Marta Cabrera, President

Marta Cabrera is President of EMpower and was one of the founding sponsors of EMpower at its inception in 2000. Ms. Cabrera is responsible for the management and organizational development of EMpower globally. Prior to joining EMpower, Ms. Cabrera worked for sixteen years in the Emerging Markets financial sector, joining Chase Manhattan Bank in 1986 and, in her last position, was a Senior Fixed Income Salesperson responsible for developing and managing some of the business unit’s most significant client relationships. Ms. Cabrera received a Bachelor’s degree at Barnard College, Columbia University; a Licenciature in Political Science at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid; and a Masters of International Affairs at the School for International and Public Affairs, Columbia University.

Cynthia Steele, Executive Vice President

As Executive Vice President at EMpower, Cynthia Steele oversees grantmaking, program initiatives and relationships with private foundations and contributes to organizational management.  Prior to joining EMpower, Cynthia was Vice President, Programs for the International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC), overseeing IWHC’s regional and international policy programs.  Previously, Ms. Steele worked at Engender Health, an international health organization, including six years on the executive team as Vice President for Resource Development and Vice President for Program Innovations, leading global strategic initiatives and program expansion.  Ms Steele is Chair of the Board of Directors of Girls for Gender Equity, the Global Committee of the Council on Foundations and other international advisory bodies. Ms Steele has a BA from Denison University, a Masters degree in International Relations from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and attended the Senior Executive Program at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.

Lee Takakjian, Marketing & Communications Director

As the Director of Marketing & Communications at EMpower, Lee Takakjian is responsible for the development and execution of the organization’s global strategic communications platform.  Her role is to advance EMpower’s brand and to communicate the organization’s unique focus and impact on the lives of young people in emerging markets.  Prior to joining EMpower, Ms. Takakjian was the Vice President of Marketing & Ventures at Robert Wood Johnson Academic Medical Center where she led the strategic communications and rebranding initiative for the health system.  Previously, she spent 8 years as the Senior Director at Montefiore Medical Center responsible for Advertising and Market Development, overseeing the brand strategy and strategic communications that supported the growth and revenue goals of the health system.  Ms. Takakjian holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Miami University of Ohio and an MBA in Marketing Management from Pace University.  She remains actively involved in Pace’s Business Honors Mentorship program and currently teaches Marketing Research as an Adjunct Professor in the Advertising and Marketing Communications Department at FIT (a SUNY college) in New York City.

Denis Kojenovic, Controller

Denis Koljenovic, has considerable and extensive experience in a wide range of financial management, accounting and advisory positions. In his current role of Controller, Denis supports the operations and the mission of EMpower by providing the executives with timely and accurate financial reporting, financial planning and budgeting, oversight over accounting and finance operations, liaisons with external auditors, as well as design and maintenance of the financial infrastructures.

Prior to joining the Empower, Denis held positions at the Public Interest Law Institute, New York University, Drake Inc., International Rescue Committee, and the DK Management Resources.  He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and Finance from Pace University and his Masters of Public Administration with focus in Management from New York University.

Shelbi Goldman, Global Operations Assistant

Shelbi Goldman is the Global Operations Assistant. Ms. Goldman is responsible for managing global office procedures and providing overall support to the EMpower staff. Prior to joining EMpower, she served as a Human Resources Assistant within the legal sector and as a Program Intern for Family Promise, a shelter for children and families. Ms. Goldman obtained a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies and Global Security from the University of Wisconsin- Madison.

Nisha Dhawan, Program Officer for India

Nisha Dhawan is the Program Officer for India responsible for developing and managing grantee partnerships in India.  Prior to joining Empower Nisha worked at Abt Associates in New Delhi as a gender and market linkages specialist on as USAID funded project – examining food, agriculture and rural market systems. However, Nisha began her career in the world of Empower’s donors, working in Equities Compliance at Deutsche Bank and Barclays Capital where she managed the Banks relationship with regulators and exchanges.  Nisha has a Master’s degree in Gender, Development and Globalization from the London School of Economics and Political Science and a Bachelor’s degree from McGill University in Montreal, Canada in International Politics and Women’s Studies. She is based in New Delhi.

