UNA-Women Symposiums

1st Annual United Nations Association (UNA) - Women at UofL Symposium

Ending Child Marriage in Kentucky




The University of Louisville Women’s Center and the United Nations Association (UNA) - Women at UofL are raising awareness of local, national and global issues related to women and gender to educate students and the community. The 1st Annual UNA-Women Symposium will focus on child marriage in Kentucky, child marriage legislation, and the efforts being made to end it at the State and National level. The symposium will be held Tuesday, October 16 with doors opening at 5:30pm and the program beginning at 6pm in the Swain Student Activities Center Ballroom. Registration required to attend. 

The conference agenda includes the following:

  • An overview of child marriage and survivor's journey by Donna Pollard, Founder/Executive Director of Survivor's Corner 
  • A look at child marriage legislation in Kentucky by Sen. Julie Raque Adams, Rep. Joni Jenkins and Gretchen Hunt, Office of Victims Advocacy with KY Office of the Attorney General
  • Efforts towards ending child marriage on the State and National levels from Jeanne Smoot, Senior Council for Public Policy and Strategy with Tahirih Justice Center
  • A resource fair that will feature representatives from various community and campus organizations that provide resources

Admission is free and open to the public but registration is required to guarantee a seat. Refreshments will be provided during 5:50-6pm, but meals are also available for purchase in the Swain Student Activities Center. Paid parking is available in the Floyd Street Garage, Miller lot and on the street in surrounding areas.  

Register Here

To attend the symposium, please register to guarantee a seat!


5:30-6:00pm Registration, Resource Fair, & Refreshments

6:00 - 6:10pm

Welcome & Introductions

Chair, Samantha Mathew


Exploitation of the Married Child: Shattering the Silence

Keynote Speaker: Donna Pollard, Founder of Survivors’ Corner & Member of Kentucky Attorney General’s Survivor’s Council


Kentucky Child Marriage Bill Panel

  • Senator Julie Raque Adams
  • Representative Joni Jenkins
  • Gretchen Hunt, Office of Victims Advocacy in the Kentucky Office of the Attorney General

Exploitation of the Married Child: Shattering the Silence

Jeanne Smoot, Senior Counsel for Public Policy and Strategy at the Tahirih Justice Center


Closing Remarks and Call to Action

Chair, Samantha Mathew

 Donna Pollard, Founder of Survivors’ Corner & Member of Kentucky Attorney General’s Survivor’s Council

Donna Pollard dares to believe in a world where young girls can be free from abuse and exploitation. A native of Kentucky -- a state burdened with thousands of cases of abuse and a history of child marriage -- she is leading the charge for change. Donna successfully advocated for improved legislation in her home state that put an end to child marriage through parental consent. 

As a survivor herself, Donna realizes the need for healing, support and empowerment for past victims. She has founded The Survivors’ Corner, a support group that encourages those ready to share their survival stories. As part of this work, Donna is writing a memoir detailing her personal experience of survival.  Her journey through the trauma of child marriage and exploitation can also be accessed through interviews and articles in Good Housekeeping, Glamour, NPR, Stateline, Fox News, US News and World Report, PBS, the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, and the Louisville Courier-Journal, among many other and even international outlets, such as The Guardian and Daily Mail. She is a frequent panelist, speaker, and trainer, and has given numerous keynote speeches at conferences as well as testimony before legislative committees.   

Donna is a mother of two girls, a business professional, and avid advocate for child welfare.

 Gretchen Hunt, Office of Victims Advocacy in the Kentucky Office of the Attorney General

Gretchen Hunt heads the Office of Victims Advocacy with the KY Office of the Attorney General. She has advocated for the rights of victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and human trafficking for the past 18 years. She was a leader in helping to advocate for passage of Kentucky's Human Trafficking Victims Rights Act and other legislation impacting victims of sexual assault. Her articles on human trafficking have been published in the Kentucky Bar Review and the Journal of Violence, Trauma and Abuse.

She is a past recipient of Leadership Award of the Kentucky Women's Law Enforcement Network and the Liberation Award from Kentucky Rescue and Restore for her work on human trafficking, and was recently awarded Member of the Year by the Women Lawyers Association. In addition to her work with victims, she has taught courses on gender and the law and domestic violence at the University of Louisville and the Brandeis School of Law. She is a graduate of Boston College Law School.

