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Joanna Williams

Joanna Williams - 2019 Nominee
Position: Strategy Director
Organization: Bits and Bods
Current Location: Australia, Oceania
Master of Public Health from Melbourne School of Population and Global Health
Additional Degrees and Certifications:
Currently undertaking PHD at Swinburne University of Technology in the Media and Communications Department looking at the barriers and enablers to using social media to develop and distribute sexuality education for young women and girls (13-19). This project uses multi-methods action research to build a cross-disciplinary (drawing from public health and digital methods) evidence-base.
I also have a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) from the University of Sydney
Awards Received:
  • Award:
    Joan Kirner Young and Emerging Women Leader (Women's Health)
    Awarding Organization:
    Office of Women, Victorian Government
    Date Awarded:
    October 20, 2018
  • Award:
    Business, Community and Leadership Scholar
    Awarding Organization:
    Layne Beachley Aim for the Stars Foundation
    Date Awarded:
    June 30, 2018
Joanna co-runs Bits and Bods, a web series about sex, bodies and all the awkward things in between. She supported 30 young people to change the conversation about sex by tell their stories. Her PHD is on how social media can be used for sex ed. – Kiri McEwan, Board Member at Bits and Bods
Describe your contributions to and achievements in family planning.

At AIDS 2014, I was the youngest rapporteur of the conference reporting on Youth Programmes Team, focusing on giving a platform to the lived experience of young people.

This experience led to my involvement in establishing and leading a charity called Bits and Bods (BB), a web series for teen girls and gender diverse teens that talks about sex, bodies and all the awkward bits in between. I've produced 65 hours of footage of 35 young people (from different experiences, identities and backgrounds) talking about their experiences and the advice they wished they had. Since in 2018, I've received $33,000 through philanthropic funding to create and distribute our first seven episodes. These episodes, which will be freely available on the internet, will be released in August 2019.

What sparked your passion for family planning?

I was 16, I opened a book on family planning in Indonesia and ended up writing my 6000 words senior paper on adolescent female sexuality!

However, it wasn't until AIDS 2014 and my sexual assault in 2015 that I realised the importance of having lived experience at the center of family planning and sexual health. In 2016, I became involved in BB so that no one felt as alone or abnormal as I did. In 2018, I left my public service job to run BB in an unpaid capacity (while working for IPPF).

Give one or two examples of how you display leadership in your family planning work.:

I gave keynote at the 2018 Australian Adolescent Health Conference about my experience leading BB and how organizations can better support young people to drive change. I teach into the University of Melbourne MPH course to support the development of young leaders, and recently supported a student to be recruited as FPAA's youth representative.

I am also a founding member of a Victorian-based advocacy group that aims to improve sexual health and family planning access.

If you are named a winner of 120 under 40, how will you use this new platform and the $1000 grant to advance your work? :

I would use the networks and platform provided through 120 under 40 to collaborate with individuals and organisations on their work on comprehensive sexuality education. Having worked with IPPF, I know there is a strong demand for the resources that we have developed.

The $1000 grant would be used for paid social media distribution of BB's 'Doing It' episode. This will help our content reach the Australian young people that most need them, especially those in rural and regional locations.

Photos of the nominee in the field/at work
White young woman speaking in front of a screen which reads Let's Talk about Sex and contains a picture of condoms filled with fruit loops White young woman speaking in front of a screen which has two young woman linking bodies together to support one another

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