Dr Brigid Inder (centre) at the School of Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Sciences Wall of Fame with her mother Marney Inder (left) and sister Joanne Inder.
Dr Brigid Inder, OBE, a recognised global expert in women’s rights and gender justice issues, has this week been inducted to the School of Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Sciences Wall of Fame.
Dr Inder graduated with a Bachelor of Physical Education in 1987, and in the three decades since has successfully advocated for the inclusion of women’s rights and gender equality within global negotiations and United Nations agreements.
She joins 25 other graduates who have been added to the Wall of Fame, which started in 2003 as the brainchild of benefactor Associate Professor Rex Thomson.
“It’s a beautiful wall and wonderful way to acknowledge the contributions that graduates of the School have made to society across so many areas and career paths,” Dr Inder says.
The Dean of the School of Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Sciences, Professor Chris Button, says over the 71 years since its inception the School has produced many graduates who’ve gone on to make significant contributions to society in all kinds of fields.
“There is surely no better example of the adaptability, curiosity and courage that characterises the School’s graduates than Dr Brigid Inder,” Professor Button says.
Dr Inder co-founded the Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice in 2004, and served as its Executive Director till 2017, during which time it became widely recognised as the preeminent organisation for international criminal law and gender justice in relation to the International Criminal Court.
In 2014, Dr Inder was awarded an Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to women’s rights and international justice, and in the same year received the inaugural Bertha von Suttner Peace Prize.
The critical work the Physical Education alumna has accomplished received further recognition when she was presented with an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from the University of Otago in June this year.
Dr Inder reflects it was her third and fourth form Phys Ed teacher who provided the initial inspiration to study Physical Education as she was such a fantastic role model and mentor.
However by the time Dr Inder finished her degree, it was the whole Otago experience that had shaped her into something else and pointed her in a different direction.
“My final year at Otago was when I had my own awakening to political issues,” she says.
“Participating in the debates being discussed on campus, really informed and moved my general sense of social justice into a more focussed feminist analysis of structural power and inequalities.”
Dr Inder also says that many of the skills she learned while studying, such as analytical, the ability to respond to challenging and new environments, and rapport building, were entirely transferable to the career she ultimately pursued.
“One of the special things about the School is it encouraged my curiosity, it was a safe place to ask questions and explore ideas, and it instilled in the students a sense of confidence and wonder about the world.”
At the completion of her degree, Dr Inder’s first role was as a youth worker at the local YWCA, which was the launching point for a career with involvement in the areas of sexual and reproductive rights, women in armed conflict, HIV/AIDS and the rights of children.
“It hasn’t all been easy but what I have learned is if you can embrace what feels like disappointment and setbacks they can turn out be our greatest teachers,” she says. “Those challenges can fine tune our goals and dreams, redirect us, and teach us perseverance, grit and character.
“Life has a way of shaping us in other directions which can ultimately be more fulfilling and worthwhile than the path we thought we would take.”