Lucie Kucharova, UK Operations Manager

Lucie Kucharova serves as UK Operations Manager, responsible for supporting EMpower’s UK Board in development of the organization and building a fundraising and marketing strategy. She co-ordinates with EMpower US staff and reports to EMpower’s Executive Director in New York. Prior to joining EMpower, she advised a leading infrastructure group operating in Africa, on launching a charitable foundation. As part of her role she was responsible for Field research in South Africa on operations of NGO’s. Through her career Lucie has developed a strong network of valuable relationships within the emerging markets investment community particularly in Africa, Europe and India. Miss Kucharova received a BA from the University of Westminster in Third World Studies and International Relations.

Elise Lee, Asia Regional Officer

Elise is EMpower’s Asia Regional Officer and works out of our Hong Kong office.  Her main responsibilities are to develop the operations of the Hong Kong office, support the Board in its outreach, and manage EMpower’s grantee relationships in China, Vietnam and Philippines.  Prior to joining EMpower, Elise’s experiences range from market research, marketing, business development and consulting in various industries in both for-profit and development sectors.  Elise received her Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Barnard College, Columbia University and her MBA from China Europe International Business School in Shanghai, China.

Caitlin Mitchell, Assistant Program Officer

Caitlin Mitchell is the Assistant Program Offer at EMpower. Ms. Mitchell is responsible for providing overall program support and grants administration. Prior to joining EMpower, Ms. Mitchell served as the Latin America Program Assistant at the International Women’s Health Coalition. Ms. Mitchell received a Bachelor’s degree at Pepperdine University, and a Master of Public Administration in International Development from New York University’s Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service.

Carmen Morcos, Senior Program Officer for Latin America

Carmen Morcos is the Program Officer for Latin America, responsible for developing and managing grantee partnerships in the region. Prior to joining EMpower, Ms. Morcos consulted for various international development organizations such as the Nike Foundation, Population Council, and Save the Children in youth- and adolescent girl-centered projects. Previously, she worked in the private sector in commercial securitization and fraud investigations. Ms. Morcos holds a Bachelor’s degree in Finance from the University of Illinois, and a joint Master’s degree in Business Administration and Foreign Service from Georgetown University. She is fluent in Spanish, competent in French, and knows basic Portuguese. Carmen Morcos es la Oficial de Programas para América Latina, responsable por el desarrollo y la gestión de convenios con socios en la región. Antes de unirse a EMpower, la Srta. Morcos consultó por varias organizaciones internacionales de desarrollo, como la Fundación Nike, Population Council, y Save the Children enfocándose en proyectos con jóvenes y niñas adolescentes. Anteriormente, trabajó en el sector privado en la titulización comercial e investigaciones de fraude. La Srta. Morcos es Licenciada en Finanzas titulada por la Universidad de Illinois y tiene una Maestría conjunta en Administración de Empresas y Relaciones Internacionales de la Universidad de Georgetown. Habla español, es competente en francés, y habla portugués básico. Carmen Morcos é a Diretora de Programas para a América Latina, responsável pelo desenvolvimento e gestão de acordos com parceiros na região. Antes de iniciar na Empower, a Sra. Morcos consultou para várias organizações internacionais de desenvolvimento, como a Fundação Nike, Population Council e Save the Children em projetos com foco na juventude e adolescentes. Anteriormente, ela trabalhou no setor privado na área de securitização e investigações de fraude. A Sra. Morcos é formada em Finanças pela Universidade de Illinois e tem um Mestrado conjunto de Administração de Empresas e Relações Internacionais da Universidade de Georgetown. Ela fala espanhol, tem nível médio em francês, e fala Português básico.

