Icons & Activists: 50 years of people making change

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Icons& Activists Icons& Activists
50 Years
of people
making change

For 50 years, the world’s icons and activists have made changes touching the lives of millions of women and girls. Today, people are more likely than ever before to enjoy reproductive rights and choices.

It is an extraordinary achievement, an inspiration to us all.

Celebrating the many contributions made is a fitting way to mark the 50th anniversary of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, and the 25th anniversary of the landmark 1994 International Conference on Population and Development.

The people profiled here represent countless valiant others who have likewise made a difference. Many have energized the global movement for sexual and reproductive health and rights. Others are poised to carry it forward—with hope and determination for a future of rights and choices for all.

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© Whitney Curtis/Getty Images
People equal development
 

In 1994, at the United Nations International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), icons and activists from around the world mobilized behind an unprecedented global agreement, the ICPD Programme of Action. For the first time, 179 governments committed to social and economic development that upholds human dignity and empowers people to chart their own futures. The ICPD was the culmination of a global movement to uphold the basic right of all couples and individuals to freely and responsibly make their own decisions about the number and spacing of their children, and to have the information, education and means to do so.

Gita Sen Gita Sen
© Suzanne Camarata

Gita Sen

I think living the life of a woman drives me. I was aware of gender inequality even as a girl, when a lot was about controlling what girls could be and do. Later, when I could see how the structures of power and inequality work in entire societies and economies—well, there was no going back.”

© Suzanne Camarata
Joan Marie Dunlop Joan Marie Dunlop
© Amber de Vos/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Joan Marie Dunlop

The [Cairo] conference showed what is possible when the international community acts with goodwill and integrity to overcome differences.... The Programme of Action leads the way for new approaches to population and development, with women’s health, their empowerment, and rights at the centre.”

© Amber de Vos/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images
Adrienne Germain Adrienne Germain
© Patrick McMullan

Adrienne Germain

[At Cairo,] women, with supportive governments, transformed population policy to focus on the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and adolescents. We changed the paradigm completely to address the realities of their lives.”

© Patrick McMullan
Rachel Kyte Rachel Kyte
© Keld Navntoft/AFP/GettyImages

Rachel Kyte

With technology available, financial innovation possible, funds pledged and smart policy proven to be effective, citizens must mobilize around not just making the case for why act, but around questioning their leaders on. ‘Why are you not acting NOW?’”

© Keld Navntoft/AFP/GettyImages
Dr. Lincoln Chen Dr. Lincoln Chen
© China Medical Board (CMB)

Dr. Lincoln Chen

In periods of excellent philanthropic work… it was the people—the personalities, predilections, experiences, and viewpoints of trustees, staff, and colleagues—that arguably have made the difference. Money cannot create NEW IDEAS, nor, alone, translate ideas into action.”

© China Medical Board (CMB)
Susan Berresford Susan Berresford
© J.T. Miller, Gary Bogdon, Ford Foundation, Susan Davis

Susan Berresford

Ford Foundation

Ultimately, we made a case to support the women’s movement.”

© J.T. Miller, Gary Bogdon, Ford Foundation, Susan Davis
Dr. Mahmoud Fathalla Dr. Mahmoud Fathalla
© FIGO (International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics)

Dr. Mahmoud Fathalla

Improvements in women’s health need more than what the health profession and the health service can offer. They need societal action that has long been overdue to correct injustices to WOMEN.

© FIGO (International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics)
Cheikh Mbacké Cheikh Mbacké
© UNFPA/G. Bassinet

Cheikh Mbacké

Investing in GIRLS AND WOMEN will increase the well-being of entire communities. I have spent much of my professional life uncovering the nuances in telling this evidence-based story.”

© UNFPA/G. Bassinet
Julia Bunting Julia Bunting
© John Healy

Julia Bunting

All women and girls have the right, and must have the means, to decide freely and for themselves if and when to have children. Evidence shows us that when you give women and young people this right, their life chances are transformed.”

© John Healy
Jeff Jordan Jeff Jordan
© PRB

Jeff Jordan

Many of those dedicated to improving the lives and well-being of others are hungry for SOLID EVIDENCE.”

© PRB
Alexandre Kalache Alexandre Kalache
© May Tse/South China Morning Post via Getty Images

Alexandre Kalache

We cannot afford to view older people as a sickly burden rather than a valuable resource. The idea that older people clog up the workplace is misguided. For every three older people still in work, a vacancy opens up for a young worker because of the wealth created.”

© May Tse/South China Morning Post via Getty Images
Ted Turner Ted Turner
© Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Ted Turner

In an interconnected world, our fates and futures are connected.”

