Alumnus of the Year 2017: Ms Jane Hobson 

Jane Hobson is a Senior Social Development Adviser at the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DFID), and in 2015 she was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

As a student at Clare, Jane read Geography and had a vague idea that she would like to be an urban planner after she left university. After initial work as a temp in London, she took up a four month placement in Pune in India working for a very small local organisation called Shelter Associates working with communities in some of the poorest areas of the city. These four months turned into three years, with a gap in between in which Jane returned to the UK to study for a master’s degree.

Jane subsequently joined the Department for International Development (DFID) on their young professional’s training programme and suddenly found herself one of two and a half thousand employees instead of ten. Needless to say, the transition was rather a shock to the system, but Jane has enjoyed the varied roles she took on there.

During her time at DFID – nearly 15 years now – Jane’s work has included urban poverty, social exclusion, fragile states, and ending female genital mutilation (FGM). She worked for a couple of years in Sierra Leone, which is a very beautiful country despite the bad press it often receives, and in 2014 she worked on the Girl Summit which aimed to accelerate efforts to end FGM and child and forced marriage.

Currently Jane’s work focus is on sexual and reproductive health and rights, with an emphasis on increasing women’s access to family planning. She works alongside health professionals and brings a social science perspective to these areas, which is really important as there is always a social and political aspect of matters relating to sex, pregnancy and having children.

Her final message to the undergraduates was that studying here has given them the freedom to make choices, and that they should use this freedom and these choices to put their time, their effort, and their energy into work that they find personally interesting and exciting and meaningful.

You can listen to a recording of her speech below or, if you'd rather, you can read a transcript of the speech.