Theodoros Chronopoulos, Senior Program Officer for Africa

Theodoros Chronopoulos is the Senior Programme Officer for Africa responsible for developing and managing grantee partnerships in the region. Prior to joining EMpower, Theodoros led the Social Justice Programme of the Sigrid Rausing Trust which supported organisations working at the interface of human rights, business and the environment. Previously, he worked for the Canon Collins Trust and ActionAid UK. Theodoros holds an MSc in Social Anthropology from the London School of Economics.


Filiz Bikmen, Senior Program Officer for Turkey

Filiz is Senior Program Officer for EMpower in Turkey. In addition to this role, she advises families, foundations and NGOs in developing strategies and programs to promote social justice and development. For more than a decade, Filiz has held senior positions at leading Turkish foundations (Sabanci Foundation, Third Sector Foundation of Turkey) where she designed and implemented programs that fund local and national gender, youth and disability rights initiatives and support capacity building for civil society development. She has published extensively, served as Chairman of the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, in Washington D.C., and is currently a Board Member of the Interaction Institute for Social Change in Boston. Prior to the nonprofit sector, Filiz Bikmen worked as an organizational development and change management consultant in the private sector. She holds a Masters degree in Organizational Psychology from Columbia University and a dual degree in Psychology and Business Communications from the State University of New York.

Jayanthi Pushkaran, Assistant Program Officer for India

Jayanthi Pushkaran is the Assistant Program Officer for India at Empower. She is responsible for supporting grant administration and related communications in India. Her role is to facilitate technical assistance activities to ensure strong programmatic support of grantee partners. Prior to joining Empower, Jayanthi has worked at the National Institute of Science Technology and Development Studies and Delhi Greens. She acquired an M.Phil degree in Science and Public Policy from Jawaharlal Nehru University and a Master’s degree from University of Delhi, in Environmental Sociology.

Celine Lai, Hong Kong Operations Assistant

Celine is the Operations Assistant for EMpower in the  Hong Kong office. Her main responsibilities are providing database support across all EMpower offices and providing overall administrative support to the Hong Kong office. Prior to joining as staff, Celine interned with EMpower Hong Kong for 17 months. Celine obtained a Bachelor of Business Administration (Information Systems) in conjunction with Bachelor of Engineering in Computer Science from The University of Hong Kong.

Kayla Kohlenberg, Development and Communications Assistant

Kayla Kohlenberg is the Development and Communications Assistant for EMpower in the New York office. She is responsible for supporting US development and fundraising efforts in coordination with the President and US Board, as well as the implementation of marketing and communications strategy globally. Prior to joining EMpower, she provided communications and institutional partnerships support for a development organization, based out of their Guatemala office. Ms. Kohlenberg received a Bachelor’s degree in International Politics with honors from Ithaca College.

Holly Hawkins, Development and Communications Assistant

Holly Hawkins is the Development and Communications Assistant at EMpower in the UK office, responsible for supporting the regional fundraising and communications efforts specific to the UK operations. Prior to joining EMpower, she worked in the Campaign Marketing team at Comic Relief, planning and executing the marketing strategy of a new initiative that celebrates young people who are making exceptional positive change in their communities.  Ms. Hawkins also interned with EMpower NYC for 3 months following her Bachelor’s degree in English Language from Newcastle University.

Jinexa Rivera, Programs Assistant

Jinexa Rivera serves as the Programs Assistant for EMpower. She is responsible for supporting the Programs team in grants management and translations. Prior to working for EMpower she worked as a Program Coordinator for United Planet, a non-profit based in Boston. She holds a BA in both Globalization Studies and Italian from the University at Albany, and an MS in Global Studies and International Affairs, with a concentration in Global Development, from Northeastern University.

Sandrine Hilaire, Hong Kong Development and Engagement Officer

Sandrine is the Hong Kong Development and Engagement Officer. Her main responsibilities are to support the Board in its outreach and develop EMpower’s donors relationships in Asia. Prior to joining EMpower, Sandrine’s experiences ranged from business development, entrepreneurship, law and consulting in various industries such as non-profit, international corporations and tech startups. Sandrine has studied law at The London School Of Economics and received 2 LLMs from University of Strasbourg, France.

EMpower Team

EMpower Team