© Michael Loccisano/Getty Images
Kathy Calvin Kathy Calvin
© Daniel Hayduk for the UN Foundation

Kathy Calvin

GLOBAL is a unifying bond for people. Once they get outside their own heads and their own communities and see themselves in a broader framework, it really changes their sense of what they can get done.”

© Daniel Hayduk for the UN Foundation
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Our right to health
 

The Programme of Action of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development put individual rights and well-being at the centre of reproductive health, which became the mission of UNFPA. Since then, health-care systems around the world have taken steps to provide more people with the information and services they need to plan their families, give birth safely, avoid or treat sexually transmitted infections, and address infertility and reproductive health cancers. While gaps remain, the stage has been set for further expansion of services: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognizes sexual and reproductive health as essential to equitable development and women’s empowerment.

Carmen Barroso Carmen Barroso
© Derli Barroso

Carmen Barroso

I strongly believe the language of human rights is the language of progressive change today. There is a revolutionary potential in the fundamental notion that every human being simply by virtue of being human, is entitled to certain basic protection.”

© Derli Barroso
Patricia Rodney Patricia Rodney
© UNFPA/Zeriba Media

Patricia Rodney

Health is not just about diet and exercise. It is the nourishment of the body, the mind and the spirit. It includes how we see ourselves as a people. It is our traditions and culture. It includes our confidence and consciousness.”

© UNFPA/Zeriba Media
Dr. Allan Rosenfield Dr. Allan Rosenfield
© Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health

Dr. Allan Rosenfield

The societal disparity between men and women is at the core of the hazards against women’s health, and, in turn, against the well-being of their community. If you EMPOWER WOMEN, it changes not only their role in society but society as a whole.”

© Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health
Dr. Nadine Gasman Dr. Nadine Gasman
© Dr. Nadine Gassman

Dr. Nadine Gasman

We are louder now, both men and women are thinking about [sexual and reproductive health and rights].… I always say, ‘Gender equality and women’s empowerment are very good for women. But also very good for men. They’re good for everyone.’”

© Dr. Nadine Gassman
Rosemary Barber-Madden Rosemary Barber-Madden
© Rosemary Barber-Madden

Rosemary Barber-Madden

I always responded to the needs and wants of PEOPLE more than to top-down directives. And that approach has proved very successful...”

© Rosemary Barber-Madden
Frances Kissling Frances Kissling
© Women’s Learning Partnership

Frances Kissling

My first exposure to the abortion issue was dealing with women who faced what for them were deeply difficult situations in pregnancy, who were suffering very much. And my sympathy always has been for [them].”

© Women’s Learning Partnership
Adjoa Amana Adjoa Amana
© UNFPA/LemaConcepts

Adjoa Amana

At first there was so much stigma and misinformation about [HIV and AIDS]... A huge breakthrough came when I found out Philly Lutaaya, the biggest Ugandan singer at the time, had declared he had AIDS... From then on, AIDS HAD A FACE, [and] many came out to declare their status and volunteered [as] advocates for HIV prevention.”

© UNFPA/LemaConcepts
Dr. Peter Lamptey Dr. Peter Lamptey
© Debbie Mangortey

Dr. Peter Lamptey

[The heart of innovation] is applying new approaches to an existing problem where the current strategies and approaches do not work—bringing in new ideas that change the way we do things, that IMPROVE the way we do things, and also can be scaled up to the rest of the country.”

© Debbie Mangortey
Yolonda Richardson Yolonda Richardson
© Lola Snaps Photography

Yolonda Richardson

Women’s leadership is critical for global development and progress.”

© Lola Snaps Photography
Barbara Klugman Barbara Klugman
© UNFPA/Suzy Bernstein

Barbara Klugman

If you want to move an issue, you need to build out your alliances, and the broader they are, the stronger your voice.”

© UNFPA/Suzy Bernstein
Sivananthi Thanenthiran Sivananthi Thanenthiran
© The Asian-Pacific Resource & Research Centre for Women (ARROW)

Sivananthi Thanenthiran

You only get what you fight for. We need to put our perspectives out there and forge ahead, FEARLESSLY.”

© The Asian-Pacific Resource & Research Centre for Women (ARROW)
Ulrika Karlsson Ulrika Karlsson
© Ulrika Karlsson

Ulrika Karlsson

Sexual and reproductive health and rights are at the core of human rights. If you cannot decide over your own body and life, you have nothing. Therefore, we must never give up this FIGHT.”

