Announcement: New leadership at Nobel Women's Initiative

A new Executive Director and a new Board for a new era.

Feminist leadership is collective and collaborative. It practices power-sharing and mutual accountability. Feminist leadership transforms.

At Nobel Women’s Initiative we are excited to put our collective, accountable, and shared leadership into action. In 2021, we spoke with partners, laureates and allies to define our principles. Guided by these principles, we created a new leadership structure and practice.

Aruna Rao, Chair of the Board, reflecting on the process of change, notes, “Radically transforming power relations to build community and enable cultural change takes time and commitment at every level. The Interim Executive Board and Interim ED, working closely with the laureates, guided our first steps with a steady hand.”

Our newly appointed Board of Directors, our staff and the laureates will together define, hold and amplify the vision, mission and strategy. Our values will infuse every aspect of the Nobel Women’s Initiative’s work. Our Board will govern responsibly with care. Our staff team will ensure Nobel Women’s Initiative’s work is peaceful, powerful and in alignment with our partners. The laureates will use their collective power to amplify the efforts of feminist peacebuilders to build a path to sustainable and just peace. We are committed to co-leadership and ongoing reflection to refine and align our practice with our values.

After an extensive search, led by Aruna Rao, the Nobel Women’s Initiative welcomes Maria Butler as Executive Director. An Irish national, Maria is a passionate change maker who believes in connecting the local and global to advance human rights for all. Aruna looks to this next period with anticipation: “I expect that under Maria’s leadership, supported by our new, diverse and inspiring board, we will deepen our intersectional feminist governance perspectives and better live our values within Nobel Women’s Initiative.”

Maria joins the Initiative after 12 years with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. As Maria takes on the new responsibilities, she shares: “Our world needs feminist leadership like never before. Our world needs alternative visions for peace, and transformative approaches to equality and justice. Our world needs the critical voices of Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Leymah Gbowee, and Tawakkol Karman. I am committed to serving within the movement, and working for change, as the Executive Director of Nobel Women’s Initiative.”

Nobel peace laureates Shirin Ebadi, Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Leymah Gbowee, Jody Williams, and Tawakkol Karman are pleased to share our new Board and ED with you, our friends and allies.

Aruna Rao, Chair, Board of Directors.

Aruna Rao is a leading international expert on gender equality, feminist leadership and organizational transformation. In a career spanning 40 years, particularly in Asia and Africa, Aruna has combined advocacy and cutting-edge research on gender equality, institutional change and development, with leadership and management to foster innovative approaches to equity and justice in organizations leading to positive and sustainable outcomes for women and girls. In 2001, she co-founded and, for 15 years, led Gender at Work, an international, feminist network committed to building cultures of equality and inclusion in organizations and movements. She has published widely, developed cutting edge training programs on transformative leadership for gender equality and she co-hosts the Gender at Work podcast, Rethinking Feminist Transformational Strategies.

Julienne Lusenge, Member, Board of Directors.

Julienne Lusenge is a tireless and intrepid advocate for justice, peace and gender equality from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Julienne has founded and led two NGOs: Female Solidarity for Peace and Integral Development (SOFEPADI) in 2001, and the Congolese Women’s Fund (2007). She has received multiple international awards for her lifetime of achievement and service, most recently the 2021 Women of Courage Award from the US State Department, and the 2021 Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity.

Ertha Doliscar, Treasurer, Board of Directors.

Ertha Doliscar is currently the Director of Corporate Finance at CARE Canada. With 20 years of experience working the both the private and not-for-profit sectors, including nine years as Budget Manager for Care Haiti, Ertha has built deep knowledge of financial accounting, reporting, budgeting, risk management and providing strategic business advice. She has also served on the Board of the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women (OCTEVAW).


Anne Marie Goetz, Member, Board of Directors.

Anne Marie Goetz is Clinical Professor, Center for Global Affairs School at New York University. She served as Policy Director of Governance, Peace and Security at UNIFEM and UN Women between 2005 and 2014. Anne Marie spearheaded initiatives to build women’s participation in representative politics, to promote women’s empowerment in the UN’s peacebuilding work in post-conflict situations, and to support the participation of women leaders and rights organizations in peace talks and post-conflict decision-making. She has worked with UN Security Council to improve responses to sexual violence in conflict, and to build peacekeepers’ capacities to prevent these abuses. She is the author of seven books on the subjects of gender, politics and policy in developing countries, and accountability reforms.

Dildar Kaya, Member, Board of Directors.

Dildar Kaya was a member of the 2021 Sister to Sister Mentorship Program, is a One Young World Ambassador and holds a fellowship from the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom. In recent years she has relocated to Iraq Kurdistan from Europe where she studied psychology and worked on social justice issues and gender equality with marginalized women and youth. In Iraq she works on access to mental health services and the recovery of survivors of conflict with a special focus on survivors of ISIS, sexual and gender-based violence, and the Syrian conflict.

Maria Butler, Executive Director.

Maria Butler brings over 15 years’ experience in peace, human rights, and feminist organizing. She held several roles at the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), the oldest women’s peace organization in the world, where she worked from 2010 to 2022. Most recently she was proud to serve as Deputy Secretary-General, advocating for peace in the halls of power and at the UN. She provided co-leadership and management in the WILPF Secretariat and will bring a feminist approach to addressing root causes of violence along with her commitment to centring care and compassion in how we work in this movement. She holds positions on several boards and committees related to women’s rights and peace. She received a Master’s in Human Rights from the London School of Economics and is an Attorney-at-Law and a member of the New York State Bar.

Maria will be based in Geneva, Switzerland. The offices of the Nobel Women’s Initiative will remain in Ottawa, Canada.