Marissa Billowitz

Marissa Billowitz - 2016 Nominee
Position: Associate Director- Youth, Gender, and Rights
Organization: International Planned Parenthood Federation/ Western Hemisphere Region
Marissa manages initiatives regarding gender, sexuality, and education notably in emergency contraception and HIV/AIDS for men and women of Latin America. She is a global agent in creating sexual and reproductive choice for generations to come. – Adelaide Key, Intern at IPPF/WHR
Describe your contributions to and achievements in family planning.

In my career, I have progressed from establishing and supporting the first program in the Dominican Republic for the Margaret Sanger Center International (MSCI) to now overseeing one of the largest programmatic areas at IPPF/WHR in my role as Associate Director of Programs – Youth, Gender, and Rights. At IPPF/WHR in the past six years, under my direction, the number of sexual and reproductive health services to youth in our region increased by 82% between 2009 and 2014 at current member associations (MAs). In addition our team increased the number of MAs with comprehensive sexuality education curricula seven-fold. I am most proud of the work I have done to facilitate the efforts of NGOs, feminists, and health professionals in the Global South, who have been my most important teachers.

What sparked your passion for family planning?

During my first job interview in this field, a future colleague told me that she loved this work because it is putting feminism into practice. This has resonated with me ever since. Having the opportunity to work toward the realization of sexual and reproductive rights, in particular empowering girls and young women to pursue their dreams, is my passion.

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

The biggest challenge we face is achieving understanding that in order to reduce adolescent pregnancy we must address poverty, poor sexual and reproductive healthcare, and sexual violence, rather than focusing on their individual behaviors. My work is focused on overcoming that challenge by using a rights-based and gender transformative approach to adolescent sexual and reproductive health.

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

In the next five years, I would like to make significant contributions to addressing the structural issues that affect health outcomes by building strong partnerships with other movements addressing social inequalities.

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