© Ulrika Karlsson
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Making motherhood safe
 

IThe share of women who die giving life is smaller than ever before. Yet a global target on reducing maternal deaths has not been met. For many women, basic care during pregnancy and childbirth is still out of reach. And preventable maternal deaths and complications during delivery point to continued health system failures. People from health care, philanthropies, civil society and elsewhere join UNFPA in the drive to make motherhood safe, without exception.

Munira Sha’ban Munira Sha’ban
© UNFPA/A. Shraiteh

Munira Sha’ban

I wanted to be involved in helping two souls: the baby and the mother.”

© UNFPA/A. Shraiteh
Deborah Maine Deborah Maine
© Kalman Zabarsky for Boston University Photography

Deborah Maine

So often we’d go to a hospital and they’d say, ‘We could do a C-section, but the light is broken over the operating table.’ So really, for want of some small things, lives were being lost.”

© Kalman Zabarsky for Boston University Photography
Grace Ebun Delano Grace Ebun Delano
© Association for Reproductive and Family Health (ARFH)

Grace Ebun Delano

My reason for wanting to be a midwife was based on the reproductive history of my family, especially that of my mother, who had infertility for 12 years, wasted pregnancies and high infant mortality… I wanted to contribute to a reduction in infant and maternal mortality by correcting misconceptions, using such tools as education, counselling, and provision of quality maternal and child health services.”

© Association for Reproductive and Family Health (ARFH)
Barbara Kwast Barbara Kwast
© Hamlin Fistula Hospital

Barbara Kwast

When you have looked into the panic-stricken eyes of a woman dying on the labour ward floor, then behind the numbers, there are faces.”

© Hamlin Fistula Hospital
Christy Turlington Christy Turlington
© Karwai Tang/WireImage

Christy Turlington

If we can’t support a woman while she is giving life, then we don’t support women.”

© Karwai Tang/WireImage
Edna Adan Edna Adan
© Edna Adan Hospital Foundation/Sarah Winfield

Edna Adan

If the woman who delivers [the children] has been given some training… women will have a better chance of survival. And that’s my hope, that’s my goal. And if I leave before I do it, I leave that legacy to the world. It’s got to be done.”

© Edna Adan Hospital Foundation/Sarah Winfield
Jill Sheffield Jill Sheffield
© Rahman Roslan/Getty Images

Jill Sheffield

One woman dies in childbirth every 90 seconds somewhere in the world... We know what the solutions are. They’re agreed. They’re affordable. We just have to decide that the lives of GIRLS AND WOMEN ARE IMPORTANT TO SAVE.”

© Rahman Roslan/Getty Images
Katja Iversen Katja Iversen
© Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for Procter & Gamble

Katja Iversen

We need a health system that is READY TO DELIVER FOR WOMEN whenever a woman is ready to deliver.”

© Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for Procter & Gamble
Margaret Mannah-Macarthy Margaret Mannah-Macarthy
© Sulaiman Stephens

Margaret Mannah-Macarthy

Deaths of mothers and babies spiked during the Ebola crisis. It was an eye-opener that showed us the issues facing our health system. Now we are tackling them.”

© Sulaiman Stephens
Dr. Catherine Hamlin Dr. Catherine Hamlin
© Catherine Hamlin Foundation

Dr. Catherine Hamlin

My dream is to eradicate obstetric fistula in Ethiopia. I won’t eradicate it in my lifetime, but you can in yours.”

© Catherine Hamlin Foundation
Dr. Sonia Ehrlich Sachs Dr. Sonia Ehrlich Sachs
© Guillaume Bonn

Dr. Sonia Ehrlich Sachs

Health was declared a human right in 1948. The [Sustainable Development Goals] mandate that we finally deliver on the promise of HEALTH FOR ALL.”

© Guillaume Bonn
Joy Marini Joy Marini
© Wellbeing Foundation

Joy Marini

There are many things that can impact health, such as education, poverty or gender equity. So we’ll work with the government and various partners to help a person not only survive but THRIVE.”

© Wellbeing Foundation
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Everyone has the right to choose
 

Access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable methods of family planning is a human right. All men and women should have information and a range of quality contraceptive options to make the best choices based on their circumstances and responsibilities. The unmet need for family planning has declined dramatically over the past 50 years, as evidenced by slowing fertility rates in much of the world. Still, 232 million women who would like to prevent pregnancy remain without family planning, with adverse consequences for their lives and aspirations.

Cecile Richards Cecile Richards
© Leigh Vogel/FilmMagic

Cecile Richards

Today [in the United States] we’re at a 30-year low for unintended pregnancy, a historic low in teen pregnancy, and the lowest abortion rate since Roe v. Wade. This is one of the biggest public health SUCCESS STORIES of the last century. It didn’t happen on its own—it happened in large part due to better and more affordable access to birth control.”

