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The first year of 120 Under 40 ended with a bang on Monday, September 26, World Contraception Day—a day that focuses global attention on increasing awareness of contraceptive choice and access, especially for young people. A major topic of conversation on that day was the importance of engaging youth in family planning and reproductive health, as was the call for those already established in the field to make space for youth voices and perspectives in discussions and decision-making.
Gates Institute director Jose “Oying” Rimon II authored an op-ed, published on World Contraception Day in Global Health Now, on those themes. “When we launched 120 Under 40 last year, our goal was to begin passing the torch from us ‘gray hairs’ to the next generation of leaders,” he wrote. “120 Under 40 gives us a way to draw attention to these young leaders driving the field forward, and to provide them with a platform for their voice and a grant of $1,000 to continue their work.” Read Oying’s op-ed here.
The week before World Contraception Day was filled with activity for 120 Under 40, as a small, representative group of the 2016 winners traveled from all over the world to Baltimore, their home base for three days of trainings, workshops, and special events. In all, 13 winners—some were travel awardees, some were based in Baltimore or other East Coast cities—took part in various events through the week.
On Wednesday, September 21, the winners took part in a leadership skills-building workshop, taught by Dr. Henry Mosley (pictured below, first) of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, as well as a personal storytelling workshop led by Laura Wexler of the Stoop Storytelling Series. The JHSPH community then gathered for an evening reception, featuring remarks from winners Dr. Tlaleng Mofokeng, Dr. Jean Christophe Rusatira, and Dr. Marvin Masalunga, as well as Klaus Brill of Bayer. JHSPH was represented by Heath Elliott, Associate Dean for External Affairs, and Dr. Robert Blum, Chair of the Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health.
On Thursday, September 22, the winners traveled to Washington DC for an advocacy roundtable discussion hosted by Bayer, featuring speakers from Marie Stopes, USAID, PAI and Women Deliver. Following that were an afternoon meeting with U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, Ranking Member of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and tour of the Capitol (pictured below, first and second). The day ended with an evening reception at the United Nations Foundation, co-hosted by the Gates Institute and FP2020 and featuring remarks from Beth Schlachter, Executive Director of FP2020, winner Burcu Bozkurt and Ellen Starbird, Director of USAID’s Office of Population and Reproductive Health (pictured below, third).
On Friday, September 23, the winners traveled to Population Council’s office in New York, where they shared lunch with Population Council President Julia Bunting (pictured below, first). The afternoon featured panel discussions on contraceptive technologies, partnerships, and the personal stories and experience of the winners, hosted by Population Council, FP2020 and the Gates Institute respectively. Winners Vicky Boydell, Brian Mutebi, Ankita Rawat and Paul Nyachae spoke on the Gates Institute panel; winners Margaret Bolaji and Lucy Wilson were among the speakers on the other panels. It was a packed house, with nearly every seat filled all afternoon!
At the evening reception (pictured below, second), the winners received their certificates before a group of special guests representing government, donors, foundations, multilateral agencies, civil society and young people. Winner Kesetebirhan Admasu (pictured below, third), Minister of Health of Ethiopia, spoke on behalf of the winners; other speakers included Dr. Christopher Elias, President of Global Development at the BIll & Melinda Gates Foundation.
On all three days, winners had the opportunity to share their powerful personal stories about why they are dedicated to family planning.
They were also interviewed by the Family Planning Voices (FPVoices) project, and excerpts from those interviews will be published on fpvoices.tumblr.com in the coming months.
Some winners have also been featured in the media; a running list of media coverage of the project and winners can be found on the Media Coverage page of the 120 Under 40 website.
We extend heartful thanks to our partner organizations that supported the first year of 120 Under 40!
Year 1 may officially be over, but it also marks new beginnings. Our 2016 winners are using their new 120 Under 40 network to continue and amplify their laudable work on behalf of improved health for women, men and adolescents.
All photos by Will Kirk / Homewood Imaging and Photographic Services