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Guest Profile

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Rose Caldwell


Plan International UK

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About Rose Caldwell

Global children’s charity Plan International UK has appointed Rose Caldwell as its incoming Chief Executive.


Rose joined the Plan International UK from Concern Worldwide (UK), where she had been Executive Director for 10 years. During her leadership, Rose increased the organisation’s resources available to tackle extreme poverty and brought a focus on hunger and malnutrition to the forefront.


Rose has over 20 years’ experience in senior roles in the not for profit sector, including as the Finance Director of a mental health charity and as Assistant Director for the Refugee Housing Association. A qualified chartered accountant by training, Rose spent the first ten years of her career in the private sector. Her experience as a volunteer with Raleigh International in Zimbabwe and with Concern Worldwide in Burundi in the 1990s ignited a desire and commitment to working to address inequality and poverty.


She is currently on the Board of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) and Chair of Trustees of the International Broadcasting Trust (IBT).


Episode Overview

CEO of Plan International UK, Rose Caldwell, joins Alberto Lidji to discuss children’s rights; equality for girls; and how to build back better post-pandemic


Plan International is a global charity operating in more than 50 countries. It was established in 1937 and strives to ensure the rights of children and equality for girls.  Several decades ago, it established the ‘sponsor a child’ model, which successfully supports the local communities where these children live.


We hear how Plan International engages with a truly broad and global range of partners, from small, local NGOs, to the likes of the LEGO Foundation, Unilever and AstraZeneca.


Rose grew up in a farm in Northern Ireland – one of five children – and didn’t even know what international development was back then. She grew up in a country that was in conflict, and that had an impact on her.  


Northern Ireland at that time was quite inward looking and Rose could never envision as a child that she’d end up travelling the world and running international development endeavours.  She started off in the private sector but once she ventured into the international development world she never looked back.


Rose admits she’s had good luck during her career. Rose never had a great career plan but she broadly knew the direction she wanted to take and knew she wanted to do something she was passionate about and believed in.  She captured the opportunities as they materialised and now finds it truly humbling being in such a leadership role.


Being in London is certainly a departure from her previous postings in the global south, and she very much misses life in the frontlines.  As a CEO in London, you can get a bit removed from what’s happening in the field, which is why visiting their programmes overseas is so very important – and, now with COVID-19, this means watching the videos that come back from the frontlines.


We hear how working in international development requires one to be an optimist.  However, despite feeling optimistic, Rose is indeed concerned.


The impact of COVID-19 on girls is massive: education, child marriage, infant mortality, gender-based violence – the coronavirus pandemic has wide-ranging, negative implications.


Rose notes there are estimates that by 2030, there will be 13 million more girls who find themselves in early forced marriage because of this pandemic. There is the real risk that COVID-19 will roll back the progress that has been made thus far on gender equality and girls rights.  Therefore, it is important for governments around the world to recognise the vulnerably of girls in crisis.


Rose’s key takeaways: (1) This [pandemic] is a global crisis; while the UK has been terribly impacted, we need to realise we won’t solve this crisis until it’s solved all around the world. We need to focus on our interconnectedness and embrace a global outlook. (2) It is vital to raise awareness of the impact this crisis has on girls. The girls of today are the women of tomorrow. We need to be aware and support the voice of girls, and listen to what they have to say; we need to recognise that in a crisis it is girls who carry a greater burden than boys.

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Additional Resources

Rose Caldwell - LinkedIn

Rose Caldwell - Twitter

Plan International UK - Website

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