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Meet the team


Caroline Harper

Principal Research Fellow and Director of the Gender Equality and Social Inclusion Programme at ODI

As Principal Research Fellow and Director of the Gender Equality and Social Inclusion Programme at ODI, Caroline has worked on issues of inclusion, gender, age and poverty for over 30 years, including 16 years with ODI, 10 years residence in East and S.E Asia, and previous employments as a consultant and with Save the Children as head of research and policy.

Caroline has a PhD in Social Anthropology and her publications include: Empowering Adolescent Girls in developing countries: Gender Justice and Norm Change. Routledge (2018); Children in Crisis: Seeking Child-sensitive Policy Responses. Palgrave Macmillan (2012); Gender Inequality and Restrictive Gender Norms: Framing the Challenges to Health, The Lancet (2019), and Gender, power and progress: how norms change (2020). 

Caroline says: "My training in anthropology enriched my own understanding of how we all experience our own ‘normal’ and how hard it is to step outside what we believe to be the ‘natural order of things’ within our societies. But we have to push down these walls of discrimination and oppression to make for equitable change. The ALIGN project has bought all this together for me, as I continue to learn about the personal and the professional and the pathways to equality and social justice through gender norm change".

Rachel Marcus

ALIGN Senior Technical Advisor

Rachel has 30 years’ experience as a social researcher and practitioner. She has particular expertise in conducting rigorous evidence reviews, with a focus on gender, childhood, youth and adolescence and social inclusion. Her main areas of thematic interest are education, skills, economic empowerment and migration. She has also worked on social aspects of climate change and child protection.

In recent years she has led evidence reviews on non-formal education programmes to shift gender norms, gender and youth livelihoods development; gender equality in formal education; protection of child migrants; youth civic and political participation; and effective integration of anti-poverty and child protection programmes. She is a lead advisor for the ALIGN platform, which brings together research and innovation to challenge discriminatory and harmful gender norms and has undertaken various training assignments on social and gender norms.

Before joining ODI, Rachel was an independent consultant. She has worked for DFID (now FCDO) as a Social Development Advisor, and for Save the Children as a Research and Policy Advisor, where she served as Deputy Director of the Childhood Poverty Research and Policy Centre. As an independent consultant Rachel undertook assignments for Girl Hub on adolescent girls, for the World Bank and UNICEF on childhood, youth and social exclusion, and for DFID (FCDO) on youth and gender. Rachel has worked in the following countries: Belize, Bosnia Herzegovina, Kyrgyzstan, India, Mali, Mongolia, Mozambique, Namibia, Pakistan and Tanzania.

Rachel says: "In my life time I’ve seen major shifts in gender norms but also a growing backlash against change. I’m particularly interested in the role that education, social movements and the media can play in changing norms, and what makes changes stick. ALIGN is a space for sharing ideas and experiences around long-lasting norm change – we look forward to hearing from you".

Ayesha Khan

Senior Research Fellow

Ayesha has 30 years experience as a gender and development researcher. Her thematic areas of interest are feminist movements, women’s political participation and democratization, sexual and reproductive rights, and economic empowerment. Her expertise lies in research design and qualitative methodologies, literature reviews and policy analyses - being skilled at translating research findings into outputs for advocacy purpose and policy impact. She currently leads the GESI programme’s research on social movements, and backlash to feminism. She has a PhD in Development Studies and is author of The Women’s Movement in Pakistan: Activism, Islam and Democracy (2018).

Ján Michalko

Research Fellow

Ján Michalko is an experienced qualitative researcher with more than 10 years of experience in the international development sector. He works on a number of projects at ODI including ALIGN.Ján’s research focuses on political representation, women’s empowerment, and intersectionality. 

Based on in-depth interviews and focus groups with students at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa, his doctoral research unpacked the role model effect of elite women in politics and was published in peer review journals Politikon and Social Politics. Prior to joining ODI, he implemented and evaluated partnerships-based projects that enhanced social capital of young women and men, including projects funded through the UKAID Girls’ Education Challenge portfolio in Rwanda and Uganda or the Mastercard Foundation.

Ján holds a BA in International Studies from Susquehanna University (USA); MSc in Africa and International Development from the University of Edinburgh (UK); and a PhD in Gender Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London (UK).

Carmen Leon-Himmelstine

Research Fellow

Carmen has a PhD on international development and extensive research experience in Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa and Southeast Asia. Her research focuses on the intersection of migration, health, social development and poverty with a particular interest in gender, childhood and adolescence, indigenous peoples, social protection and mental health and psychosocial wellbeing. She is also Research Associate in the Department of Development Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. Prior to joining ODI, she worked on social protection and child poverty at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS).

