Leaders

World Renowned Leaders 


The Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health is an unprecedented effort to increase momentum at the highest political levels for improved reproductive health. Chaired by former President of Ireland Mary Robinson, these senior leaders from more than a dozen countries believe that expanding access to reproductive health will be a breakthrough strategy for lasting development and prosperity worldwide.



Frederick Torgbor Sai

saiFrederick Torgbor Sai has been recognized the world over for his important contributions to the field of family health. Now known by many as the “grandfather of maternal health,” Fred Sai has brought dedication, passion, wisdom, and patience to a field that has often been little understood or appreciated. Born in Osu, a suburb of Accra, the capital of Ghana, he went on to train in medicine at the Universities of London, Edinburgh, and Harvard. He has received many awards for his efforts, including in 1993 the United Nations Population Award and in 2006 one of his nation’s highest honors, Member of the Star of Ghana. Dr. Sai served as the chairman of the National Population Council of Ghana from 1992-1997. He was the president of International Planned Parenthood Federation and also a senior population advisor at the World Bank from 1985-1990. Dr. Sai is world-renowned for his chairing of various international conferences. He has published extensively, and his most recent book is With Heart and Voice: Fred Sai Remembers, a vivid account of his childhood, and his experiences in the world of reproductive health.

Mary Robinson

robinsonMary Robinson, the first female president of Ireland (1990-1997) and former United Nations high commissioner for Human Rights (1997-2002), has spent most of her life as a human rights advocate. Born in 1944 in Ballina, County Mayo, Ireland, she was educated at the University of Dublin (Trinity College) and Harvard Law School. The recipient of numerous honors and awards throughout the world, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama, Mary is a member of the Elders, former chair of the Council of Women World Leaders, and a member of the Club of Madrid. Currently she is president of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice.

Joyce Banda

bandaJoyce Banda is the president of Malawi. Previously, she served as Malawi’s first female vice president. She was a member of Parliament for the Zomba-Malosa constituency and was minister of Gender, Child Welfare and Community Services, and in 2006 President Bingu wa Mutharika appointed her Malawi’s minister of Foreign Affairs. She was appointed as Malawi’s Goodwill Ambassador for Safe Motherhood in 2009 by the African Union.

Gro Harlem Brundtland

burndtlandGro Harlem Brundtland is a Norwegian politician, diplomat, and physician, and an international leader in sustainable development and public health. Born in Oslo, she was educated as a medical doctor at the University of Oslo, and received a Master of Public Health degree from Harvard University in 1965. She was Norwegian minister for Environmental Affairs from 1974-1979, and became Norway’s first and only female prime minister in 1981, and then again for two terms from 1986 to 1996. In 1983, she was invited to establish and chair the World Commission on Environment and Development, widely referred to as the Brundtland Commission. Brundtland was elected director general of the World Health Organization in 1998. She has served as a special envoy on Climate Change for the UN, and on the UN Secretary General’s High Level Panel on Global Sustainability.

Jan Eliasson

eliasonJan Eliasson is a veteran in the field of foreign relations. From 1980 to 1986, he was part of the United Nations mission mediating the Iran-Iraq War. From 1988 to 1992, he served as Sweden’s permanent representative to the UN in New York, where he also served as the secretary-general’s personal representative on Iran/Iraq. In 1992, he was appointed the first UN under-secretary-general for Humanitarian Affairs. From 1994 to 2000, Eliasson served as Swedish state secretary for Foreign Affairs. From August 2000 to 2005, he was Sweden’s ambassador to the United States. In 2005, he was elected president of the United Nations General Assembly. In 2006, he also served as the Swedish minister of Foreign Affairs. Also that year, he was appointed as UN special envoy to Darfur, Sudan. Eliasson has been a member of the UN Advocate Group for the Millennium Development Goals and Chair of WaterAid Sweden. On July 1, 2012, he took up the position of deputy secretary-general of the United Nations. By that date he also stepped down as a member of the Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health, yet continues to support its mission.

Helen Clark

clarkHelen Clark, a New Zealand politician and administrator, is the head of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the third-highest UN position. She is the first woman to lead the organization. She is also the chair of the United Nations Development Group, a committee consisting of heads of the UN funds, programs, and departments working on development issues. Clark was the thirty-seventh prime minister of New Zealand for three consecutive terms, from 1999 to 2008, and led the Labour Party from 1993 to 2008. Before resigning from Parliament in April 2009, Clark was Labour’s foreign affairs spokeswoman and member of Parliament for the Mount Albert electorate, a position that she had held since 1981.

Regina Benjamin

benjaminRegina Benjamin is the eighteenth surgeon general of the United States Public Health Service. As “America’s Doctor,” she provides the public with the best scientific information available on how to improve their health and the health of the nation. She is the founder and former CEO of the Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic in Alabama, former associate dean of the University of South Alabama College of Medicine in Mobile, and past chair of the Federation of State Medical Boards of the United States. She was the first physician under the age of forty and the first African-American woman to be elected to the American Medical Association Board of Trustees. In 1998, she was the United States recipient of the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights.