 Representative Joni Jenkins

Joni Jenkins was elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives in 1994 and has represented House District 44 for 12 terms. Rep. Jenkins has chaired the House Licensing and Occupations Committee and the Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.She currently serves on the following committees: Health and Family Services, Judiciary, Economic Development and Workforce Investment, Medicaid Oversight, and the Child Welfare Oversight and Advisory Committee

Nationally, Rep. Jenkins is the President of the National Labor Caucus. She is Co-Chair of the National Conference of State Legislators Health and Human Services Committee.  She has chaired the Southern Legislative Conference’s Health and Public Safety Committee.

Rep. Jenkins has long championed survivors of intimate partner abuse, sexual assault and child abuse and much of her history of successful legislation addresses those issues.  She has been a strong and vocal advocate for working men and women. In 2017, in a highly partisan environment, Rep. Jenkins co-chaired the Adoptions and Foster Care Task Force and in 2018, co-authored and passed historical reforms for the Kentucky Child Welfare system.

Rep. Jenkins is a graduate of the University of Kentucky’s College of Communications (BA).

She lives in Shively, KY with Kalinda, Ruthie B., Bernie and Hillary – 4 very spoiled cats.

 Senator Julie Raque Adams

Senator Julie Raque Adams has served in the Kentucky General Assembly since 2011. She represents the 36th Senatorial District, which encompasses a portion of Jefferson County.

After serving four years in the Kentucky House of Representatives, Adams was elected to the Senate in 2014, and began her term in 2015.

She is the Chair of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, and serves as a member on the Senate Education Committee and the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee. Additionally, Senator Adams serves on the following Statutory committees: Administrative Regulation Review, Government Contract Review, and Medicaid Oversight and Advisory.

Senator Adams is a small business owner.

As a member of the House of Representative, health initiatives were Adams primary focus as she was appointed Vice Chair of the House Health and Welfare Committees.  Adams also was elected to serve on the first Louisville Metro Council in November 2002, and won re-election in 2004.  While on the Council, Adams was involved in many business, tax, and economic development issues.

Senator Adams brought a tremendous amount of governmental experience to City Hall and Frankfort, having previously served as a staff member for U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), as a federal lobbyist for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and as Press Secretary and Campaign Manager for Congresswoman Anne Northup (R-KY).

Senator Adams was born and raised in Louisville. She graduated from St. Margaret Mary Catholic School, Sacred Heart Academy and received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Saint Mary's College, Notre Dame, IN, and a Master of Arts degree from The George Washington University, Washington, D.C.

Active in the community, Sen. Adams attends St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church and currently serves as a board member for the University of Louisville’s McConnell Center, Twisted Pink – a research based non-profit for metastatic breast cancer, and Louisville non-profit and after school program TKO. 

Julie is married to Jim Adams and is the mother of two sons, James and Joseph.

 Jeanne Smoot, Senior Counsel for Public Policy and Strategy at the Tahirih Justice Center

Jeanne Smoot is the Senior Counsel for Public Policy and Strategy at the Tahirih Justice Center, a national, non-profit, legal services and advocacy organization working on behalf of survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and other gender-based violence. Over her 15 years with Tahirih, Jeanne has helped draft and enact new laws to improve protections for women and girls, including Violence Against Women Act provisions to prevent the abuse and exploitation of so-called “mail-order brides,” and historic reforms in several states to end child marriage as part of Tahirih’s innovative Forced Marriage Initiative.

She has been especially honored to partner with incredible survivors-turned-advocates to achieve landmark new laws, including in Kentucky which this year became one of six U.S. states to limit marriage to legal adults. Jeanne was the principal author of Falling Through the Cracks: How Laws Allow Child Marriage to Happen in Today’s America (August 2017), the first comprehensive analysis of provisions in all 50 states and Washington, DC that leave children more vulnerable to forced marriage and other lifelong harm.

She is a frequent presenter and media spokesperson, with recent interviews by CNN, NPR, The Economist, The Louisville Courier Journal, The Houston Chronicle, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, among other outlets. Jeanne holds a JD from Harvard University and a master’s degree from Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

This event is sponsored by: 

For more information, contact the Women's Center, womenctr@louisville.edu or (502)852-8976