© Leigh Vogel/FilmMagic
Mechai Viravaidya Mechai Viravaidya
© Peter Charlesworth/LightRocket via Getty Images

Mechai Viravaidya

People are normally embarrassed when you talk about sex generally around the world. But if you can bring humour into it, when they laugh, they forget about the embarrassment.”

© Peter Charlesworth/LightRocket via Getty Images
Dr. Fred Sai Dr. Fred Sai
© Kris Connor/Getty Image

Dr. Fred Sai

If the majority of African women get through their secondary education, I’m sure that family planning will find a place in every home. Let’s get women educated beyond the first seven or so years and we will see a major movement.”

© Kris Connor/Getty Image
Charlotte Ellertson Charlotte Ellertson
© Ibis Reproductive Health

Charlotte Ellertson

Our goal is not to promote oral contraceptives but to remove obstacles that prevent women from using them.”

© Ibis Reproductive Health
Melinda Gates Melinda Gates
© Craig Barritt/Getty Images for The Moth

Melinda Gates

My journey as a public advocate began with family planning…. But I quickly realized…that it’s not enough to speak up for family planning…. I had to speak up for WOMEN.”

© Craig Barritt/Getty Images for The Moth
Margaret Sanger Margaret Sanger
© Bettmann

Margaret Sanger

and other pioneers of family planning

No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body. No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother.”

© Bettmann
Dr. Oladapo A. Ladipo Dr. Oladapo A. Ladipo
© Grace Oguntade

Dr. Oladapo A. Ladipo

Contraception is central to sustainable development! Failure to moderate population growth in developing countries through an effective family planning programme will have adverse effects on health, the economic power of families, education, quality of life and the environment.”

© Grace Oguntade
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Gender equality: nothing less
 

All forms of progress and change hinge on gender equality. Realizing sexual and reproductive health on an equal basis frees people to claim other rights, such as going to school, finding a decent job or having a say in their family and community. Since no country has yet achieved gender equality, UNFPA walks shoulder-to-shoulder with activists on the front lines in the continued struggle to end all forms of gender discrimination, once and for all.

Marie-Angélique Savané Marie-Angélique Savané
© Seyllou/AFP/Getty Images

Marie-Angélique Savané

To change the status of women in the patriarchal system, WE NEED REVOLUTIONS that change the conditions of men and women, hence the concept of gender. You cannot be a FEMINIST without being a militant.”

© Seyllou/AFP/Getty Images
Fawzia Koofi Fawzia Koofi
© Johannes Eisele/AFP/GettyImages

Fawzia Koofi

I want my daughters to be respected as human beings; that’s the country I’m FIGHTING FOR.”

© Johannes Eisele/AFP/GettyImages
Bella Abzug Bella Abzug
© Keith Torrie/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

Bella Abzug

We are bringing women into politics to change the nature of politics, to change the vision, to change the institutions. Women are not wedded to the policies of the past. We didn’t craft them. They didn’t let us.”

© Keith Torrie/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images
Peggy Antrobus Peggy Antrobus
© UNFPA/Brooks LaTouche Photography

Peggy Antrobus

At the UN women’s conferences, women from around the world first encountered each other in a sustained and ever-deepening process...[that] was to nurture and expand this movement in a way that not even its strongest protagonists could have imagined.”

© UNFPA/Brooks LaTouche Photography
Lise-Marie Dejean Lise-Marie Dejean
© UNFPA/M. Bradley

Lise-Marie Dejean

Women are beginning to represent themselves as people with rights. It’s a beautiful gain. When a person is psychologically ready to defend herself as a human being, that’s a big victory. She won’t get lost. She won’t allow anyone to walk over her.”

© UNFPA/M. Bradley
Gloria Steinem Gloria Steinem
© Noam Galai/WireImage

Gloria Steinem

Don’t think about making women fit the world— think about making the world fit WOMEN.”

© Noam Galai/WireImage
Radhika Balakrishnan Radhika Balakrishnan
© Stephanie Seguino

Radhika Balakrishnan

What is the economy for? It’s a very basic question but a very radical one. What we posit is that the economy should be for the realization of rights.”

© Stephanie Seguino
Jocelyn Dow Jocelyn Dow
© Jocelyn Dow

Jocelyn Dow

In a globalizing world, we must ensure that consumers and investors are fully aware of the actions and impacts companies have on women, on families, on the planet.”

© Jocelyn Dow
Margot Wallström Margot Wallström
© Gwenn Dubourthoumieu

Margot Wallström

A feminist foreign policy is an analysis of the world.”

