Leigh Senderowicz

Leigh Senderowicz - 2016 Nominee
Position: Doctoral student and research assistant
Organization: Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, Women and Health Initiative
Focuses her research on innovative measurement of women-centeredness in FP. Topics include: ambivalent fertility desires; undercounting of natural methods; and new measures of autonomy in FP services. – Nominator
Describe your contributions to and achievements in family planning.

I've been seeking to understand the complexities of family planning. How we make our families is one of the most complex and important decisions we make as humans, and so often we fail to capture in our Yes/No survey questions. My research mixes quantitative and qualitative methods to explore ambivalent fertility desires and why people might choose to use natural methods over modern ones (or even no method at all) even though they seek to avoid a pregnancy.

What sparked your passion for family planning?

It was not until I left the United States as an undergraduate that I was confronted with the realities of unsafe abortion. Conducting research in Cameroon, I learned the horrors of drinking bleach or rat poison that teens faced so that, faced with an unplanned pregnancy, they could stay in school. Knowing that much of this suffering could be so easily prevented by better access to and knowledge of contraceptive methods sparked my passion for family planning.

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

I think the biggest challenge in family planning right now is how to recenter the movement on women. In our zeal to appeal to funders and finance ministers, we have perhaps focused too much on the externalities of family planning -- how good it is for the economy, the environment, etc. Our challenge is to bring the focus back to women and girls, and why access to high-quality family planning is so central to our own rights, health, and overall well-being.

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

I want to develop an innovative metric that measures quality and respect for rights in the provision of family planning services at the population level. So many of our population-level indicators focus on contraceptive coverage, and I would love to add a new tool to our toolbox that enables us to go deeper and understand how that coverage is being achieved. My dream is to develop a new indicator that get to the heart of this, and have this indicator adopted by the whole FP community.

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