court.
She began her career coordinating the CEDAW Promotion Campaign Project in Armenia. Next, she worked at the Democracy Today NGO — founded and led by the UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery. She also provided research assistance to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health.
As a Legal Adviser at INTERIGHTS in London, she provided litigation advice to NGOs in the former Soviet Union and Central and Eastern Europe — and submitted strategically significant cases to the European Court. During her time at INTERIGHTS, Arpi developed several Guidance Manuals for Lawyers on the European Convention articles.
Prior to joining ILGA-Europe, Arpi managed a capacity-building project on human rights strategic litigation in Kosovo in collaboration with the Civil Rights Defenders.
Arpi holds a BA in Sociology (2001) and MA in Conflictology (2003) from Yerevan
State University, Armenia. She also holds an LLM in International Human Rights Law from the University of Essex, UK (2006).:
“The fact I can change people’s lives through my work is enormously rewarding. Working on strategic litigation means being creative and working in collaboration with other like-minded people/organisations. I particularly enjoy working in partnerships and making new connections – like linking national LGBTI organisations so they can share their litigation practices, or joining forces with European and International organisations to strengthen our voices. Strategic litigation is not an easy or quick fix; it usually takes years. Yet, when there is eventually a positive judgement, it makes me feel that what I do matters and gives me a boost of energy and inspiration.”
Beryl is responsible for organising events, conferences and meetings for ILGA-Europe. She also supports financial compliance processes in the organisation and HR management.
Before joining ILGA-Europe, Beryl spent four years working for Brussels-based business lobby group BusinessEurope. When shifting her career focus from advocacy to project management, she worked for over three years on various projects in the youth sector. In particular, she organised several large events for the European Youth Forum and the Flemish agency for the Youth in Action programme, JINT.
Beryl holds a BA in Political Science from the Sorbonne University, Paris and an MA in EU Public Affairs from the Institute of Political Studies, Strasbourg.
“I’m a late-blooming activist. I think I’m good at troubleshooting, making things happen and a myriad of small tasks that are not particularly ‘sexy’ – but are needed to make an organisation such as ILGA-Europe function and grow. Through my work at ILGA-Europe, I can put my resourcefulness and nerdiness to good use and contribute to supporting brilliant and brave activists on the ground. Working with such inspiring people is a privilege. Sometimes it brings a tear to my eye! How many jobs do that?”
Mehmet is responsible for ILGA-Europe’s communications across online channels, including social media, websites and newsletters. He also coordinates our Rainbow Europe project.
Mehmet joined ILGA-Europe in March 2018 from Istanbul, Turkey where he had worked for human rights organisations as well as for alternative media. Before his role at ILGA-Europe, he was a project assistant at Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, an NGO that provides treatment and rehabilitation to torture survivors.
He also worked at SPoD, a national LGBTI organisation — first as international relations coordinator and later as general coordinator between 2014 and 2017.
Prior to his human rights work, he acted as a journalist and editor on a volunteer basis at Aç?k Radyo, Agos Newspaper and KaosGL.org.
He holds a BA in Communications from Galatasaray University, Istanbul and pursued MA classes in Sociology at Bo?aziçi University, Istanbul.
“Since graduating from college, my life has been surrounded by activism; I laughed the most at an activist friend’s house gathering, I had my best parties at fundraising events for LGBTI organisations, I had my best trip for a conference. ILGA-Europe has always been at the core of my activism. Through ILGA-Europe I advocated for LGBTI rights in Turkey, attended their trainings, and was one of the country experts for the Rainbow Map. Being a staff member is such a privilege for me because it brings together two precious elements of my life: queer rights and communications. With this job, I can use my comms geekiness for LGBTI communities.”
Antonella is responsible for ensuring smooth and effective financial management of our regranting mechanisms and managing part of the awarded grants. She also assists with the internal financial operations and bookkeeping processes, as well as ILGA-Europe’s office administration.
Antonella joined the team as Grants and Finance Office in November 2022. Prior to that, she has been working for ESD Global, first as Programme Officer and then as Operations Manager, supporting anti-violence projects and promoting empowerment.
Before that, she worked as Research Assistant at Tampere Peace Research Institute and she conducted different fieldwork activities first in North Macedonia and in Tunisia supporting LGBTI activism in these countries, by advocating for human rights advancement and assessing the risk and potential coping strategies of the LGBTI movement in these contexts.
She came to know ILGA-Europe thanks to the work she has been doing, and indeed she participated in the 2019 ILGA-Europe Conference in Prague where she presented the results of the fieldwork research conducted in Tunisia.