© Gwenn Dubourthoumieu
Teresa C. Younger Teresa C. Younger
© Monica Schipper/Getty Images for Ms. Foundation For Women

Teresa C. Younger

We’re such a small world and such a small community, and yet we feel sometimes so far away from each other. But we have shared stories to tell and we have shared problems to solve, and we can only do that if we take the time to LISTEN to each other.”

© Monica Schipper/Getty Images for Ms. Foundation For Women
Graça Machel Graça Machel
© Stephane De Sakutin/AFP/Getty Images

Graça Machel

Let us give a face and a voice to that GIRL CHILD who has been ignored. When at last she is front and centre of our development efforts, it is she who will CHANGE THE WORLD.“”

© Stephane De Sakutin/AFP/Getty Images
Thelma Awori Thelma Awori
© Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

Thelma Awori

The never-ending discussion on poverty and the disadvantage mentality does not lift our sights to what African women have done to overcome many of these challenges. Looking at these achievements gives dignity and recognition to women, which they so much deserve.”

© Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images
Amina Mama Amina Mama
© Terry Lorant

Amina Mama

Women are weavers: we are very good at making links and building connections.”

© Terry Lorant
Crown Princess Mary of Denmark Crown Princess Mary of Denmark
© Franne Voigt

Crown Princess Mary of Denmark

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. We cannot and must not accept gender-based violence, discrimination or bullying.”

© Franne Voigt
Audrey Mbugua Audrey Mbugua
© UNFPA/B. Onunga

Audrey Mbugua

[Campaigning for transgender rights] has to be done so that people are able to live lives that are full of dignity, where people are not hindered from being who they are.”

© UNFPA/B. Onunga
Joni van de Sand and Laxman Belbase Joni van de Sand and Laxman Belbase
© Tom Hornbrook/MenEngage Global Alliance

Joni van de Sand and Laxman Belbase

We need to mobilize MEN AND BOYS to dismantle patriarchy, while being fully accountable to those most impacted by patriarchy—women, girls, gender non-conforming people, and those on the margins of the margins.”

© Tom Hornbrook/MenEngage Global Alliance
Peter Douglas Weller Peter Douglas Weller
© Necola Meyers

Peter Douglas Weller

For many people the idea of putting resources into working with MEN is anathema; it’s consorting with the enemy. But we stand firm. We keep advocating.”

© Necola Meyers
Feride Acar Feride Acar
© Feride Acar

Feride Acar

Reactionary, populist movements and governments in so many countries…are, once again, openly challenging the values and ideals of civil liberties and gender equality. While I feel justifiably disturbed by these threats, I am in NO way discouraged or disheartened.”

© Feride Acar
Margaret Atwood Margaret Atwood
© Sam Vaudrey/Alamy Stock Photo

Margaret Atwood

We have not seen such a blatant pushback against women for a very long time. Some women are fighting for rights they’ve never had, but others are fighting the threat of removal of such rights. Now is not the time to take anything for granted.”

© Sam Vaudrey/Alamy Stock Photo
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An end to violence
 

Gender-based violence is a violation of human rights that appears in every society and community, flourishing from deeply rooted gender discrimination. Domestic abuse, rape and other sexual violations and sexual harassment are among many forms taking a terrible toll on the health, rights and dignity of people everywhere. Courageous activists are standing up to this scourge.

Marijana Savic Marijana Savic
© Dalibor Stankovic

Marijana Savic

The ultimate solution in combating violence is achieving equality. A successful women’s initiative is not only a gem in this, but also a subversive activity that will bring about change.”

© Dalibor Stankovic
Halima Yakoy Adam Halima Yakoy Adam
© UNFPA/T. Somda

Halima Yakoy Adam

I do not want other girls or boys to fall into the same mistakes as me, and to be embroiled in extremism and violence.”

© UNFPA/T. Somda
Gary Barker Gary Barker
© Juliana Thomas/CGI

Gary Barker

We will not achieve gender equality if we don’t own our role in the process. As men, this means listening more. It means being aware of our power and privilege…and it means turning our good intentions into meaningful, thoughtful and urgent action.”

© Juliana Thomas/CGI
Enkhjargal Davaasuren Enkhjargal Davaasuren
© UNFPA Mongolia

Enkhjargal Davaasuren

In a male-dominated, patriarchal society, women don’t realize how strong they can be. BE STRONG, but more importantly, be collectively strong. Women must work together to achieve social change. The challenges are systemic, the solutions collective.”

© UNFPA Mongolia
Susanne von Bassewitz Susanne von Bassewitz
© Beatrice Svoboda

Susanne von Bassewitz

We believe in making the world a better place by empowering women, and we find joy by working together towards gender equality in a supportive community of like-minded professionals.”

