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Tanya Barron profile picture

If I ruled the world for the day, I would wave my magic wand and I would make it so that girls and boys were truly, equally valued.

I’ve been Plan International UK’s CEO for around four years. The Because I am a Girl campaign was inspiring to see from the outside, so when the CEO position came up I decided it would be an amazing opportunity to work on one of the most distinguishing campaigns any charity has.

I have worked in international development for most of my career. For my first job at the Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), I was sent to Sierra Leone and fell in love with the country. I then worked for the European Children’s Trust and spent years trying to rectify the orphanage problem in Eastern Europe, working with governments to set up fostering for the many orphaned children. I was then appointed International Director at Leonard Cheshire Disability and spent eight years there before joining Plan International UK. Throughout my career I’ve been lucky to work with fantastic people and organisations, and to have my achievements rewarded with an OBE from the Queen earlier this year was truly an honour.

From the Queen to pig breeders in Zambia, the people I meet along the way are what make my role so interesting.

My favourite memory was a visit to see said pig breeder, Rafael, and other young people who were benefitting from the Banking on Change project – our six-year programme with Barclays bank. It was a very good partnership – young people were able to invest in saving schemes, which then paid out loans so that they could set up companies.

The young people really made me laugh, especially Rafael. His first pig breeding endeavour was a disaster – his piglets were eaten by wild animals – but he was so optimistic about the future because he knew he could start again and that the loan system would support him.

His optimism and hope was so inspiring and the visit showed that we had founded a great project that was really making a difference in local communities.

Of course, there have been disappointments and low points along the way. One of those was seeing the devastation first-hand that the 2015 earthquake caused in Nepal. I was in a meeting when the building started to rock from side to side and it was truly frightening. I was lucky to get out unscathed as I was far from the epicentre. I then spent a few days helping with the immediate relief – but it was terrible to see so many families who had lost everything in villages that had been destroyed, some of which were almost unreachable due to damaged roads.

Our work in Nepal is still going strong and we’ve been key in helping the country build back better, making schools and other structures as strong as possible. It’s this experience and the work Plan International UK does in the aftermath that make me extremely proud to work here.

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