“I have always dreamed about working at ILGA-Europe and having joined the finance team is giving in me a unique perspective on the impact of the work we do. I am enthusiastic and honoured about collaborating with different organisations and supporting them to strive in their projects, making sure that activists can access the resources and support they need to continue their everyday work. They are my inspiration to keep learning, improving, and tireless work for LGBTI equality”.
Belinda develops and implements advocacy strategies and policy initiatives to bring about legal, political and social change for LGBTI people. She focuses on Enlargement countries, family policy and rule of law processes.
Her responsibilities include advocacy with European institutions, national governments and other stakeholders; strengthening the capacities of policymakers, civil society and practitioners to transform political commitments into concrete action; and building relationships with relevant stakeholders.
Prior to joining ILGA-Europe, Belinda worked for the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Education and Culture and for the Party of European Socialists.
She holds an MA in Gender Studies from the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands and a BA in French and Spanish from Durham University in the United Kingdom.
She previously volunteered for LGBTI causes in Durham, Brussels and Amsterdam — and her MA thesis focused on the impact of anti-gender movements on LGBTI activism in Hungary.
“Since I started being involved in LGBTI activism, I’ve been driven by the urgent feeling of wanting to help change circumstances for the better for LGBTI people around me – especially youth. Alongside my activism, I ended up on a career path that gave me considerable insight into the policy-making and political world at the EU level. It was my dream to be able to apply this insight to improve LGBTI people’s lives. Working with people who have so much drive and passion, both at ILGA-Europe but also within the membership and our communities across Europe and Central Asia, is really extraordinary to witness and a privilege to be a part of.”
Nadzeya is responsible for assessing the movement’s needs and developing ways to strengthen it through capacity-building and re-granting.
Thematically, they focus on counteracting rising anti-LGBTI forces, addressing LGBTI homelessness and developing and implementing intersectional approaches and practices.
Nadzeya has 15 years of experience as an educator, researcher and project coordinator. Their work has centred on trans and intersex lived experiences, LGBTI movement-building, gender-based and domestic violence, migration and displacement, globalisation and local interpretations of gender- and LGBTI-related concepts and practices.
Nadzeya lived in different geopolitical settings and worked for various human rights and educational organisations. These include the International Organisation for Migration in Belarus, the African Centre for Migration and Society in Johannesburg and the Centre for Women’s and Gender Research in Bergen.
Before joining ILGA-Europe, Nadzeya worked at Amnesty International in London. As a regional researcher there, Nadzeya led investigative work around gender-based violence against women in conflict-affected Donetsk and Luhansk regions in eastern Ukraine.
Nadzeya holds an MA in Cultural and Gender Studies from the European Humanities University (2003) and an MA in Migration and Intercultural Relations from Oldenburg University (2013). In 2019, they defended their PhD in Interdisciplinary Gender Studies at Bergen University.
“When I think about the different jobs I’ve had, I keep coming back to the moments that brought the most joy, profound meaning and lasting impact – for myself and others. It always boiled down to talking to people and being amongst them while working behind the scenes to help make some societal changes possible. ILGA-Europe provides this drive and meaning for me. It’s about being part of a well-coordinated, inspiring team of people with shared values; keeping in touch with activists; and translating stories we hear into action that contributes to change in the LGBTI movement.”
Akram develops and implements advocacy strategies and policy initiatives to bring legal, political and social change for LGBTI people across Europe and Central Asia. He focuses on hate crime and speech, asylum and migration, domestic violence, Eastern Partnership countries and Central Asia.
Akram joined ILGA-Europe in 2020. Akram started his activism back in 2008, in Kyrgyzstan. Prior to joining ILGA-Europe, Akram worked at the Regional Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for Central Asia as a Rule of Law Consultant. He holds LL.M. in International Human Rights Law from University of Essex, UK (2018).
“It might sound cliché, but working at ILGA-Europe and my current role mean that I can use my personal and professional experience to contribute to positive social change for LGBTI people on a regional level. This is what gives me purpose. It means growth, learning, meeting new people and struggling (sometimes). The solidarity in the team is what I like the most about this work, even if sometimes we disagree with each other!”
As part of ILGA-Europe’s policy and advocacy team, Marie works on strategic litigation for LGBTI rights, with a focus on EU law-related litigation. She works with ILGA-Europe members and partners to initiate and support strategic litigation cases to protect LGBTI people’s rights across Europe.
