Each year the United Nations Population Award recognizes the work of an individual and an institution for outstanding contributions to population concerns and their solutions.
This year, the individual recipient of the award was an Egyptian doctor, Mahmoud Fahmy Fathalla, founder of Safe Motherhood Initiative. Professor Fathalla also has close ties to IWHC: he served as a member of IWHC’s Board of Directors for eight years, and remains a major inspiration for many IWHC staff members, including IWHC President Adrienne Germain, who has hailed Fathalla as an exceptional leader for the health and rights of women in poor countries.
In his acceptance speech, Professor Fathalla touched on many of the issues facing women worldwide, and emphasized his confidence and trust in the women to whom he has devoted his life:
“With the mounting international concern about population growth…women, in a sense, have been coerced into motherhood by denying them not only the power and the means to control and regulate their fertility, but also by denying them choices in life apart from childbearing and childrearing. When women are empowered to make choices, even the poor and illiterate women, whom I know best, will make the right choices for themselves, for their families, for their communities, for their countries and for the world at large.”
He also reminded us that “we share a common destiny… women in different countries have more in common than what meets the eye.”
Fathalla credited the tireless campaigning of the women’s health and rights movement for the success of the International Conference on Population and Development in 1994, which he claims “put the population movement on the right track, shifted the focus from ‘counting the people’ to ‘the people count’.”
Lastly, Fathalla summed up the state of the global movement for women’s health and rights:
“Progress has been made and is being made. True, women in many parts of the world, including the region that I know best, still have some steep mountains to climb. But women are not for turning. My generation is now handing over the torch, and with it an unfinished agenda. A long to-do list is still pending, to shape a world that women deserve.”