Team & Partners

Marika Theros

Marika is the director of CEP. She brings over two decades of experience working at the intersection of action-oriented research, civic engagement and policy advocacy. She has advised, built programmes and designed multi-stakeholder dialogues in complex contexts across the Balkans, Middle East and Asia on peace, security, and human rights for foundations, governments, nonprofits and civic groups. She is a senior fellow at Institute for State Effectiveness, policy fellow at LSE IDEAS, expert at Uplift Afghanistan and co-founder of the Civic Ecosystems Initiative.


Sahar Halaimzai

Sahar Halaimzai is the Deputy Director of the Civic Engagement Project. She is an Associate at LSE IDEAS’s Conflict and Civicness Research Group, where she co-leads PEACEREP’s Afghanistan Research Network and Non-Resident Senior Fellow at Atlantic Council South Asia Centre. With over 15 years in human rights and freedom of expression, she co-founded the Afghan peace campaign, Time4RealPeace, advocating for inclusive peace negotiations. Sahar was the head of campaigns and communications at PEN International for seven years. She is a strategic advisor for Uplift Afghanistan and sits on the board of Omid International, SRMO and Counterpoints Arts. In 2020, she won the London Writers Award and is working on her first manuscript.


Metra Mehran

Metra Mehran is the Afghanistan Program Director at the Civic Engagement Project. She is a human rights activist and scholar, distinguished by her dedication to women’s empowerment, gender equality, and development. Her advocacy has earned her recognition as a finalist for the 2021 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. With experience as a fellow at New York University’s Center for Global Affairs and as a lecturer on international development at Afghanistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mehran has made significant educational contributions.

As the former scholarship director of the USAID Women Scholarship Endowment Program, she oversaw the largest educational initiative of its kind in Afghanistan, providing STEM scholarships to women. Her expertise also extends to managing a wide array of projects for international NGOs, focusing on women’s rights and empowerment.

Mehran co-founded the Feminine Perspectives Movement to ensure women’s voices are included in peace processes. Her influence is augmented by her speeches at the United Nations, academic institutions, and her writings in international media.

Currently, she is engaged in a pivotal effort with legal and gender experts to address gender apartheid in Afghanistan, aiming to effect lasting change in the protection of human rights.

Lauren McCollough

Lauren acts as a strategic advisor and expert to CEP, and is the director of communications at ISE. She brings two decades of communications experience, setting strategic agendas and shaping narratives for global organisations and national institutions. Prior to joining ISE and CEP, Lauren has advised multiple governments and worked at international organisations including Al Jazeera, the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, the UNFCCC Climate Change Conference, the Crimes of War Project, and the Global Forum on Oceans, Coasts and Islands.

Ariadne Papagapitos

Ariadne is strategic advisor to CEP. She is the Impact Director at Lighthouse Reports. She has 15 years of experience building programmes on conflict resolution, governance and human rights in complex contexts for philanthropic institutions and nonprofits. Prior to joining Lighthouse, she was a consultant to foundations working on forced migration, director of the Peacebuilding program at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and Co-Founder and New Markets Director at Localized, a startup social enterprise focused on closing the skills and employment gap for young people in developing markets.

Iavor Rangelov

Iavor Rangelov is an expert advisor at CEP. He is the Co-Founder of the Civic Ecosystems Initiative and Research Fellow at LSE IDEAS, London School of Economics. He has extensive experience providing support and advice to civic actors and initiatives in a range of difficult environments over the past two decades.

Rahela Sidiqi

Rahela Sidiqi, has been at the forefront of the fight for women’s equality and the advancement of rural communities in Afghanistan for over three decades. She is the founding Director of the Rahela Trust for Women’s Education, the President of Omid International and founder of GRAaid. She pioneered several national reform initiatives, including the civil service law, reform methodologies, and structural adjustments.

Additionally, she has been a key governance and reforms advisor in both governmental and international settings. She’s shaped strategic policies, implementation designs, and administrative reforms for organisations like UN-Habitat, DFID, USAID, and OXFAM, among others. Her collaborations extend to 47 ministerial agencies and various private-sector NGOs.