Marie has a Master’s degree in International and European Law from the University of Paris X and was admitted to the Paris Bar in 2013. Before joining ILGA-Europe in 2023, she worked as an international law and arbitration lawyer for 10 years with law firms Teynier Pic and Dentons and Jus Mundi, a mission-driven legal tech start-up. Currently she provides pro bono assistance to LGBTI asylum seekers and a climate justice NGO.
“My career as an international arbitration lawyer gave me significant insight into developing litigation strategies at the international level. I am thrilled to now be able to use the powerful tool that is strategic litigation to protect and improve LGBTI people’s rights and to achieve systemic change on the legal, social and political levels. Working alongside like-minded colleagues and partners to change people’s lives through law is a true privilege.”
Alejandro’s main responsibilities are organising ILGA-Europe’s Annual Conference, implementing and ensuring compliance to the re-granting processes, and office administration.
Alejandro became our Event and Finance Support Officer in June 2019. Prior to that, he was involved in LGBTI activism in Barcelona with ACATHI – an organisation supporting LGBTI asylum seekers.
After moving to Belgium in 2016, he was a Programme intern at ILGA-Europe. Back then, he helped organise the Annual Conferences in 2016 and 2017 and supported both the Programmes and Finance teams throughout project cycles.
Alejandro also worked as Membership Engagement Officer in IGLYO, where he kicked-off the development of their long-term membership strategy and helped organise their Annual Members’ Conference.
He was also part of the Equal Opportunities Office of the General Secretariat of the Council of the EU in 2017. There, he took a key role organising their IDAHOBIT event and was responsible for revamping the trainee-led organisation Queer Stagiaires.
Alejandro holds a BA in Political Science from Universitat Pompeu Fabra and an MA in International Security from Institut Barcelona d’Estudis Internacionals.
“Working in ILGA-Europe’s financial team is a great source of motivation. In my daily work, I support activists in the financial management of their grants and their participation at ILGA-Europe Annual Conference. It’s inspiring to contribute to supporting the great work that so many activists do across the region.”
As part of our policy and advocacy team, Aisling works on socio-economic justice and alliance building, to strengthen the LGBTI movement by creating resilient and meaningful partnerships with other social justice movements at the European, national and regional levels.
Aisling has a B.A. in Sociology and Political Science from Trinity College Dublin and a Masters in European Policy from KU Leuven. Before joining ILGA-Europe in 2023, she worked in homelessness advocacy and policy research in Ireland.
“None of us alone can solve every problem, but as a group we’re pretty amazing at getting there. I’m always in awe of the power of simply bringing passionate people together, and working at ILGA-Europe I get to see that all the time. It’s a joy and a privilege to be a part of that.”
Cianán works on intersex rights, education, health, trans rights and the anti-gender backlash in Europe and Central Asia. They also monitor and engage with the Council of Europe and United Nations institutions.
Cianán joined ILGA-Europe in 2019. They began LGBTI activism in the US in 1996 and previously worked with the Indiana Transgender Rights Advocacy Alliance (USA), the Asia Pacific Transgender Network and Transgender Europe.
They have a Ph.D. in chemistry from Purdue University and served on the teaching faculty at Georgia Institute of Technology from 2008-2013. Personally, they run a support space for transmasculine and nonbinary survivors of sexual assault and rape and serve on a Chapter Working Group with the WPATH Standards of Care version 8.
“Working on advocacy and policy development provides me an opportunity to bring a trans and non-binary voice into spaces where it’s lacking. I am able to ensure that trans, non-binary and LGBTI voices are ‘in the room’ – knowing what policymakers and civil servants can do for us and working to find creative solutions to our unique challenges. I feel immensely privileged to be in these spaces and take my role as ears and eyes for our movements very seriously. Since I joined ILGA-Europe, we have seen many steps forward in the policy sphere (many of them very small in text but huge in potential). I hope to be part of many more.”
Seka is responsible for strengthening the capacities of LGBTI organisations in Europe and Central Asia, namely for translating ILGA-Europe movement-support programmes into activity plans and implementing them in a needs-based and context-informed way.
Seka has been in trans activism for over a decade. They were in leadership roles in 2 organizations for trans, intersex, and gender diverse people in the Balkans: kolekTIRV since 2012 when it was founded, where they started as a volunteer and worked as the Executive Coordinator for 7 years; and as a volunteer in TMB (Trans Mreža Balkan) since 2014, joining the Coordination Team in 2020.
