Meet the Tracking the Backlash team

Say hello to openDemocracy’s special team of editors and reporters investigating threats to the rights of women and LGBTIQ people across the world

Claire Provost author pic
Claire Provost
14 August 2020, 9.02am

Women and LGBTIQ people have won tremendous victories for rights and equality around the world. But organised networks, backed by dark money and coordinating with one another across borders, are working to roll back or prevent more progress. During the COVID-19 pandemic, ultra-conservative, far-Right and religious Right movements that target our rights aren’t slowing down. Instead, they’re celebrating new opportunities and fighting for new restrictions – on access to abortion, for example – while claiming that the pandemic is divine punishment for sexual and reproductive rights.

openDemocracy’s Tracking the Backlash team is on their trail. Among our projects, we’ve published multi-part investigations into Christian conservative support for the far Right in Europe (including through unregulated ‘Super PACs’), and a major series on how vulnerable pregnant women around the world are being targeted with misinformation about their health and rights.

Since our launch in 2017, we’ve collaborated with dozens of other freelance and staff journalists around the world, and our investigations have been picked up by publications including The Guardian, The Washington Post, The New York Review of Books, Grazia UK, Deutsche Welle, Telemundo, Infobae in Argentina, the Mail & Guardian in South Africa and NV in Ukraine.

Our team now has editors and reporters across Europe, Africa and the Americas. We also have a new series called Documenting the Resistance, which tells the stories of frontline activists resisting the backlash against women’s and LGBT rights. Read more about us, and how to contact us, below.

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But unlike the other aid donors, US aid agency PEPFAR has not responded at all.

Please sign this petition to show that it must take action now.

Global team

Claire Provost, Head of Global Investigations

Claire Provost

Based in Italy, Claire joined openDemocracy in 2017 as its new gender and sexuality editor, and launched an investigative series that became our global Tracking the Backlash project. She is now oD’s Head of Global Investigations, leading our feminist investigative journalism and other special projects to challenge power and inspire change. Previously, Claire worked at the UK Centre for Investigative Journalism (CIJ) and The Guardian, following the money and tracking the role of big corporations in international development.

Read her op-ed about how feminist investigative journalism can save lives. Follow her on Twitter (@ClaireProvost) and email her if you have a tip or idea for an ambitious investigation, or if your outlet would like to collaborate with us.

Nandini Archer, Gender and Identity Editor

Nandini Archer

Nandini is based in the UK and joined openDemocracy in 2018. Now she oversees oD’s Documenting the Resistance project, which tells the powerful and empowering stories of feminist movements worldwide, as well as supporting our cross-border feminist investigative journalism. She previously worked at the International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion and is a member of the feminist direct action group Sisters Uncut in London.

Read her article about how the media director of the major LGBT rights group Stonewall recently stepped back amid a “tsunami of transphobia”. Follow her on Twitter (@nandi_naira), and email her with ‘Pitch’ in your subject line if you have a story for our Documenting the Resistance series.

Zeynep Sentek, Network Coordinator

Zeynep Sentek

Zeynep is a Turkish investigative journalist based in Portugal and Turkey. She joined the Tracking the Backlash team in April 2021. Previously, she was the managing editor of the investigative news platform The Black Sea. She is a board member of journalism network European Investigative Collaborations (EIC) and holds a PhD degree from Heidelberg University.

Follow her on Twitter (@zsentek) and email her if you are a journalist interested in joining the Tracking the Backlash network of investigative reporters around the world who collaborate with us on major projects.

Inge Snip, Assistant Editor, Production and Multimedia

Inge Snip

Based in Georgia, Inge joined openDemocracy in March 2020 as a fellow, focusing at first on health reporting and then commissioning. She is now an Assistant Editor specialising in production and multimedia journalism. Inge previously worked for Coda Story (as its impact editor) as well as for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UNICEF, and produced content for publications including Eurasianet, Outriders and Forbes.

Read her article on how the Dutch inspired the world to open up marriage to LGBT couples. Follow her on Twitter (@lingelien) and email her with ideas for new multimedia projects related to gender, sexuality and social justice.

Cath Phillips, Sub-Editor

Cath Phillips

Based in the UK, Cath joined openDemocracy in 2020 as a freelance sub. She ensures high production quality across the Tracking the Backlash and Documenting the Resistance projects, and has worked in publishing for many years as an editor and sub-editor, including for Time Out London on their travel, restaurant and bar guides, in the UK and abroad.

Email her if you spot any typos, omissions or necessary corrections.

Lou Ferreira, 2020–21 Global Investigations Fellow

Lou Ferreira

Based in the UK, Lou joined Tracking the Backlash as a freelance contributor in September 2020, working on our global investigation into the money spent by ultra-conservative US groups opposing women’s and LGBTIQ rights around the world. In December, they joined the team as a full-time fellow.

Read their investigation (with Claire Provost) revealing how dozens of anti-LGBT groups fundraise on Amazon despite the company’s equality pledges. Follow them on Twitter (@_LouFerreira).

Africa team

Kerry Cullinan, Southern Africa Correspondent

Kerry Cullinan

Based in South Africa, Kerry joined openDemocracy in 2019. She focuses on reporting from Southern Africa for our Tracking the Backlash and Documenting the Resistance projects. She previously ran Health-e News, one of the first independent non-profit news agencies in Africa, for 14 years and supervised the establishment of South Africa's first network of citizen journalists.

