About the author: Louise Jenkins is a Women and Girls Rights Independent Consultant with 10 years’ experience designing and delivering bespoke and innovative training and advocacy projects. Louise specialises in consultations on ending violence against women and girls (VAWG) and achieving gender equality. With excellent communication, research and negotiation skills, Louise has a proven track record of building robust relationships with a wide range of donors, partners and stakeholders both nationally (in the UK) and internationally. Visit LJ Consultancy.

Last week I had the honour of speaking alongside an inspiring panel of fellow feminists in front a wonderfully engaging audience as part of Progressio’s International Women’s Day celebrations.
The event was organised by the fab members of Progressio’s Empower Network – a group of youth volunteers who campaign on a variety of development issues. The aim of the event was to celebrate women and those who had inspired us, alongside a panel discussion on the targets for the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and what this means for women globally.
The evening started with the #Inspiredbyher exhibition where supporters of Progressio had submitted photos and a brief description of women who inspire them. I took some time before we began to take a look and loved seeing such a diverse range of inspiration from women in the communities where volunteers had been working to sisters being the first to graduate in their family – it made me realise how many inspiring women there are in the world and how many there are in my life. From the legendary Mama Jenko, my grandmothers and great grandmother who I was so lucky to know even into adulthood and who taught me so much, certainly my thrifty ways and love of vintage is inspired by my great Nan but so too is the determination, passion and drive for what I do. All the women in my life have, in some way or another, overcome challenges and over the past 33 years they have helped guide me to make the decisions I have, as well as pick me up when those decisions were perhaps not so ‘good’. However, not once judging or turning their back on me but continuing to offer support and inspiration.
This supportive sisterhood was something I felt at the Progressio event, not just from the images I saw but also my fellow panelists and the audience members, all there to share experiences, ask questions and explore the importance of International Women’s Day, the Global Goals and the impact on women and girls globally.
The panelists covered a range of topics within Goal 5 – Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, highlighting their experiences in the area, why we do what we do and what inspires us. My focus was on target 5.2 – Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation. Fellow panelists spoke of the importance of intersectionality within women and girls rights and the target on unpaid care a much needed acknowledgment which historically has been overlooked, ignored and even dismissed by policy makers and societies globally. Following a break to view the exhibition we had a Q+A session with great questions from the audience on issues relating to engaging men and boys to the importance of challenging social norms.
I’d like to say a huge thank you to Ellie and the team at Progressio for inviting me, thank you to my fellow panelists for inspiring me with their words and experiences and the fab audience for coming along, asking informative questions and engaging in the discussions.
The event really captured what International Women’s Day means to me, a moment to celebrate women who have and continue to inspire us as well as raise the challenges women and girls continue to face globally. However, I also believe it’s important to remember this doesn’t stop here, we have 364 other days to keep rising and ensuring all women and girls voices and experiences are not only heard but actively engaged with and included in decision making processes especially those which affect them.