Renata Cuk

Nationality: Croatian

Living in: Barcelona, Spain

Senior Program Specialist, Open Society Initiative for Europe (OSIFE)


Renata is a Senior Program Specialist at the Open Society Initiative for Europe (OSIFE). She works on supporting initiatives which create systems that citizens can use to reshape institutional democracy, making it more responsive, transparent, inclusive, and accountable. Within OSIFE, Cuk established the Effective Activism Fellowship that supports individuals exploring new models of citizen participation in institutional decision-making and governance. Since 2017, she is also a gender focal point for OSIFE, promoting gender equality internally and externally, and coordinating OSIFE’s efforts to develop a strong gender perspective in grant making. Recently, she engaged in the work on economic exclusion that focuses on collective actions at community level that can be scaled up to produce systemic policy change, transcending the local scale.

Renata first joined Open Society Foundations in 2011 as a Program Coordinator for the Emergency Fund for Croatia, a fund established in 2009 to address some of the most pressing social and economic issues arising from the financial crisis. Before that, she worked for a Croatian women’s rights organisation BaBe, focusing on gender-based violence, and in particular sexual violence, by fighting stereotypes surrounding victims and advocating for fair trials. In Croatia, she has been involved in different reconciliation initiatives, such as the Women’s Court for countries of former Yugoslavia, initiative started in 2010 to provide space for women’s voices and testimonies on their experience of violence during the war and in post-war period, as well as organised resistance to the violence.

Cuk holds BA and an MA in Sociology and Phonetics from University of Zagreb and an MA in Human Rights and Democracy in South East Europe, a joint degree from University of Sarajevo and University of Bologna.


Personal Statement

My childhood was influenced by the war in former Yugoslavia. Coming from a so called (ethnically) 'mixed marriage', I experienced ‘othering’ based on ethnicity very early in my life and that left a mark. Perhaps that is a reason I always felt strongly about fighting injustice. During my activist years in Croatia, I realised that injustice is gendered, so I became a feminist and fighting for gender justice became essential part of my identity.

However, promoting gender justice made me realise I was missing something, and in order to effectively challenge inequality I needed a more intersectional approach. Understanding roots of inequality means understanding how different systems of oppression interact. Therefore, I see this fellowship as an opportunity to better understand inequality and become more effective in fighting it.

I am especially interested in the issue of economic exclusion and insecurity (e.g. abusive lending, access to quality and affordable services, goods and housing, etc.) and its intersections with gender and race. My aim is to challenge the demonisation of poor people that we so often witness in the media. My more specific goal is to explore how international philanthropy can address this issue and support communities fighting inequalities.