Before coming to Southampton, I took a life-changing gap year working in a school in South India. It was my first exposure to extreme poverty – and opportunity – at scale. As a result, I changed my degree choice from Law to Population Studies. This felt right for me as it combined the study of global issues, population and development alongside learning practical skills in statistics and economics.
The passion and professionalism of the academic staff stands out. I also had a fantastic group of friends and made the most of a lot of opportunities, including becoming secretary of the running club, playing the drums in a band and acting in a few theatre group productions.
When I started University I wanted to change the world and end extreme poverty. I still do!
I’ve had the privilege of working with great people to pursue this ambition, particularly with the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the Nike Foundation and now Girl Effect.
I started at DFID working on West Africa. Two weeks in, there was a military coup in Sierra Leone, and I was thrown into working across government with Number 10, the Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence. That experience opened doors for me, and I ended up working with the Secretary of State. After 14 years at DFID I moved to become Vice President and Managing Director at the Nike Foundation. I am now Managing Director of Girl Effect, a new organisation borne out of the Nike Foundation.
Girl Effect is about belief and opportunity. It is about unleashing the potential of over 200 million adolescent girls living in poverty around the world, so that they can lift themselves and those around them out of poverty.
When a girl has self-belief and is supported by her family and community; when she’s empowered with skills, ideas and knowledge; when she has access to services, role models and other girls: when she is visible and vocal – she can demand to stay in school, to get healthcare, and to get married and have children when she chooses.
We work with girls and those around them to create active champions of a world in which she reaches her full potential and the cycle of poverty is broken.
Rooted in a theory of change, Girl Effect’s approach to social norm change uses the latest ideas in media, brands, technology and girl-centred community engagement to challenge discriminatory gender norms and start conversations about how girls are viewed in society.
By connecting with girls in their communities and building confidence in their own potential, we’re changing the way millions of people think, feel and act towards girls.
Figure out what you’re passionate about and then figure out how to make a living out of it. Recognise that ‘career’ is probably an out-of-date concept in the modern economy, and be open to doing different things over time. Be curious and always be learning, network like crazy, and create or seize opportunities. Know and be true to your core values, play to and develop your key strengths and skills.
I’m motivated by the untapped potential of adolescent girls living in unimaginable poverty, and by the opportunity I have to play a part in unleashing that potential, for the benefit of the girls themselves, and the world.