My dear friend and colleague Jane Hatfield died of ovarian cancer on 22 May.
She was a leading light in HIV, sexual and reproductive rights, leading the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Health until just weeks before her death. Her commitment to social justice was reflected in a life’s work in the voluntary sector.
Jane worked in HIV both in the UK and Africa, at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, and at Breast Cancer Care.
She became the first chief executive of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Health in 2013, modernising and transforming the organisation and building its credibility and influence.
She held a number of voluntary roles, including at Clinks, the criminal justice body in England and Wales, and chair of the Institute of Voluntary Action Research. She mentored and inspired many people working in the voluntary sector.
Jane’s moral compass and commitment to public service was second to none. She was a tireless advocate for women’s rights and LGBT rights, and a constant champion for fairness and those whose voices are often ignored or silenced.
She was never afraid to tread where others feared to, and her sharp intelligence, warmth and wicked sense of humour were a powerful and persuasive combination.
I met Jane in 1998, when she was working as parliamentary officer for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Aids. She was organising a series of parliamentary hearings about HIV/Aids.
Those hearings were everything anyone who worked with Jane would expect.
They were bold, brave and intellectually challenging; they gave a platform for voices that needed to be heard, they were punctiliously planned and – despite the seriousness of the issues – they were fun.
There were several parliamentarians who blushed at the explicitness of some of the evidence. I never saw Jane get flustered as boundaries were pushed with content, but running over time was an absolute no-no!
The report was full of credible, practical recommendations that created real change in the decades that followed.
In 2014/15 I was privileged to work with Jane on a governance review at FSRH.
That was where I learnt the reason Jane made everything seem effortless: because she put in so much effort, planned for all eventualities and gave so much of herself.
She also expected nothing less from those lucky enough to work with and alongside her, as I found out more than once.
Jane was indefatigable, fearless and pragmatic. She was kind, curious and selfless. She embodied integrity, humility and public service.
When faced with a diagnosis of ovarian cancer she got active, she organised, and she got involved in fundraising and awareness until she was no longer able.
She continued as an advocate to the very end of her life: speaking and writing frankly and powerfully about the under-diagnosis of ovarian cancer, especially among LGBT women, about her experiences as a patient, and about dealing with a terminal diagnosis.
Her untimely death leaves a great big Jane-shaped hole, but what she taught by example remains.
She will be best remembered for many things, including an infectious smile that would light up any room, and a determination that literally changed lives.
My love to Jane’s wife, Gali, their children, Saul and Alma, and all who adored her – and whose lives were touched by her.
Simon Blake is chief executive of Mental Health First Aid England