“If someone told me ten years ago I’d be a human rights activist, I probably wouldn’t have believed them. Today, I wouldn’t believe them if they told me my role in this world is anything but, because within the LBGTIQ+ movement I found a purpose and a family which is priceless and irreplaceable. Working at ILGA-Europe enables me to expand on that family and gives me the privilege of learning about and supporting the amazing work our communities do across Europe and Central Asia.”
In her role, Svetlana works closely with LGBTI movements in Europe and Central Asia to assess and address its needs trough capacity-building and re-granting.
Since the beginning of 2022, Svetlana has been coordinating ILGA-Europe Strategic Communications Programme to foster stronger and more strategic communications across the European and Central Asian LGBTI movement and to contribute to collective thinking on shaping public conversations and changing public attitudes. The programme includes various components such as financial support and consultancy to build strong communication abilities, grants to support targeted communication initiatives, learning and peer learning spaces, and a growing network of communications practitioners and experts.
Svetlana holds MA in International Relations from the St. Petersburg State University and MA in Gender Studies from the Central European University. Before joining ILGA-Europe, she worked with the Russian LGBT Network and Legal and Social Support Charitable Foundation Sphere as a communications specialist and at the managerial level.
“I believe that every human is born equal in their dignity and rights, and these beliefs define who I am and what I do with my life. I am happy to be part of the ILGA-Europe team, and I hope that my knowledge and my work here can make a difference towards transforming this world into a better place.”
For security reasons, these ILGA-Europe team members’ photos cannot be displayed.
Senior Programmes Officer
Nuriko’s main area of work is to provide programmatic support to the LGBTI movement in Central Asia. In her role as a Senior Programmes Officer, Nuriko dedicates her efforts to providing capacity strengthening support to member organisations and partners. Her responsibilities encompass conducting trainings, facilitating networking and peer-learning opportunities, and delivering technical assistance to assist organisations, groups, and activists in project development and implementation.
Additionally, Nuriko manages re-granting support for LGBTI organisations and initiative groups in Central Asia. Her work is motivated by a strong commitment to advancing LGBTI rights and equality in the region.
“To me, this work is a transformative journey, striving to build a world that celebrates diversity, acceptance, and equal opportunities for everyone.”
As the Advocacy Program Manager at RFSL (Sweden), she currently works on coordinating advocacy efforts of a Coalition of organisations from Eastern Europe.
Additionally, Natia has more than ten years of leadership experience in the Georgian LGBT movement, where she actively engaged in community mobilization, research, advocacy and increasing positive visibility of SOGI issues in the society. Natia holds two MA degrees in Gender Studies and Global Politics.
“It is important for me to serve on the Executive Board of ILGA-Europe because I believe that the organisation’s mandate is crucial for sustainability of the LGBT/QI+ movements in Europe and Central Asia, and I want to contribute my knowledge and experience to further developing this mandate and learn more in the process.”
Yves Aerts Jacobs is a board member of ILGA-Europe and a (alternate) European representative to the ILGA World board.
Since 2007, they have worked as the Executive Director of Çavaria, the LGBTI+ umbrella organisation in Flanders. The organisation fights for the well-being and rights of LGBTI people in all aspects of everyday life.
As coordinator, Yves strategically leads an organisation composed of almost 30 staff members, more than 125 member organisations and hundreds of volunteers. They are also instrumental in lobbying for LGBTI causes in Belgian politics.
Together with the staff members and the board, they helped make Çavaria more transgender/intersex inclusive and cooperated more thoroughly with allies — like the womens’ council, refugees council and more.
Alongside their job at Çavaria, Yves volunteers in different cultural, political, environmental organisations and (grassroots) initiatives. For example, Yves volunteers with a reading-based organisation for vulnerable individuals – such as those in poverty or managing psychological problems.
They are involved in green politics at a local and national level and volunteer for environmental projects focusing on co-housing and critical mass bike rides, among other things.
“Being part of the big ILGA-Europe family enriches me. I learn every day. I am also fortunate to be able to share my skills and experiences with a greater whole. Strong together!”
Ivan Dimov is the Founder and Chairman of Single Step Foundation, whose mission is to support, motivate and empower LGBTI youth and their parents in Bulgaria. Ivan is also the CEO of Single Step Ltd, the social enterprise of Single Step Foundation, which owns and operates The Steps, the only LGBTI community center in the country.
He returned to his native Bulgaria in order to establish Single Step Foundation in 2016. His prior professional career is in the field of finance: as an investment banker and private equity investor in New York and Sydney, Australia, in the media, telecommunications and technology sectors.
