Donya Nasser

Donya Nasser - 2016 Nominee
Position: Board Director
Organization: Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund
Donya has used her background as an Iranian-American, Muslim, and youth to advocate for, uplift, and inspire the marginalized communities she represents by serving as the U.S. Youth Observer to the United Nations and the youngest member of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund boards. – Latanya Mapp Frett, Executive Director - Planned Parenthood Global at Planned Parenthood Federation of America
Describe your contributions to and achievements in family planning.

My work began at my Catholic University through the Women’s Studies Department and serving as the Young Feminist Task Force Chair for NOW-NY. The challenges I faced in this conservative setting, such as pushback from the Administration and ageism, inspired me to work with AAUW to start a chapter on campus, leading to my role on their Student Advisory Board and being appointed their UN Youth Representative. My work in advocacy for family planning/sexual health was coupled with fighting for fair representation in these spaces for my Middle Eastern and Muslim community on the local, national and global level. It has been recognized by the WIN Young Woman of Achievement Award in Service, the L’Oreal “College Woman of Worth” Award and being selected a 2014 Glamour Magazine Top 10 College Woman.

What sparked your passion for family planning?

My main source of inspiration is my own mother’s story, one that is not unique, but represents the struggle of millions of women around the world. It is a story of an arranged marriage, of leaving everything you cherish and love behind, and of being denied access to an education and contraception. It is the embodiment of the value family planning has to women and their autonomy, empowerment, and freedom. Her life and story has inspired my passion and advocacy for the sexual health of all women.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your family planning efforts, and what have you done to overcome it?

I’ve faced many, but discrimination has been one of the most difficult to endure and address. I have been discriminated against because of my age, being told I am too young and should “wait my turn” or that I am simply “unable” to understand. I have also faced challenges as a Middle Eastern and Muslim woman because to some, they still believe feminism and Islam/my culture are mutually exclusive. My leadership roles allow me to represent my communities and stand up against bigotry and ignorance.

What is your (country/region/city)’s biggest challenge in family planning, and how can it be addressed?

There are a number of challenges that America faces in family planning today, but one that strikes me as the biggest is the lack of support we have by those in positions of power and elected office. Every day I learn of a new piece of legislation that has been introduced to limit women’s access to family planning by an older man who looks nothing like his constituents. Representation is important because we need advocates for our cause in our government, just as my mother needed but didn’t have.

What do you want to accomplish in the next 5 years?

I will continue my work as Board Director for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Action Fund while expanding my involvement globally with the International Planned Parenthood Fund. I intend to advocate for family planning/gender equality while studying abroad for my Master’s, with a special focus on marginalized and minority women. I hope to strengthen that work through law school and subsequently working as a human rights lawyer, advocating especially for women in the Middle East.

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