© Beatrice Svoboda
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Young people transforming the world
 

They are the present and the future, already powerful leaders and our best hope for transformative change. UNFPA celebrates the largest generation of young people in history, in all their diversity and possibility. Many were born around or after the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, growing up in a world with both great possibilities and acute risks. They deserve every opportunity to make their own choices, and realize their potential and aspirations for their lives and their world.

Natasha Wang Chibesa Mwansa Natasha Wang Chibesa Mwansa
© Natasha Wang Chibesa Mwansa

Natasha Wang Chibesa Mwansa

We are not going to be beneficiaries any longer. It’s 2019. We need positions of power. We see improvements when young people decide enough is enough and make moves to influence decision-making.”

© Natasha Wang Chibesa Mwansa
Alejandra Teleguario Santizo Alejandra Teleguario Santizo
© UNFPA/M. Leal

Alejandra Teleguario Santizo

Persistence is important, because we will be able to achieve what we want as women. And get involved. That’s where CHANGE begins.”

© UNFPA/M. Leal
Nikoli Edwards Nikoli Edwards
© Let's Connect Secondary School Tour (Trinidad and Tobago)

Nikoli Edwards

As a young male in a society that conveniently considers itself conservative, issues surrounding sexual and reproductive health and rights. I am honoured to be part of a community of persons worldwide who recognize that the conversation must happen, and it is our duty to provide A VOICE.”

© Let's Connect Secondary School Tour (Trinidad and Tobago)
Tania Pariona Tarqui Tania Pariona Tarqui
© Flickr/Neils Oscategui

Tania Pariona Tarqui

The participation of indigenous youth is important in these spaces where the fate of our people is planned and decided. The voice of the youth is important in addressing the issues affecting us, as well as in building alternatives to overcome them.”

© Flickr/Neils Oscategui
Sheshkala Pandey Sheshkala Pandey
© UNFPA/S. Chhetri

Sheshkala Pandey

I encourage [girls] to be bold to withstand all sorts of untoward violence against them. We have to change the society, so why get disturbed by obstacles on our way?””

© UNFPA/S. Chhetri
Nadine Al Haraki Nadine Al Haraki
© Mohammad Al Ahmad

Nadine Al Haraki

In our own community, we know there is a gap in CORRECT INFORMATION AND YOUNG PEOPLE getting the services they need. When people realize they have had the wrong information, and hear the right information and how that can impact their life, it makes a huge CHANGE.”

© Mohammad Al Ahmad
Lebogang Motsumi Lebogang Motsumi
© OneTwo Photography

Lebogang Motsumi

My HIV infection helped me find MY PURPOSE IN LIFE. I realized that I can turn my mess into a message, and use my pain to empower other people.”

© OneTwo Photography
Dany Stolbunov Dany Stolbunov
© UNICEF/Vlasova

Dany Stolbunov

We are the first generation born with HIV who are growing up and can openly speak about it. Nothing for us, without us. We are ready to fight for our rights.”

© UNICEF/Vlasova
Dr. Nikolay Lunchenkov Dr. Nikolay Lunchenkov
© Glen Tokmin

Dr. Nikolay Lunchenkov

Love and don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to take an HIV test. Don’t be afraid to use a condom or ask a partner to use it. Don’t be afraid to seek help from a doctor. Don’t be afraid to seek support from others. And love, regardless of status, sex, age or sexual orientation.”

© Glen Tokmin
Victoria Kanu Victoria Kanu
© UNFPA/S. Stephens

Victoria Kanu

Children are the shoulders that will carry the burden of tomorrow. We are so full of life and our hearts moulded with purity. The skin wrapped upon our fragile bones is an armour stronger than a gladiator shield.”

© UNFPA/S. Stephens
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Human beings, human rights
 

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and human rights. In 1968, the international community agreed that couples and individuals have a right to plan their families. Twenty-six years later, at the International Conference on Population and Development, 179 countries agreed that only by realizing rights, universally, can we end inequalities and achieve inclusive, sustainable development. Today, everything that UNFPA does is aimed at upholding rights.

Aminata Touré Aminata Touré
© Horacio Villalobos#Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

Aminata Touré

We are all one race with the same aspirations. Everywhere you go people want to live decent lives. They want to express themselves. They want to participate. They want to have health. They want their kids to have a better future.”

© Horacio Villalobos#Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images
Michelle Bachelet Michelle Bachelet
© UN Photo/Violaine Martin

Michelle Bachelet

Human rights are a powerful medicine, which heals wounds and develops resilience.”

