Newsmaker: The changemaker - Jasmine Whitbread, Chief executive,Save the Children

Georgina Lock

Focused on achieving 'dramatic change' for children worldwide.

When Jasmine Whitbread joined Save the Children as chief executive in November last year, the world was in the midst of sorting out yet another humanitarian disaster.

Her move from the position of international director and deputy director of Oxfam took place in the aftermath of last October's earthquake in Kashmir, which left thousands dead and more than three million homeless.

That meant a rapid changeover for Whitbread, who, having kicked off one emergency response, found herself at the helm of another key player in the relief effort. Three months into the role, she is ready to outline her strategic vision for Save the Children and build on its recent publicity.

Whitbread, whose predecessor Mike Aaronson led the charity for a decade, talks of a period of "massive change". Most significantly, the organisation will now focus on helping the most vulnerable children in four key areas: education, health, freedom from hunger and protection from cruelty and violence.

These will shape the work Save the Children does domestically and with its offices around the world. The focus will shift according to the needs in specific countries, but can be applied to both development and emergencies.

In the UK, however, protecting children from cruelty and violence will be the primary aim. "This is the most focused Save the Children has ever been," says Whitbread.

In most emergencies, more than 50 per cent of those affected are children, but Whitbread says responses are rarely planned with that in mind. She points out that more than 100 million children across the world are out of school, adding that one main reason for this - which often escapes mention - is that about half of them are affected by conflict.

She therefore wants Save the Children to take a leading role in working with other organisations, governments and the media to address the "huge need" for disaster relief for children. "Not enough is being done to address the gaps," she says.

The ball started rolling for change in Aaronson's final year at the charity.

One of the biggest changes instigated before Whitbread joined was a decentralisation of the charity's operations from London towards the countries in which the organisation works.

Whitbread admits to being pleasantly surprised at how much more ambitious the charity has become. "In the coming years, there is both an opportunity and an obligation to change the terms of the debate about what is acceptable for children in the world today, and to galvanise that sense of outrage about facts such as a child dying every three seconds," she says. "People are beginning to say that it doesn't have to be that way."

Whitbread says moving from her more 'hands-on' position at Oxfam to the chief executive's seat felt completely natural and was made easy by the quality of Save the Children's work.

She describes her new employees as a healthy mix of new and old blood who are ambitious to move things forward. "We are beginning to tap into the energy of the people in the organisation to inspire dramatic change," she says.

In the next ten years, Whitbread wants to see the millennium development goals met, a new debate ignited that goes beyond goals she believes only scratch the surface, and the terms of the debate "changed irrevocably" in terms of what is unacceptable for children. "It is about being more ambitious, setting our sights higher, and making the most dramatic change for children possible," she says.

Her passion for campaigning frequently shines through. "I am driven by trying to address injustices in the world," she says. "That's why I'm here."

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