He is also a co-founder and board member of the Bulgaria Innovation Hub in San Francisco, which provides a two-way bridge between the Bulgarian technology ecosystem and Silicon Valley.
Ivan is a keen marathon runner, CrossFitter, world traveler and a firm believer in social entrepreneurship.
Mamikon is an LGBTI activist and human rights defender living and working in Armenia. He began his activism in 2002 and founded Pink Armenia in 2007.
Mamikon is an elected board member at the Non-Discrimination and Equality Coalition in Armenia as well as the president of Human Rights House, Yerevan. He is also involved in several national working groups focused on HIV/AIDS responses and was elected as the Community, Rights and Gender working group president.
Mamikon holds a degree in sociology and an MA in Human Rights and Democratisation. He specialises in health, human rights, and gender issues.
Penny Smith is a recent addition to ILGA-Europe’s board. Penny has been involved with LGBTI work at UNISON for over 10 years. For the past two years, she has co-chaired the International sub-committee of UNISON’S National LGBTI Committee.
Penny works as the Inclusion and Diversity Advisor for the Royal Society of Chemistry.
“I’m so proud to be on the board as an Older Female LGBTQI+ Activist. This allows a voice to my generation that would still like to be active and to be heard. It also promotes that intersectionality between younger and older folk who can learn so much from each other!”
Xheni is one of the most influential LGBTI+ activists and feminists in Albania and the Western Balkan region. She is passionately involved with capacity building, lobbying and advocacy to empower the rights of the LGBTI+ community. In 2009 she founded Aleanca of which she is the Executive Director, an LGBTI+ organisation in Tirana that envisions a free, open and equal Albania embracing diversity, inclusivity and gender equality for everyone. In 2012 she was one of the organisers of the Albania’s first ever Pride Parade. Today Aleanca supports yearly up to 500 members of the LGBTI community all around the country and is still one of the main organiser of Tirana Pride.
For years Xheni was the only openly lesbian woman in Albania, after having come out on national television during a heated TV-debate. Through this event she became a spokesperson for the Albanian LGBTI+ community overnight, a role that makes her constantly exposed to threats ranging from hate speech and harassment to death and rape threats, for which she has been included from 2013 on the Natalia Project. Despite this, Xheni stays committed to changing perceptions and stigmas.
She is also a co-founder and Board Director of STREHA, Albania’s first residential shelter for ostracised LGBTI+ people, the first of its kind in the whole Eastern Europe which has been home of more than 100 young LGBTI+ people from Albania and Kosovo, who have been kicked out and disowned by their families.
In addition to working actively to supporting LGBTI+ people and making their voices heard, Xheni is committed to changing legislation. For many years she has advocated for the approval of new anti-discriminatory legislation and the implementation of anti-discrimination policies, the recognition of same-sex unions and the rights of same sex parents. She is currently fighting alongside a lesbian couple who are fighting to both be registered as parents of their children, which is currently not possible in Albania.
Zhanar is one the co-founders of the Kazakhstan Feminist Initiative, ‘Feminita’. Since 2014, ‘Feminita’ has been one of the frontline LBQT grassroot initiatives in Kazakhstan that focuses on LBQT rights, advocacy, mobilisation, and research.
Zhanar is a feminist, open lesbian, powerlifter, poet and DJ. Her passion is expanding the concept of gender, sexuality and human rights in the general public discourse through activism, by mainstreaming these questions in academia and making Central Asia visible as a region.
Zhanar graduated with Summa Cum Laude from the ‘Gumilev’ Eurasian National University in 2005, as well as from the ‘Lomonosov’ Moscow State University in 2009. In 2014, Zhanar enrolled at the European Humanities University (Lithuania) MA program in Sociology with focus on gender and culture and finished the PhD program at the University of Tsukuba, Japan.
She has publications: a chapter in ‘Women, Sport and Exercise in the Asia-Pacific Region: Domination, Resistance, Accommodation’, edited by Molnar G., Sara N. Amin and Yoko Kanemasu, as part of the Routledge ‘Research in Sports, Culture and Society’ series (2018), and a chapter in ‘Decolonizing Queer Experience: LGBT+ Narratives from Eastern Europe and Eurasia’, edited by Emily Channell-Justice, Lexington Books (2020).
“I am continuing to fight for our future and my love, sisterhood, and passion overcome hate and homo-, bi-, lesbo-, trans-, queerphobia of people! I am standing for what I strongly believe is human rights, dignity, knowledge, solidarity, feminism in Central Asia and Europe.”