Read her article on how US-linked anti-abortion centres in South Africa are violating the law. Follow her on Twitter (@kerrycullinan11)

Khatondi Soita Wepukhulu, 2020–21 East Africa Investigations Fellow

Khatondi Soita Wepukhulu

Ugandan-based Khatondi joined the Tracking the Backlash team in September 2020 as a full-time fellow. She previously contributed to our investigation into anti-abortion misinformation around the world and also to the team’s reporting on the effect of COVID-19 on maternal health globally and on sex workers in Uganda. She is the co-founder of Free Inquiry Uganda, a secular organisation advocating for the separation of church and state.

Read her op-ed on how mistreated pregnant women deserve more than your outrage. Email her with tips or ideas for new investigations into threats to women’s and LGBT rights in East Africa.

Portia Crowe, Assistant Editor, Francophone countries

Portia Crowe

Portia joined openDemocracy in June 2021, to help launch our Francophone West Africa coverage and commission West African journalists to work on Tracking the Backlash investigations and more. Portia has reported from across Africa, Europe and North America, for the BBC World Service, The Independent, The Guardian, Foreign Policy and other outlets. In a past life, she was a finance correspondent covering Wall Street and the City of London.

Follow her on Twitter (@PortiaCrowe) and email her if you are a Francophone West African journalist or member of a civil society group interested in collaborating with openDemocracy.

Americas team

Diana Cariboni, Latin America Editor

Diana Cariboni

Diana is based in Uruguay and started writing for Tracking the Backlash in 2018. Now she coordinates our investigative reporting in Latin America. She was previously co-editor-in-chief of the IPS news agency and led its Latin America desk for more than ten years. She wrote the book ‘Guantánamo Entre Nosotros’ (2017) and won Uruguay’s national press award in 2018.

Read her article on how women’s rights supporters had no good choices in Peru’s recent presidential elections. Follow her on Twitter (@diana_cariboni) and email her with tips for new stories in Latin America.

Aaron White, US Reporter

Aaron White

Based in New York City, Aaron has been openDemocracy’s North America economics editor since 2019. Since April 2021 he has also worked part-time on Tracking the Backlash investigations related to corporate power and anti-rights movements. Last year, he led openDemocracy’s coverage of the US election – with a particular focus on progressive social movements.

Read his article featuring local Louisville activists demanding justice for Breonna Taylor one year after her murder. Follow him on Twitter (@aaronwolfwhite) and email him with tips for US investigations.

Dánae Vílchez, 2021 Mesoamerica Fellow

Danae Vilchez

Dánae is a Nicaraguan journalist based in Guatemala. She joined openDemocracy as a part-time fellow in 2021. She is also Central America correspondent with the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and has an Erasmus Mundus Master's degree in Journalism, Media and Globalisation, with a specialisation in Politics. She was previously a fellow with the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) and the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF). Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, Pikara Magazine, eldiario.es, Confidencial and AJ+, among others.

Follow her on Twitter (@DanaeVilchez).

Eurasia and Europe team

Tatev Hovhannisyan, Assistant Editor, Eurasia

Tatev Hovhannisyan

Based in Armenia, Tatev joined openDemocracy in March 2020 as a fellow. She is now an assistant editor supporting cross-border investigations in post-Soviet countries. Previously, Tatev worked as an editor at the leading Armenian media outlets Civilnet and Mediamax.

Read her article about an Armenian website spreading misinformation and the controversy over its US funding. Follow her on Twitter (@tahovhannisyan) and email her with ideas for new investigations in Eurasia and Europe.

Recent fellows

Joni Hess, 2020–021 Documenting the Resistance Fellow

Joni Hess

Based in New Orleans, Joni joined the team in October 2020 as a fellow for six months for our Documenting the Resistance project. Previously, she was a freelancer for Women Under Siege – a project of the Women's Media Center, which investigates how violence against women is weaponised in conflict and beyond – as well as Vox and The Lily by The Washington Post. Joni has also worked as a social worker. Follow her on Twitter (@joni_bologne).

Claudia Torrisi, 2020 Documenting the Resistance Fellow

Claudia Torrisi

Based in Italy, Claudia has written for our projects since 2017. In April 2020, she became a fellow for six months on our Documenting the Resistance series. She has also contributed to Valigia Blu, VICE and Rai TV in Italy, as well as Al Jazeera. Follow her on Twitter (@clatorrisi).

Ani Hovhannisyan, 2020 Data Journalism Fellow

Based in Armenia, Ani joined the Tracking the Backlash team in March 2020 as a fellow for six months. She works at the NGO Investigative Journalists of Armenia (HETQ), which publishes the Hetq.am investigative portal (in Armenian and English), and she manages data-driven and education projects at Hetq Media Factory. Follow her on Twitter (@anihovh).

Arya Karijo, 2020 Data Journalism Fellow

Arya is a transgender woman based in Nairobi, Kenya. She joined the Tracking the Backlash team in March 2020 as a fellow for six months. She has a background in user experience research and uses her social media platforms to tell stories and advocate for LGBTIQ rights in Kenya. She is a contributor to @DrFeminist on Facebook and is the new Executive Director for AfroIDEA. Follow her on Twitter (@AryaKarijo) and Facebook (@AryaJeipeaKarijo).

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