By Ruby Bolaria
UCLA Luskin Student Writer
Growing up as a Mennonite, Carol Jenkins never expected to be an expert in international development. Now she is one of the foremost leaders in that field, having traveled the world and considered a leader for women and humanitarian organizations alike.
In honor of International Women’s month, the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs hosted Jenkins, now the Senior Vice President of World Learning and a UCLA Luskin fellow, on Tuesday. Jenkins has over 20 years of expertise in international development working to empower communities to address issues from HIV and sex workers to food and water security.
International development, particularly the relief work, was really a man’s world, she said. However, she warned against women feeling pressure to “toughen up” and reject proper security and amenities while on aid or relief trips.
“It’s my job now as a leader, as it is yours, to look out for those around you,” Jenkins urged.
She characterized international development work as very human and stressed the importance of engaging with communities to unite them to work effectively. In some ways the issues are similar to things in the U.S – from working with adolescents on how to speak with their parents about sex, to helping people with employment. However, there are also very unique situations that must be handled more delicately, such as talking about surviving war, water shortages and sex trafficking among others.
“The most important thing is to find your own voice and be authentic,” she said.
Jenkins mentioned she grew up in a Mennonite home, which she said was almost Amish. Although her childhood was absent of traveling, politics, television or sports, she credits her upbringing in providing her emotional sensitivity, which she claims is an imperative skill for a career with international development. Jenkins says she was able to understand or relate to things, particularly limitations for women because of her childhood.
Other key skills Jenkins mentioned include emotional intelligence, which she values over technical skills, excellent writing, and project management. International development is a process, she emphasized, as is politics and knowing how to manage that process from start to finish is important.
When asked about particular challenges women face, including child-rearing, Jenkins admitted there were very few women at her professional level, and she lamented that many of her peers were no longer around. More needs to be done, but there has been progress, including more policies that are more inclusive and conducive to working mothers, but now it is about implementing them and encouraging women to take them instead of penalizing those that do, said Jenkins.
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