In celebration of International Women's Day, we chat with United Purpose's Development Education Manager about creativity, her career and who inspires her.
Can you start by introducing yourself and telling us a bit about your career journey to date?
Hello! I’m Jo, Development Education Manager at United Purpose, and I wish I’d written this earlier – then perhaps I’d have been more prepared for the thank you speech I just waffled through! I won the International Women’s Day Award for contribution to education and learning in Herefordshire, and I couldn’t be more pleased! I’ve worked in education and international development for six years now – eight if you count my time volunteering with the Red Cross and in Tanzania on an arts and children’s rights project. I’ve been with UP for most of my career, and I can honestly say that there is never a dull day.
What do you love most about your job?
That’s a tough one, as there’s a lot that I love about my job. I’ve long held a belief that education should prepare you for life, not just work, and I get to design and deliver global citizenship projects that help pupils make sense of a complex world and make a positive contribution to it. It’s a dream job! We get creative with clay and learn about clean cook-stoves and energy; send children to investigate and report back from a sustainable future; play water and sanitation games with glitter, giant puzzles and super toilets; and play a food security version of Risk and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. If I had to pick the thing I love most, it would be the anecdotes I hear from teachers about the children and young people we’ve inspired, because they’re the change agents, engineers, policymakers, community activists and leaders of tomorrow – and we need them to re-imagine and recreate the future.
Are there any women who particularly inspire you?
I did have someone famous in mind, but really, the women who inspire me most are ones I’m privileged to be surrounded by and supported by in my life. I’ve met some pretty incredible women, and none of them ever achieved anything by luck. There’s no chance involved in being brilliant – it’s all down to hard work, belief, tenacity and teamwork. They say that women are great collaborators and I wholeheartedly agree. Nothing I've achieved would have been possible without all of the super-women around me who constantly inspire and motivate me. An extra special mention here goes to all of the fantastic women who volunteer with me on our projects. They’ve dedicated their lives to education, mostly as teachers, and I’m in awe of their continued dedication and commitment in their retirement, to help inspire the next generation of global citizens.
On International Women's Day, what is the most important message you want to send out to the children and teenagers you work with?
Keep thinking critically about knowledge and ‘facts’ (especially in the media). Learn to see the world through other people’s eyes. Be empathetic, not apathetic, citizens. Always challenge misconceptions. Think positively about your future. Polish your skills. Use language that is united, not divisive. Reflect on your motivations and be driven for the right reasons. And, most importantly, be inspired to make a positive difference in the world!