Access to family planning – the ability to choose whether to have children, when and how many – has an impact on a multitude of issues, including poverty, education and maternal mortality. When women can space out their children, they are less likely to die in childbirth, and their families have more opportunities to make a living and send their children to school. But there are currently 225 million women without access to reliable family planning services, most of them in developing countries.
As part of our “Experts to Watch” series, we highlight nine people – from veterans to youth leaders – who are working to help bring family planning services to the women who need them, using research, policy and interventions to advance the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) of women and girls worldwide.
Robin Gorna is a co-lead of the She Decides movement that launched after President Donald Trump’s reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule, which blocks U.S. funding to any foreign organization that offers abortion services or advice. Her advocacy work focuses on SRHR, particularly in regard to women, children and adolescents. Previously, she was head of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health, and before that she established the Global AIDS Policy Team for the U.K. government’s Department for International Development. She then served as that department’s senior health and AIDS adviser in Southern Africa. She is on Twitter @RobinGorna.
Dr. Mojisola Odeku is portfolio director of the Nigerian Urban Reproductive Health Initiative 2 (NURHI 2), which aims to eliminate supply and demand barriers to contraceptive use and promote family planning in Nigeria. A veteran public health physician with about 30 years of experience, she was previously head of the reproductive health program in the Federal Ministry of Health, where she focused on safe motherhood; family planning, including contraceptive logistic management; adolescent reproductive health; and gender issues. She was also director of NURHI 1, the success of which led to NURHI 2 with the goal of scaling up the interventions.
Beth Schlachter is executive director of Family Planning 2020, where she monitors and reports on global and country progress in meeting the movement’s goals to enable an additional 120 million women and girls to access contraceptive information, services and supplies by 2020. Prior to joining FP2020, she worked for over 15 years as a career foreign affairs officer for the U.S. government. Most recently, she was senior population policy adviser in the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration at the U.S. Department of State, during which time she coordinated the U.S. government’s participation in a global 20-year review of the International Conference on Population and Development. She is on Twitter @BethFP2020.
Dr. Tara Sullivan is project director for the K4Health Project, a knowledge-sharing project that aims to connect health program managers and service providers around the world to improve family planning and reproductive health services in low- and middle-income countries. She is also director of Knowledge Management Programs at Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs, and assistant scientist in the Department of Health, Behavior and Society at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. Her research examines knowledge needs in health systems worldwide and factors that influence the provision of quality of care in international family planning and reproductive health programs. She is on Twitter @taramsullivan40.
Georgia Arnold is the senior vice president of social responsibility for MTV Networks International, as well as executive director and founder of the MTV Staying Alive Foundation, which provides funding and training to youth-led HIV prevention projects. To date, it has donated more than $6 million to more than 200 HIV-focused organizations in over 70 countries worldwide. She is also executive producer of MTV Shuga, a TV series that focuses on the lives of young African millennials. MTV recently announced it will bring two new localized versions of the show to India and Egypt, with a heavy emphasis on family planning and contraception, as well as two new seasons in Nigeria, where it will look at issues concerning sexual health education and gender-based violence. She is on Twitter @georgiaarnold.
Dr. Jessica Kakesa is a reproductive health coordinator at the International Rescue Committee focusing on the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Having witnessed first-hand the suffering of displaced women and children, as well as losing members of her own family due to health reasons she says stemmed from not being allowed to choose a family planning method, she now works to expand free access to comprehensive family planning across the eastern region of DRC, parts of which suffer from the highest rates of maternal mortality in the country. After several free clinics were set up in Tanganyika Province last year, 400 new clients were reached in June alone. You can follow IRC and the work of its reproductive health workers on Twitter @IRC.
Sandra Krause is director of the Reproductive Health Program at the Women’s Refugee Commission. She has worked on international health and advocacy research for over 20 years in countries such as Thailand, Haiti, Colombia and Croatia, as well as numerous countries in sub-Saharan Africa. As an expert on family planning in humanitarian settings, she has established health programs for refugees and internally displaced persons in Somalia, Sudan and Malawi, where she was a WRC country director. She is also a registered nurse with a master’s degree in public health administration. You can find her on Twitter @SandraWRC.
Martha Brady is head of PATH’s Reproductive Health Program, where she focuses on both family planning and reproductive rights issues. Previously, she was director of the Expanding Contraceptive Choice Program at the Population Council, where she worked on facilitating access to contraceptive products in public- and private-sector markets, and providing access to prevention technologies, which deliver a combination of HIV or STD-prevention and contraception. She also has extensive experience on adolescent health and development and holds a master’s degree in nutrition and public health from Columbia University. Follow her work at PATH on Twitter @PATHTweets.
Génesis Luigi is a Women Deliver Young Leader and coordinator of the Youth Network at International Planned Parenthood Federation, Western Hemisphere Region. While a student at the Central University of Venezuela, she conducted research on sexuality and intellectual disability. She began volunteering at PLAFAM after her own negative experience with sex education that she felt presented sex as shameful, and began a video blog called “La Pastilla” – The Pill – that focused on gender and sexuality issues. She currently works to connect youth from throughout the Americas and the Caribbean to share best practices among youth advocates and to highlight the work they are doing for SRHR in their communities. She is on Twitter @Gene_Luigi. For more young leaders in family planning, explore the annual 120 Under 40 nominees list.