In Their Own Words
A majority of Americans across political parties, geographic regions, and faiths support voluntary family planning as a way to help women around the world improve their health and living conditions for themselves and their families. The personal stories by leaders below – including from policymakers, philanthropists, conservationists, media professionals, service providers and others – illustrate just some of the many powerful reasons why this is so.
Babatunde Osotimehin, a Nigerian physician and public health expert, is the Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.
Bill Richardson completed two terms as Governor of New Mexico. During his 15 years as a congressman there, he was a special envoy on many sensitive international missions in North Korea, Iraq, Cuba and Sudan. He served as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, and has been nominated several times for the Nobel Peace Prize. Richardson sought the Democratic nomination for President of the United States in 2008.
Catherine Thomasson, MD is an internal medicine physician and Executive Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility, the largest organization that educates and mobilizes health professionals on the most dire health threats from global environmental concerns to weapons of war.
Cecile Richards is the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and a nationally respected leader in the field of women’s health and reproductive rights in the United States.
Diana Aviv is president and CEO of Independent Sector, the national leadership network for America’s nonprofits, foundations, and corporate giving programs.
Donald Steinberg is president and CEO of World Learning, an international nonprofit organization that provides education, exchange, and development programs in more than 60 countries. Prior to joining World Learning, Steinberg served as deputy administrator at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), where he focused on the Middle East and Africa; organizational reforms under the USAID Forward agenda; the inclusion of women, people with disabilities, LGBT persons, and other marginalized groups into the development arena; and expanded dialogue with development partners.
Frances Beinecke is the president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, which uses law, science and the support of 1.3 million members and online activists to advance comprehensive solutions to today's biggest environmental challenges.
Gladys Kalibbala has worked as a features writer for the New Vision newspaper in Uganda for eight years. She has received two TUMAINI Media Awards recognizing the significant contribution her journalism has made to improving the lives of children in Uganda. TUMAINI is a Swahili word meaning hope. Gladys also earned the Edutainment Africa Award as the best journalist in highlighting issues affecting society through real life stories. Her story was featured in the Participant Media documentary, "Misconception".
Haroon Mokhtarzada, a member of the United Nations Foundation’s Global Entrepreneurs Council, is CEO and Co-Founder of Webs, and Vice President of Digital Products at VistaPrint.
Jena Lee Nardella is the co-founder of Blood:Water Mission, a nonprofit focused on overcoming the HIV/AIDS and water crises in Africa, and her husband James Nardella is the Executive Director of Lwala Community Alliance, a holistic healthcare provider for women and families in rural Kenya. They are proud parents to a newborn baby boy.
Jane Harman served nine terms in Congress before joining the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in 2011 as its first female president and CEO. Prior to serving in Congress, she was a top aide in the United States Senate, Deputy Cabinet Secretary to President Jimmy Carter, Special Counsel to the Department of Defense, and in private law practice.
Jane Wurwand is the co-founder and co-owner of Dermalogica and The International Dermal Institute, which are recognized as game-changing brands within the sphere of professional skin care education. Born and raised in the United Kingdom, Wurwand lives and works in Los Angeles, where she and her husband are parents of two teenage daughters.
Julia Bunting became the ninth president of the Population Council in March 2015. Ms. Bunting is widely known for her path-breaking work on reproductive and maternal health during her 12-year tenure at the UK Department for International Development (DFID), where she oversaw the UK government’s international development policy on HIV and AIDS; maternal, newborn, and child health; sexual and reproductive health and rights; and population. Most recently, she served as a director at the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), where she led the Federation’s Programme and Technical areas.
Julie Smolyansky, a member of the United Nations Foundation’s Global Entrepreneurs Council, is president and CEO of Lifeway Foods Inc., the largest manufacturer of kefir products in the United States.
Katherine Williams is a Global Health Corps fellow based in Kampala, Uganda, where she works to improve health for people living with HIV. She studied public health and social work at Washington University in St. Louis.
Kudakwashe Dube is a Global Health Corps Fellow and Policy and Program Officer at UNAIDS/Together For Girls.
Lorna M. Johnson is a medical midwife, health expert and philanthropist. She started and runs the Advanced Family Care Medical Group in East Los Angeles, along with the non-profit organization Compassion for Teen Life. She is top supporter of President Obama and has been selected for appointment to the Presidential Advisory Committee on Arts. Lorna hosted the African First Ladies while they were in the U.S. for the 2013 African First Ladies Health Summit in Los Angeles.
Laura Turner Seydel is an international environmental advocate and eco-living expert dedicated to creating a healthy and sustainable future for our children. She serves as chairperson of the Captain Planet Foundation.
Maria Liberia-Peters, an educator and Member of Parliament in Curaçao (formerly the Netherlands Antilles), served as prime minister there from 1984 to 1986 and again from 1988 to 1994.