© UN Photo/Violaine Martin
Pregs Govender Pregs Govender
© Adrian Steirn and 21 Icons

Pregs Govender

I want every child, every person in our world to have the freedom and the safety to walk wherever they want to walk, to be with whomever they want, and to fulfil their full human potential.”

© Adrian Steirn and 21 Icons
Abia Akram Abia Akram
© Muhammad Imran Karim Khattak/Redon Films

Abia Akram

For women with disabilities, don’t underestimate yourselves. Feel your disability as your strength. Educate yourself about your rights, and if your country doesn’t uphold your rights, fight for them.”

© Muhammad Imran Karim Khattak/Redon Films
Stephanie Ortoleva Stephanie Ortoleva
© Ford Foundation

Stephanie Ortoleva

Our movement is holding governments accountable on legislation, policy development and implementation, and political processes that are inclusive of women and girls with disabilities and our organizations.”

© Ford Foundation
Ana Peláez Narváez Ana Peláez Narváez
© Juan Pagola Manterola

Ana Peláez Narváez

I want to bring a disabilities perspective into the whole agenda of the CEDAW Committee, making women with disability visible in every single piece of work, not just a mention from time to time.”

© Juan Pagola Manterola
Victoria Tauli-Corpuz Victoria Tauli-Corpuz
© Jay Directo/AFP/Getty Images

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz

Most governments are still prioritizing large-scale development and infrastructure that bring more revenue. But the dominant economic paradigms are at odds with the rights of indigenous peoples.”

© Jay Directo/AFP/Getty Images
Tsitsina Xavante Tsitsina Xavante
© UNFPA/G. Bello

Tsitsina Xavante

What encourages me most is knowing older people who support my contribution to helping uphold our rights. An elder told me recently: ‘It doesn’t matter what they say about you because the essence of life is the wisdom of women.’”

© UNFPA/G. Bello
Nadežda Satarić Nadežda Satarić
© Matija Kokovic

Nadežda Satarić

It is very important… to have a socially responsible State that respects the rights of vulnerable individuals and groups.”

© Matija Kokovic
Marian Jacobs Marian Jacobs
© UNFPA/S. Bernstein

Marian Jacobs

[The] challenge is ensuring that children’s rights are not only vested in the State, but in all of us.”

© UNFPA/S. Bernstein
Xiomara Corpeño Xiomara Corpeño
© Araya Diaz/WireImage

Xiomara Corpeño

The story of migration is as old as time, whether it be within country borders or beyond. People are…being kicked off their land. They have no opportunities, so they are migrating, and that’s a human right.”

© Araya Diaz/WireImage
Fatma Alloo Fatma Alloo
© Ismail Ali

Fatma Alloo

TAMWA came into existence through our own histories of pain, and the realization that unless we got together and did something, nothing would change in a patriarchal system.”

© Ismail Ali
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The integrity of my body
 

Every woman and girl has the right to health and the integrity of her body. Yet many harmful practices violate these rights and cause great suffering. The International Conference on Population and Development’s call to governments and communities to stop unnecessary and dangerous practices marked a turning point in prioritizing women’s rights. UNFPA and civil society organizations around the world champion the right of women and girls to make choices about their bodies, and to live free from violations such as female genital mutilation and child marriage.

Dr. Nahid Toubia Dr. Nahid Toubia
© Dr. Nahid Toubia

Dr. Nahid Toubia

NO ethical defence can be made for preserving a cultural practice that damages women’s health and interferes with their sexuality.”

© Dr. Nahid Toubia
Bogaletch Gebre Bogaletch Gebre
© Martin Dixon

Bogaletch Gebre

I was subjected to female genital mutilation when I was 12 years old, as were my sisters, and one of them died in childbirth as a result. So my question in life has become, ‘How can I [stop] that cycle of abusive life and the violence women are forced to bear?’””

© Martin Dixon
Zeinabou Moussa Zeinabou Moussa
© Jillian Keenan

Zeinabou Moussa

I want to marry someone who will treat me properly.”

© Jillian Keenan
Laura J. Lederer Laura J. Lederer
© UNFPA/D. Baratz

Laura J. Lederer

It’s so important to hear from survivors what they’ve been through because the harm of trafficking happens behind closed doors, in back alley brothels, out in fields, in construction areas. Places we don’t see it. And so we need the survivors to tell us what has happened, to make the harm visible…because they know the hell of it.”

© UNFPA/D. Baratz
Dr. Denis Mukwege Dr. Denis Mukwege
© Sven Torfinn/Panos Pictures

Dr. Denis Mukwege

[This Nobel Peace Prize] is an inspiration because it shows that the world is actually paying attention to the tragedy of rape and sexual violence, and that the women and children who have suffered for too long are not being ignored.”

