Pembroke Street meets Helen Jennings


Pembroke is never left wanting for impressive students. Even though juggling a Cambridge degree in itself is not a joke, Pembroke consistently manages to produce over-achievers who go out and take Cambridge, and the rest of the world, by storm.

This is the first in our series of speaking to Pembroke students doing genuinely interesting things. Helen Jennings is a second-year law student, and is currently organising her own academic conference entitled, “The Development of Abortion Rights in a Changing Europe,” which has already been featured in a Varsity video and in TCS. She’s also a keen thesp, with a run at the Edinburgh Fringe last summer, and is a former JPC vice-president.

She describes the conference as touching on “one of the foremost human rights issues facing citizens of the United Kingdom and Ireland today” - “the provision of abortion services for women, including the extent to which one can consider abortion a ‘right’.” She adds that “ the conference will be entirely focused on the legal frameworks in place, their interaction with human rights law, and the potential of recent legal and political developments and litigation to change the law.”

Jennings also wanted to make it clear that the conference “will not be a propagandist or partisan rally - issues will be dealt with openly, conversation and debate will be sparked and hopefully both our audiences and speakers will come away having heard new and insightful perspectives.”

Diversity among participants appears to be a key theme for Jennings, as the conference will “welcome paper submissions and [have] panel spaces open to both ‘pro-choice’ and ‘pro-life’ lawyers, academics, and postgraduate researchers.’

“We take this even-handed perspective as integral to the conference’s organisation. We do not want to live in an echo-chamber of opinions; such conditions are not conducive to expansive thought in any academic field.

She adds that what unites those on her team “of differing opinions within the abortion conversation” is “the desire to generate constructive debate and new academic content on this issue.”

Helen also acts as a student trustee on CUSU’s board, is general editor of the Cambridge Law Review, and is a legal researcher for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. She cites this as her proudest accomplishment at Cambridge beyond the conference, saying “it’s exciting to do work which can really make a difference in the wider world, which is also what we’re trying to achieve with the conference.”

Support for the conference has also come from within college, with Jennings remarking: “Pembroke has helped me every step of the way with this venture.

“This began with my first meeting with my DoS, Nick McBride, who has always been generous with his advice, and has culminated in the Pembroke Development Office helping us to host our crowdfunding campaign for the conference on Pembroke’s Hubbub Page.

“Emily Johnson in the Development Office is a true hero, whose input and support has been invaluable to this project.”

What Helen has on her plate sounds like enough to exhaust any Cantab, but she says she manages it all “with a ridiculous scheduling system and lots of support from my wonderful team, friends, and family.”

And of course we had to ask, what’s her favourite thing about Pembroke? “The people, of course!”