"sisterhood is and should be global"
I’m motivated because I believe that it is unacceptable that women and girls are being held back by their periods, something that is a defining quality of being female. For me, being able to retain their dignity is a basic human right and it should not be a burden on their education or employment opportunities.
Having been to East Africa recently and witnessed the lack of gender sensitive facilities or products, it showed me a glimpse of the reality that women and girls are living.
Why are the issues Irise tackles important and how are you helping to address them?
Whilst many people are aware of the impacts of poverty most people I have spoken to do not realise that women and girls struggle to access sanitary products. It seems that in this day and age there is an expectation that menstruation is not a barrier in any country. To address this, a lot of my time as an Agent of Change has been awareness raising at events, specifically women’s events. By talking to women about a relatable issue and getting them to imagine some of the very real scenarios, they really want to help through donating.
What have been the highs and lows so far?
I don’t have a very wide network of people so having access to donations is a challenge which has meant having to put myself out there and speak to people I don’t know, mostly through networking events, which is not something that I find easy. When beginning this programme I did not take into account how long a process fundraising can be. I found it demotivating at times to not be gaining donations or for event ideas to not work out for example organising a pub quiz and three people showing up. However, I’m proud that I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone and done things that I’ve found difficult, including booking a skydive!
Who inspires you and why?
My biggest inspiration is and always will be my mum. She has worked tirelessly to become company secretary and be one of the biggest assets to her employers as a senior manager, which isn’t bad considering she was once told whilst working in a bank as a young woman she could not be promoted as she wasn’t male. She has taught me the value of female independence, education and caring for others. Basically, she’s the strongest person I know.
Tell us a bit about the skydive- Why are you doing it? How do you feel about it? Why should people sponsor you?
My skydive will take place on 4th April at Hibaldstow in Lincolnshire. It’s a tandem skydive although I’m going up on my own as I couldn’t persuade anyone to jump with me! It’s something I’ve always wanted to do but now it’s so close I’m starting to feel the nerves. I’m jumping to highlight the struggles facing women and girls around the world with something that is a physical challenge to me. People should sponsor me as a way to support their empowerment and help remove unnecessary barriers in their lives, barriers we are lucky enough not to face. After all, sisterhood is and should be global.
If you have been inspired by Jess's story and would like to know more about how our Agents of Change program can support you to make a difference to the lives of marginalised women and girls check out our Get Involved page on our website or email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.