Jenny Shipley

shipleyJenny Shipley was the first female prime minister of New Zealand. Born in Southland, she trained as a teacher and joined her husband Burton Shipley in a large farming partnership before becoming involved in local government politics. She stood as a National Party candidate and was elected to the New Zealand Parliament in 1987. During the 1990s, she served as minister of Women’s Affairs, Minister of Health, Social Welfare, State Services, State Owned Enterprises, Transport, and the Accident Compensation Commission, and was a driving force in the economic and social reforms during this period. Elected prime minister in 1997, she guided New Zealand through the “Asian crisis” and back to positive economic growth. She led the New Zealand delegation to the 1995 Beijing United Nations Conference on Women. Since retiring from politics she continues her interest in governance and leadership, heading numerous companies in New Zealand and elsewhere, and is highly involved in women’s leadership, rights, and governance issues. She is vice president of the Club of Madrid, a group of former leaders who promote global democracy and transparent economic development, and is a member of the Council of Women World Leaders.

Annie Lennox

lennoxInternationally renowned and award-winning singer-songwriter, performer, and recording artist, Scottish-born Annie Lennox, OBE, is also a social activist and campaigner. Dedicated to speaking out for women and girls affected by the HIV epidemic, she founded the SING campaign in 2007 as a vehicle to raise awareness and funds. As well as being a UNAIDS global ambassador, she is also a special envoy for the Scottish Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, HIV Ambassador for London, Goodwill Ambassador for Oxfam and the British Red Cross, among others.

Tarja Halonen

halonenTarja Halonen was the eleventh president of Finland and finished her term in March of 2012. The first woman to hold the office, Halonen was previously a member of Parliament since 1979. In addition to her political career, she had a long and extensive career in trade unions and various non-governmental organizations. At the University of Helsinki, she studied law from 1963 to 1968 and was active in student politics. In 1971, she joined the Social Democratic Party and worked as a lawyer in the Central Organization of Finnish Trade Unions until she was elected to Parliament in 1979. Halonen served in the Parliament of Finland for six terms, from 1979 to 2000, representing the constituency of Helsinki. She also had a long career in the city council of Helsinki, serving there from 1977 to 1996. Halonen is a member of the Council of Women World Leaders.

Ted Turner

turnerThroughout his career, Ted Turner has received recognition for his entrepreneurial acumen, sharp business skills, leadership qualities, and his unprecedented philanthropy. In 1997, Turner announced his historic pledge of up to $1 billion to the United Nations Foundation. The organization supports the goals and objectives of the United Nations to promote a more peaceful, prosperous, and just world. UNF has identified four core priorities: women and population; children’s health; the environment; and peace and security. He is chairman of the United Nations Foundation, co-chairman of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, chairman of the Turner Foundation, and co-founder of Ted’s Montana Grill. Turner is also chairman of Turner Enterprises, which manages his business interests, land holdings, and investments, including the oversight of two million acres and 55,000 bison. He is the recipient of numerous honorary degrees, industry awards, and civic honors, including being named Time magazine’s 1991 Man of the Year and Broadcasting and Cable’s Man of the Century in 1999.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

mlamboA teacher by training, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka has a long history of empowering women and ensuring their voices are heard. In 1983, she became the first president of the newly formed Natal Organization of Women (NOW), an affiliate of the leading anti-apartheid political movement in South Africa, the United Democratic Front (UDF). She also had leadership roles in the YWCA and TEAM, a development organization based in Cape Town. In 1994, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka served as a member of Parliament and chairperson of the Public Service and Administration Portfolio Committee. She became the deputy president of South Africa in 2005 until 2008. She was the first woman to hold the position and was the highest ranking woman in the history of South Africa.

Vaira Vike-Freiberga

vikeVaira Vike-Freiberga was president of the Republic of Latvia from 1999 to 2007, the first female president in Eastern Europe. After fleeing her native country at the end of World War II, she spent her childhood in refugee camps in Germany, attended schools in French-administered Morocco, and in 1954 settled in Canada. After obtaining her Ph.D., she worked for many years as a professor of psychology at the University of Montreal and has gained recognition as an interdisciplinary scholar and expert on science policy. In 1998, she returned to Latvia to become the director of the newly founded Latvian Institute. As president of Latvia, she was instrumental in achieving membership in the European Union and NATO for her country. She is a founding member of the Club of Madrid, and has received many awards and medals for her continued work in the international arena in defense of liberty, equality, and social justice.

Maria Otero

oteroMaria Otero was sworn in as United States under secretary of state on August 10, 2009. She oversees and coordinates US foreign policy on a variety of civilian security issues, including democracy and human rights. Otero is currently the highest ranking Hispanic official at the State Department, and the first Latina under secretary in its history. She is the former president and CEO of ACCION International, a pioneer and leader in microfinance working in twenty-five countries. She also serves as the president’s special coordinator for Tibetan Issues. In June 2006, Otero was appointed by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to the UN Advisors Group on Inclusive Financial Sectors. She served on the board of the US Institute of Peace, a position to which she was originally appointed by President Bill Clinton. She is a member of the
Council on Foreign Relations.

Joy Phumaphi

phumaphiJoy Phumaphi began public service in Botswana as a local government auditor. From 1994 to 2003, she went on to serve in Parliament and then became minister for Health in the midst of the country’s AIDS crisis. She later became the assistant director general for the Family and Community Health Department at the World Health Organization and the vice president of the Human Development Network at the World Bank.