Surrounded by photos of IWHC’s partners, 30 women and men gathered in the beautiful and cozy living room of Kate Gellert, Secretary of IWHC’s Board of Directors, on November 18th, 2014 for a reception to launch a new network—Friends of IWHC. They enjoyed food, wine, conversation, and hearing about the work of IWHC and how they could get involved.

During the brief remarks, Oshadi Kelly, IWHC’s Development Officer, welcomed the group and spoke about the vision for Friends of IWHC.

To explain the difficult challenges that women and girls around the world face in their lives, and the strategies that IWHC’s partners in developing countries are using to support them, Caroline Cotter, IWHC’s Senior Development Officer, shared the story of Danedjo Hadidja, founder of Association pour la Promotion de l’Autonomie et des Droits de la Jeune Fille/Femme (APAD) in Cameroon. APAD was founded and led by women who survived or escaped child marriage, including Danedjo, who avoided marriage to a man almost three times her age. With IWHC’s support, they empower other survivors with information about their health and marketable skills, as well as educate traditional leaders and parents about the harms of child marriage.

The Friends also had a chance to hear from Kate about her path to becoming a generous supporter and board member of IWHC. Gender equality was not always an area of focus for Kate, but when a friend invited her to an event to learn about IWHC, she decided to get more involved in women’s and girls’ issues. She began to attend more IWHC meetings and events and in 2008 was appointed as a member of the Board of Directors and has been the Treasurer since 2013.

Kate stood as a role model for the Friends in the room, as a woman who is succeeding professionally and making significant contributions to causes she cares about. Her inspiring story spoke about the process of defining oneself as an advocate and supporter of women’s rights and where it can lead.

A number of smart, dedicated women from Deloitte, LLP shared pro bono their expertise as consultants and their passion for women’s and girls’ health and rights to help conceptualize and form Friends of IWHC. With their guidance and facilitation, IWHC conducted brainstorming sessions and focus groups, which were essential for furthering our understanding of how mid-career women and men who are interested in global women’s and girls’ rights would want to engage with IWHC.

Friends of IWHC is a network of like-minded and diverse women and men who want to learn, advise, and advocate in support of IWHC’s mission to advance the health and rights of women and girls globally. Learn more about Friends of IWHC..