Kathy Peach: A women’s advocate on the move

By Eliza Villarino 12 October 2011

Kathy Peach, head of campaigns and social change at disability charity, Scope. Photo by: Martin Wedlake

Kathy Peach has been lobbying hard for the U.K. government to fund U.N. Women – and her efforts are bearing fruit. On July 5, U.K. aid chief Andrew Mitchell pledged 10 million pounds in annual contribution to the U.N. gender agency for the next two years.

Mitchell’s announcement followed a letter sent by the Gender & Development Network, whose working group on U.N. Women she lead. Peach, who served as VSO U.K.’s head of external affairs until earlier this month, when she became head of campaigns & social change at Scope, is one of today’s most influential development leaders under 40 in London.

Devex is recognizing 40 of these young London-based trailblazers in international development. They are social entrepreneurs, government leaders, development consultants, business innovators, advocates, development researchers, nonprofit executives, philanthropists and investors.

We asked Peach about promoting global development and what issues she wants to tackle next. Here’s what she said:

How has working with volunteers informed the advocacy work you’ve led here in the U.K.?

As a VSO volunteer in Bangladesh, I saw that first-hand exposure to the realities of life in a developing country meant volunteers could be incredibly powerful advocates. This experience encouraged me to create VSO’s parliamentarian volunteering scheme in 2008. Many of the 40 MPs and peers that have volunteered with VSO since count among those who are now most actively engaged on development issues in parliament.

It was also feedback from volunteers that gave me confidence to focus VSO’s campaigning agenda so strongly on women’s rights issues. I’m immensely proud of the role VSO and its supporters played in helping secure the creation of a dedicated UN agency for women and in ensuring significant financial support for it from the UK government.

How has your background in advertising influenced your work at VSO and at the Gender & Development Network?

I soon realised a career in advertising wasn’t for me: While it was a lot of fun, it didn’t exactly deliver on the social justice front. But it did teach me the discipline of making sure you really understand your audience, know how to target them effectively, and can craft a message that will inspire them into action.

I also believe that the experience of developing and managing multi-media campaigns for big brands significantly enhanced my strategic planning skills and gave me a lasting focus on achieving results.

How do you see yourself contributing to women’s issues in the coming years?

I’m absolutely committed to the women’s agenda. I run the networking group Women for Development with Melanie Ward from ActionAid. There are now 150 members who come together informally to learn and support each other.

I’m also active in the Labour party’s international development policy review group. Within this, I’m particularly focused on how DFID can incentivise better delivery for women and ensure that support is provided to tackle the root causes of gender inequality, not just the symptoms.

Read more about the Devex 40 Under 40 International Development Leaders in London.

About the author

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Eliza Villarino

Eliza Villarino currently manages one of today’s leading publications on humanitarian aid, global health and international development, the weekly GDB. At Devex, she has helped grow a global newsroom, with talented journalists from major development hubs such as Washington, D.C, London and Brussels. She regularly writes about innovations in global development.


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