The staff and Board of the International Women’s Health Coalition mourn the death of their beloved friend and colleague, Joan Dunlop. Joan passed away peacefully on June 29, 2012 at home in Connecticut, surrounded by friends and family, after a final battle with cancer.
“Joan inspired countless numbers of people in her lifelong fight for the rights of women and girls. Her endless energy, courage and extraordinary wisdom made her a force to be reckoned with as she secured significant and progressive victories for the sexual and reproductive health of women. Through her warm and endearing personality she was universally respected and loved by all who had the privilege of working with her. She will be sorely missed, but at the same time happily remembered for the exceptional contribution she made to improving the lives of women and girls around the world,” noted Brian Brink, the Chair of the Board of the Coalition.
Françoise Girard, the President of the International Women’s Health Coalition, will remember “Joan’s unwavering commitment to women and girls, her savvy, vision, determination, dignity, grace… and wicked sense of humor. When Joan came in to ask for your support, you just had to say yes. I and the staff of IWHC will honor and carry on Joan’s important legacy. I will miss her greatly as a friend, adviser and supporter.”
Joan Dunlop was the first President of the International Women’s Health Coalition, from 1984 to 1998. She inherited what was then a small organization funding scattered abortion training and health service projects in a few countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, with $17,000 in the bank against a budget of $250,000, and a staff of three. When asked why she left her high-visibility work in Vartan Gregorian’s office at the New York Public Library to take this job, Joan recalled: “I was furious about the Reagan Administration’s policy on abortion…. It was time to get into the trenches.” With promises of funding from the Hewlett and Ford foundations, Joan took the plunge.
Joan was responsible for shaping IWHC’s mission and laying the foundation for the Coalition’s work. A year after she took over, she hired Adrienne Germain as Vice-President. Joan extended IWHC’s reach and visibility and shaped its crucial role in global policy development over her 14 years as President. By the time Joan stepped down, IWHC was playing a leading role in influencing government and UN agency policies to ensure that women’s human rights were at the core of population policies. IWHC had helped mobilize women’s health and rights advocates from around the world at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development and the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women. It was funding and providing technical support to dozens of women’s groups working as service providers and advocates in Asia, Latin America and Africa. IWHC proudly continues this pioneering and essential work today, 28 years on.