Each week we will be running Q&As with Australian women doing vital humanitarian and aid work. Women you may not have heard of.
This week, we meet Joanna Hayter, the CEO of the International Women’s Development Agency a non-profit organisation which defends women’s human rights in the Asia Pacific region.
1. What does your role entail on a day-to-day basis?
Leading the International Women’s Development Agency as the CEO is a balancing act between purpose, prioritisation and perseverance.
Joanna Hayter, CEO, International Women's Development Agency. Source: Supplied
2. How did you become involved in humanitarian/aid work?
I became politically active as a young woman living in London during the terrifying global escalation of the nuclear arms race. I transitioned from being an anti-nuclear peace campaigner to a pro-human development and justice worker in the late ‘80s. I found myself working as a field officer with Australian Volunteers International in Botswana, Namibia and Swaziland. I had to look up Botswana in my Atlas!
As I grew and learned more, I was to become the Regional Coordinator responsible for 13 African countries. I loved this work: it was enthralling, dangerous and meaningful. Over the next 10 years, I went on to live in Vietnam and Burma, taking on the Country Director roles for international NGOs.
There was no career path to international development – it had to emerge through life’s journey and a commitment to working for a better world, for anyone who could pay you! After working across 4 continents in 28 countries with NGOs, businesses, the UN and governments, I can truly say the involvement has been worth it. Change is possible. The personal is the political.
3. What are the most rewarding/challenging parts of your job?
The greatest reward is being able to demonstrate what lasting change looks like for women and girls as we strive for equality. Sadly, the more we succeed, the more dangerous it has become to be a champion or defender of Women’s Rights. The conservative and fundamentalist backlash from every country is extremely violent.
Joanna at the Asia-Pacific Conference on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment. Source: Supplied
4. In general, do you think Australians are generous givers?
Yes, but both institutions and individuals with wealth could try a bit harder to invest in a sustainable planet.
5. Do you think that the Australian government is currently meeting its global responsibilities in terms of aid?