© Sven Torfinn/Panos Pictures
Nadia Murad Basee Taha Nadia Murad Basee Taha
© Handout/Mike Lawrence/Getty Images for Gates Archive

Nadia Murad Basee Taha

I want to be the LAST GIRL in the world with a story like mine.”

© Handout/Mike Lawrence/Getty Images for Gates Archive
Christiane Amanpour Christiane Amanpour
© A. Abbas/Magnum Photos

Christiane Amanpour

[Women and girls all over the world] absolutely wanted TO HAVE CONTROL OVER THEIR BODIES, over their own sexual satisfaction, over who were their partners, who they could choose or not choose…””

© A. Abbas/Magnum Photos
Jocelyn DeJong Jocelyn DeJong
© UNFPA/Postray, Beirut

Jocelyn DeJong

Affirmation of women’s rights —to bodily integrity, security of person, to sexual relations free of coercion— are deeply embedded in the final Programme of Action.”

© UNFPA/Postray, Beirut
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Reproductive justice for all
 

The 50 years since the founding of UNFPA and the 25 years since the International Conference on Population and Development have seen the endorsement of reproductive rights and their increasing integration into laws and practices. Yet reproductive rights and choices remain under threat. Reproductive justice takes an active stand on not just defining rights, but claiming them in everyday life, for everyone. It links social, political, economic and reproductive rights, calling, for instance, for equal access to family planning services as well as the decent work that provides the time and resources to access those services. In short, it is about real choices for making real change.

Alma Odette Chacón Alma Odette Chacón
© UNFPA/Rizzo Producciones

Alma Odette Chacón

I see the impact of our work in Guatemala, especially with indigenous women. The difference is that women now clearly know they have rights and they should be able to decide what goes on with their bodies.”

© UNFPA/Rizzo Producciones
Byllye Yvonne Avery Byllye Yvonne Avery
© Marilyn Humphries

Byllye Yvonne Avery

Once you can get the emotional stuff straight, then you can start talking about the body. Because if I’m worrying about someone coming home and beating me, I’m hardly thinking about I haven’t had a Pap smear in five years. Our message to women: Put yourself first.”

© Marilyn Humphries
Catherine Noone Catherine Noone
© Kieran Harnett

Catherine Noone

The work [to repeal the amendment making abortion illegal] was never about one side or the other. It was about women’s health and how best to ensure swift and safe support in sensitive and difficult cases.”

© Kieran Harnett
Leila Hessini Leila Hessini
© David Hawxhurst/Woodrow Wilson Center 2010

Leila Hessini

Power doesn’t give up power. You have to advocate and fight for it. That’s why funding social movements matters.”

© David Hawxhurst/Woodrow Wilson Center 2010
Loretta J. Ross Loretta J. Ross
© Loretta J. Ross

Loretta J. Ross

Tell your truth and you’ll get amazing results.”

© Loretta J. Ross
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Ashley Judd Ashley Judd
© UNFPA/L. Anders Brown

Ashley Judd

Ashley Judd, author, humanitarian and actor, made a name for herself in Hollywood. But her talents and dedication go far beyond the screen. Increasingly her time and efforts have gone to addressing social injustices, especially those committed against women.

© UNFPA/L. Anders Brown
Catarina Furtado Catarina Furtado
© Ricardo Freitas

Catarina Furtado

Catarina Furtado is one of the most well-known television personalities in Portugal as well as an activist, writer, TV documentary maker and advocate. She has been especially effective in addressing women’s and young people’s issues, rights and sustainable development in Portugal, in Portuguese-speaking countries in Africa, as well as in diaspora communities in her own country.

© Ricardo Freitas
Her Majesty Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck, Queen Mother of Bhutan Her Majesty Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck, Queen Mother of Bhutan
© Office of Her Majesty Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck, Queen Mother of Bhutan

Her Majesty Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck, Queen Mother of Bhutan

For over two decades, Her Majesty Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck, Queen Mother of Bhutan has been travelling to the furthest corners of the country, campaigning for the rights of women and young people, ensuring that access and choices belong equally to every individual.

© Office of Her Majesty Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck, Queen Mother of Bhutan
Princess Basma Bint Talal Princess Basma Bint Talal
© ILO/Abdel Hameed Al Nasier

Princess Basma Bint Talal

In Jordan, the name of Princess Basma Bint Talal is practically synonymous with sustainable human development, especially projects that promote the well-being of women and children.

© ILO/Abdel Hameed Al Nasier
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