Monica Aleman Cunningham
Monica Aleman Cunningham joined the WITNESS board in November 2019. She currently serves as a senior program officer on the BUILD team at the Ford Foundation, working to advance the foundation’s efforts to support and develop stronger, sustainable, and more effective social justice organizations and networks across the globe. Her areas of concentration in BUILD are Latin America; Civic Engagement and Government; and Gender, Race, and Ethnic Justice. In addition, she is the lead for the Ford Foundation Financial Resilience and Innovation Program in the global South. Previously, she was based in the foundation’s East Africa office, where her grant-making focused on increasing the capacity of national, regional, and global groups and supporting national and regional networks to advance a constitutional framework that protects the rights of women and other minorities, increases the participation of women in governance structures, and consolidates the infrastructure of the women’s rights movement. In addition, Monica led grant-making efforts to explore the links between customary laws and customs as they relate to women and sexual expression, using culture and religion as key entry points into understanding social change.
Before joining the Ford Foundation in 2011, Monica was executive director of the International Indigenous Women’s Forum, a global network of indigenous women’s rights organizations, territorial authorities and community based associations from all seven recognized indigenous regions in the world. One of her highlights was the establishment of Indigenous Women’s Fund, a unique grant making mechanism led by and in the service of indigenous women political, environmental and spiritual organizing at the community level. A fund that is anchored on indigenous knowledge, tradition and belief and seeks to promote a culture of solidarity, duality and complementarity of life beings. She also served as program and policy director at MADRE, an international women’s rights organization, leading on their grant making work in Africa and the Americas working on UN advocacy efforts to advance the international jurisprudence for the protection of the rights of indigenous women and youth. In addition, Monica worked as the International Coordinator of the World Youth Summit with the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for the World Conference Against Racism.
Her extensive background encompasses expertise in community organizing, social movement building, and participatory monitoring and evaluation, all honed through her work over the years with national, regional, and global organizations. She also has written a number of opinion and issue-oriented articles, primarily on women’s rights and the rights of indigenous peoples and communities.
Monica received her Master’s degree from the Intercultural Indigenous University, Popayán, Colombia, and her bachelor’s degree in international relations, with a focus on political science and business administration, from the University of Mobile, Latin America Campus at San Marcos, Nicaragua. Her academic experience also includes special studies in diplomacy, women’s human rights, human rights, the right to education, ethics, and politics in various institutions of higher learning in Latin America and the United States.