Burcu Bozkurt

2016 Winner

Position: Director of Operations
Organization: International Youth Alliance for Family Planning

Burcu Bozkurt, Director of Operations at the International Youth Alliance for Family Planning (IYAFP), is a public health professional with more than 3 years of experience in policy, research and advocacy. Her fieldwork has spanned from providing technical support to establish an M&E system for community health workers in Bangladesh to working with women’s cooperatives in Turkey. She worked for Ipas as a policy associate to educate policymakers and other stakeholders on U.S. foreign policy as it relates to reproductive health access for women globally. As a women’s rights advocate, she has worked on sustainable development issues and conducted health systems research in Turkey, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Costa Rica and Mexico.

Burcu makes a great effort to bring the youth voice to the forefront of the family planning movement. She is a leader, not just because of her voice but because she elevates other vital youth voices.


Describe your contributions to and achievements in family planning.

My research on provider attitudes on abortion in Vietnam, in addition to my work with NGOs like Ipas and local communities over the last 5 years, as well as my ongoing training as a birth doula, has led to rich contributions in the field of family planning, including the creation of the International Youth Alliance for Family Planning. Over the last two years, I’ve been functioning as a “jack of all trades” to programmatically support the growth and expansion of IYAFP into a respected, real organization that connects youth to one another and strengthens youth leadership in family planning.

What sparked your passion for family planning?

Reproductive health and family planning is my lens to solving the issues that disproportionately disenfranchise my half of humanity. My passion is also rooted in my past. My grandmother was a child bride, picked out of her village in Turkey. Additionally, I have seen many women in my life lose out on their rights due to little to no access to SRH services and knowledge. As a doula, a public health professional, and as a woman, I know this is my life’s work and that I must change the status quo.

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

The biggest, perpetual challenge I face in my family planning advocacy is to advocate for the elevation of youth voices beyond tokenization. There is so much capacity and eagerness in youth, such innovation, connectivity, ability and tenaciousness, that I know that we deserve more than one seat at the table. My ongoing challenge will be to bring forth that future, where youth have an equal say in the policies and structures that govern our lives.

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

In June 2012, thousands of women left their normal Sunday routines to walk the streets of Taksim in Istanbul to protest the words of President Tayyip Erdogan challenging Turkey’s long-standing legal abortion policy. Threats against women, our autonomy and equal role in society, have only multiplied under the current regime. In a country where free speech isn’t a right we take for granted and the trajectory of Turkish women is under siege, amplifying women’s voices has never been more crucial.

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

I want to work with others to grow IYAFP to reach more than a million youth in the next five years. I want youth from across the world to use IYAFP as a platform to access opportunities, share their lessons and experiences in family planning, and connect and support other like-minded, progressive youth.