IPPF’s Programme and Technical Director Julia Bunting has been awarded an OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours, for services to improving the reproductive health of women in developing countries. On World Population Day 2013, the 1st anniversary of the Family Planning Summit, Julia spoke about its achievements on BBC Radio 4's 'Woman's Hour'.
Julia, 39, has been committed to reproductive health and family planning for her whole career. She previously worked at the UK's Department for International Development (DFID) as the Head of the AIDS and reproductive health team. In 2012 she was instrumental in initiating and organising the London Summit on Family Planning. This was co-hosted by DFID and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
“Julia is a devoted reproductive health champion who has worked tirelessly to help women and girls lead healthy and productive lives,” said Chris Elias, president of Global Development at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Julia was a great partner in galvanizing the global community to put family planning back on the global development agenda.”
Julia leads the technical and programmatic direction of IPPF’s global efforts and commitment to increasing service provision to meet the needs of more women and young people. Tewodros Melesse, IPPF Director General is thrilled for her: “We are truly delighted to have one of our own awarded such an honour. Julia’s reputation for her work in shaping reproductive health services and policy is very well documented and is a testament to her spirit, dynamism and commitment to furthering the agenda. We celebrate this success with her and as a champion and key driving force behind IPPF’s technical direction for our mission to ensure better services for all”.
Julia’s rich experience in reproductive health has seen her travel to more than 20 countries. She has advised organisations, civil society, government health officials and leaders on investing in much needed sexual and reproductive health services.
"I was surprised. I couldn’t believe the news. My husband rang me to tell me when I was away with work. This is quite an accolade but most importantly it helps if raise awareness if these issues. I've had the privilege of working with hundreds of dedicated and passionate colleagues around the world who are committed to ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health for women in the world's poorest countries.
My interest in helping women around the world started when I was at school and went on an exchange trip to Tanzania at 16. A young man asked me to help his mother who had 7 children and wanted advice on how to prevent further pregnancies.
It was that experience that opened my eyes to the reality of millions of women around the world. As a result I committed myself to make a difference to that woman and millions of others like her.
More than 20 years later the Summit has catalyzed a global movement that is starting to make that difference. At the Summit I had the privilege to meet with President Kikwete of Tanzania. I told him that we'd done this for the women in his country.
At IPPF I get to see the issues and needs around sexual and reproductive health and rights on so many levels and in so many different contexts around the world. They all have different situations which require different solutions. So, I work with our regional and country colleagues to ensure that we are offering and shaping the best services possible for women, men and young people.
I am excited by what I see and hear back from the staff delivering the services in clinics. And also from those involved in shaping international policy at the highest levels in the UN. But there is still a lot of work to do. Today, we have a unique opportunity to improve the lives of the world's poorest women and girls through family planning and I think my 16 year old self would be proud.”
UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin said: “This award is truly deserved. Julia has been dedicated to raising the profile on reproductive health for over a decade. Her work on the Family Planning Summit guaranteed its success. A landmark event for the family planning community, where governments, NGOs, donors and the public and private sectors gathered together to make their commitments towards better access for reproductive health.”