Melinda Gates is Co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where she shapes and approves strategies, reviews results, and sets the overall direction of the organization. While involved in all the organization’s endeavors, Gates’ focus on keeping women and girls in developing countries at the heart of the global health and development agenda is a critical driver of her work at the foundation. Melinda Gates received a bachelor’s degree from Duke and an MBA from Duke’s Fuqua School. After joining Microsoft Corp. in 1987, she helped develop many of Microsoft’s multimedia products. In 1996, Gates retired from her position and since then, has directed her energy toward the nonprofit world.
Mike Hamilton is the former Director of Men's Athletics at the University of Tennessee and the current president of Blood: Water Mission, a non-profit agency based in Nashville that partners with African grassroots organizations to address the HIV/AIDS and water crises there.
Michael Brune has been executive director of the Sierra Club since 2010. During that time, the number of supporters has grown to more than 2 million, and its "Beyond Coal" campaign has been recognized as one of the most effective in environmental history. His book, Coming Clean: Breaking America's Addiction to Oil and Coal (2010), details a plan for a new green economy that will create well-paying jobs, promote environmental justice, and bolster national security.
Nicholas D. Kristof, a columnist for The New York Times since 2001, is a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and has co-authored several books with his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, including Half the Sky: From Oppression to Opportunity for Women Worldwide.
Nikki Silvestri is the Executive Director of Green for All in Oakland, CA. She has worked over the last ten years as an advocate for environmental and social equity for underrepresented populations in food systems, social services, public health, and economic development.
Pat Mitchell is president and CEO of The Paley Center for Media, which leads the discussion about the cultural, creative, and social significance of television, radio, and emerging platforms for the professional community and media-interested public. She was named to Newsweek’s 2011 list of 150 Women Who Shake The World, and in 2012 was named by the Huffington Post one of the most powerful women over 50 and featured in Fast Company’s Special Report, The League of Extraordinary Women.
Senator Pia S. Cayetano stands tall as a champion of women’s rights, health and education. The youngest woman elected in the history of the Philippine Senate, Senator Pia excelled in her first term from 2004 to 2010, and was re-elected to a second term in 2010. She has pushed for the passage of several laws benefiting women, children and the elderly, while also working to improve public health services and make quality education accessible to all. Her recent legislative accomplishments include landmark laws on health, including the Reproductive Health Act (RA 10354), a measure that had languished previously in Congress for over a decade.
Robert Engelman is the former president and a current Senior Fellow at the Worldwatch Institute in Washington, DC, and author of More: Population, Nature, and What Women Want.
Roger-Mark De Souza is a recognized analyst, author, and speaker on reproductive health; population, health and environment linkages; sustainable development; environmental security; and livelihoods. He is Director of Population, Environmental Security and Resilience at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington D.C.
Ruma Bose, a member of the United Nations Foundation’s Global Entrepreneurs Council, is a consultant, serial entrepreneur, investor, philanthropist and author. She co-authored the international bestselling book, “Mother Teresa, CEO”, to leverage the management and leadership principles of Mother Teresa into a set of guiding principles for successful leaders.
Sofia Gruskin directs the Program on Global Health & Human Rights at the University of Southern California Institute for Global Health, and holds appointments as Professor of Preventive Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine and as Professor of Law and Preventive Medicine at the Gould School of Law. A pioneer in global health and human rights, Professor Gruskin was previously at the Harvard School of Public Health's Department of Global Health and Population, where she was an Associate Professor, Director of the Program on International Health and Human Rights, and Co-Director of the Interdepartmental Program on Women, Gender and Health.
Saundra Pelletier is the CEO of Woman Care Global, a global nonprofit organization that improves the lives of women by providing quality, affordable reproductive healthcare products through a sustainable supply chain. She is also CEO of Evofem Inc., a privately held biotechnology company that develops prescription and consumer products in the areas of contraception, feminine care, and the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. She has dedicated her life and career to empowering women and has brought a significant attention to the need for women globally to have access and choice when it comes to reproductive health supplies.
Scott Wallace is Co-Chair of the Wallace Global Fund, a private charitable foundation based in Washington, D.C.
Suzanne Ehlers is president and CEO of Population Action International. She has worked for over 15 years to promote women’s health, rights and empowerment across the globe.
Tara Sonenshine was Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs from April 2012 to July 2013, a task that included outreach to women and girls on behalf of the U.S. government. She is currently a Distinguished Fellow at George Washington University’s School for Media and Public Affairs in Washington, DC.
Thomas J. Coates, PhD, is the Director of the UCLA Program in Global Health, and is the Michael and Sue Steinberg Endowed Professor of Global AIDS Research within the Division of Infectious Diseases at UCLA.
Toyin Saraki is the former First Lady of Kwara State, Nigeria, and Founder-President of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa (WBF Africa), a pan-African maternal health and wellbeing charity.
Vanessa Bradford Kerry is a physician and the director of the program in Global Public Policy and Social Change in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and founder of the non-profit Seed Global Health.