Carmen has considerable experience of working with a wide range of donors, managing and delivering multi-year research programmes with partners in Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean on themes including migration, social protection, mental health, gender-based violence, economic empowerment and care systems. Funding for her research has come from a variety of donors including Oxfam GB, Plan International and UNICEF.

Carmen’s focus is mostly implementation research with direct policy and programming relevance working with a variety of approaches while engaging closely with communities. She has extensive research skills collecting primary data using co-design approaches and a variety of research methods including: in-depth and life history interviews, case studies, and a range of participatory rural appraisal techniques.

Carmen has a strong publication record ranging from academic articles, reports and literature reviews, to policy briefs and conference papers. She is fluent in English, Spanish and French.

Evie Browne

Research Fellow

Dr Evie Browne has a PhD in International Development from the University of Sussex with a focus on LGBTQI+ issues and gender normativity among lesbian and bisexual women in Cuba. Her research interests centre on intersectional feminism, gender norms and normativity, sexualities, rights, and social justice. Evie works on a number of projects at ODI including ALIGN.

Prior to joining ODI, Evie was a Research Fellow at GSDRC, providing a bridge between academic experts and donor agencies and government policy departments, delivering rapid response research services for DFID, AusAID and the EC. Evie has worked as a research consultant in international development since 2011, supporting policy-oriented research with ODI, IDS, the World Bank and International Alert, among others. As such, Evie has considerable experience of working with donors and delivering useful policy research. She speaks English and has a working proficiency in Spanish.

Aatif Somji

Senior Research Officer

Aatif Somji is a Senior Research Officer in the Gender Equality and Social Inclusion team at ODI. His research interests and experiences are focused on the care economy, women’s economic empowerment and inclusive value chain development.

Prior to joining ODI, Aatif worked as an independent research consultant supporting organisations including the ILO, UN Women and the Donor Committee for Enterprise Development on how to incorporate unpaid care work into their programming, with a particular focus on childcare. Prior to this, he was a Technical Officer at the ILO, focusing on improving decent work outcomes for micro, small and medium enterprises; and a Senior Associate Consultant at PwC, working in the International Development team.

Diana Jiménez Thomas Rodriguez

Senior Research Officer

Diana Jiménez Thomas Rodriguez is a researcher with 5+ years research experience, focusing primarily on Latin America. Her research interests include: environmental justice, social movements, citizenship, gender-based violence, gender norm transformation, decolonial and feminist methodologies, and social justice more broadly. She has authored published research, as well as various academic book reviews. Diana is also a co-founder of two feminist initiatives in Mexico.

Diana has a PhD in International Development from the University of East Anglia (with joint supervision from the University of Copenhagen). She also holds an MPhil degree (with distinction) in Development Studies from the University of Oxford, where she was a Weidenfeld-Hoffman Scholar.


Emilie Tant

Senior Communications Officer

Emilie Tant is a Senior Communications Officer at ODI and joined the ALIGN team to lead on strategic communication in 2021, bringing specific experience from feminist movements in the Global South. Emilie's expertise covers high-level convening, policy influencing and harnessing digital engagement through intersectional content.

Before joining ODI, Emilie worked across a range of international environments, first in policy and research for the Gender Affairs Division at the United Nations in Santiago, Chile (ECLAC), and later as a consultant for UN Women. More recently she supported advocacy work and youth-led initiatives at the YWCA in Palestine. They has a particular interest in strategic media and research communications to promote global gender justice, peace, and youth-led social movements. Emilie holds a distinction in International Relations MSc from LSE, and a first class degree in Geography from UCL.

Emily Subden

Communications Consultant

Emily Subden is the ALIGN Communications Consultant working to ensure ALIGN reaches audiences both on and offline through the digital platform, social media, convenings, events, webinars and publications. Before joining the ALIGN team in 2018, Emily worked for the United Nations for six years focusing on education and children's rights. 

Emily has a keen interest in gender equality and how norm change can be the catalyst for empowering people to make positive steps towards equal and equitable rights. Emily has an MA in Education and International Development from University College London and focused her dissertation on the role sport can play increasing girls' and women's agency over their sexual and reproductive health rights.

Emily is also a qualified lifeguard.


Abdul Walid Shahab

Senior Programme Manager

Natasha Wright

Project Manager

Zara Mahdi

Project Administrator


Paola Pereznieto and Diana Koester