Johanna Wicks

Johanna Wicks - 2016 Nominee
Position: Chief, Australia and New Zealand Office
Organization: IPPF
Johanna Wicks is an exemplary emerging family planning leader,in particular in the area of sexual and reproductive health. She is deeply respected by colleagues with deep technical expertise, she has extensive policy, government and NGO experience. – Nominator
Describe your contributions to and achievements in family planning.

Contributing to raising the profile in Australia of the trans-formative effect access to family planning can have on individuals, their families and their communities. I've done this through working closely and collaboratively with and for Government, NGO and academic stakeholders over the past 14 years. This has included working to change restrictive policies that had long lasting and negative implications for Australian aid funding to family planning and working to ensure a greater share of Australian ODA was dedicated to supporting family planning initiatives.

What sparked your passion for family planning?

A combination of completing a fascinating & informative undergraduate degree in Women's Studies, and my background growing up in rural Australia in a town with a reasonably high teenage pregnancy rate. It occurred to me that unless women and girls had the knowledge, access & personal autonomy to control their fertility their future options were immediately limited. Passion is the perfect description to describe how I feel about family planning - its not a job, I live & breath & believe in FP :)

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

The challenge is ongoing - that family planning is just 'a women's issue', that it is not relevant to almost all Government departments, whether it be planning, education or health - and yet this challenge is core to why I love this work so much, because if you can change people's perceptions you can change the world. Placing FP in the context of not only women's but communities economic and social empowerment has been critical to engaging those who previously dismissed FP as 'women's business'.

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

In my work the biggest challenge is the risk of parliamentarians using access to FP as a bargaining tool. Working with evidence, from respected sources, to educate new parliamentarians on why access to FP benefits everyone is critical. More broadly I would say the challenge is to ensure universal access to FP information, services and commodities for young Australian's, especially for those living in rural and remote communities to non judgmental, confidential information and services.

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

I would like to see my latest area of focus & passion, access to sexual & reproductive healthcare in crisis, gain support globally -from donors & Governments alike - so that within five years it is as a fundamental part of emergency response efforts as food or water. There are currently 125m people in need of humanitarian assistance, 31m of them women & girls. They too need access to FP.
Other than that I'd love to see access to FP normalized. No longer controversial. Pipedream or achievable?

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