September 26, 2016
Burcu Bozkurt, BSPH, and Lucy Wilson, MPH, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health alumni, are among 40 people under 40 recognized as strong advocates for sexual and reproductive health rights.
The recognition, which comes with $1,000 awards to continue their work in family planning, was announced on Sept. 13 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health.
This year’s 40 winners are part of the Gates Institute’s three-year “120 Under 40: The New Generation of Family Planning Leaders” initiative. Another 40 winners will be selected in 2017, and a third group of 40 will be selected in 2019. In 2020, the Gates Institute will celebrate the 120 young people working to improve population and reproductive health.
Bozkurt, who earned a Bachelor of Science in Public Health in health policy and management at the Gillings School in 2012, is co-founder and director of operations at International Youth Alliance for Family Planning, an organization that aims to provide young people ages 15 to 30 an accessible platform to advocate for sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Her fieldwork has included providing technical support to establish a measurement and evaluation system for community health workers in Bangladesh and working with women’s cooperatives in Turkey. As an advocate for women’s rights, she has worked on sustainable development issues and conducted health systems research in Vietnam, Costa Rica, Mexico and other countries.
When asked what sparked her passion for working in family planning, she said the field of women’s rights was the lens through which she looked at the issues that disenfranchise women around the world.
“My passion is also rooted in my past,” she said. “My grandmother was a child bride, picked out of her village in Turkey. And I’ve seen many women with little or no access to knowledge about or access to sexual and reproductive health services. As a doula, a public health professional and as a woman, I know that this is my life’s work and that I must change the status quo.”
Wilson, who earned a Master of Public Health in maternal and child health at the Gillings School in 2007, has worked since 2009 at FHI 360, where she currently serves as a technical adviser.
She says monitoring and evaluation of family planning research is at the core of her work.
“I am passionate about understanding the utilization and impact of research on changing policies, programs, and further research,” Wilson said in an interview with the Gates Institute.
For now, she is focused on the development of new contraceptive methods. A woman should not be kept from using contraception because she is worred about side effects for herself or her breastfeeding infant.
“These method-related reasons for not using family planning contribute to about 70 percent of women’s unmet need,” Wilson said. “It’s not just lack of access; women are choosing not to use contraception because they aren’t comfortable with or can’t use the options available to them.”