Organization: International Youth Alliance for Family Planning
MSc in Interdisciplinary Health Sciences from University of Ottawa
“Jill has built IYAFP into the strong youth-led organization it is today, instilling a culture of empowerment. She is the embodiment of what 120 under 40 represents: perseverance, diligence, and passion through challenges to change the future of FP.”
–Burcu Bozkurt, Director of Operations at IYAFP
Describe your contributions to and achievements in family planning.
My work in family planning spans many contexts and co-founding the International Youth Alliance for Family Planning (IYAFP) in 2013 is one of my largest (ongoing) achievements in this field. Leading this global movement alongside other incredible young leaders has given me the ability to support and nurture a sustainable approach education, and research around the world. From nothing, I helped create a wave of advocates currently spanning over 80 countries, with 2000 volunteers, and 50 grassroots projects conceptualized and delivered.
Over the past 5 years, I have used the lessons learned from building a youth-led nonprofit to come up with innovative, sustainable solutions for social impact. Through IYAFP, I spearheaded the creation of 3 social enterprises to help build youth capacity while also addressing the barriers that youth face in their reproductive health journeys, with the intention of further piloting these initiatives and scaling them around the world.
What sparked your passion for family planning?
My commitment to improving global sexual and reproductive health was shaped by my experiences as a graduate student; I conducted research on the sexual health curriculum in Jordanian medical schools, women’s experiences with abortion, and refugees’ knowledge of contraceptive options. I then spent a year living in Mae Sot, a tiny Thai city resting on the Burma border, to understand Burmese refugees and migrants’ experiences and perceptions with the reproductive health services available to them. Despite the challenges with field work, I successfully managed to engage in fruitful conversations and get a deeper understanding of how politics, geography, and education all play a unique role in women’s and youths access to these services. My work with the Adolescent Reproductive Health Zone and the Minmahaw School for refugees and migrants also taught me that youths’ knowledge on this topic is sparse, often inaccurate, and harmful to them being able to realize their full potential.
The combined experiences I gained throughout these formative years gave the insight to help co-found IYAFP, an organization I hold close to my heart.
Give one or two examples of how you display leadership in your family planning work.:
I am proud to say that under my leadership, IYAFP has grown into an internationally recognized entity. I designed the structure and governance of the organization with my co-founders in a way such that our growth is a participatory, inclusive and democratic process. What once started as a simple idea is now a worldwide movement with our geographic diversity as our biggest strength.
Since our inception, we have registered as a 501c3) organization, run over 50 grassroots projects, reached over 65,000 people, and have been present in 98 countries worldwide. I have seen the impact on the ground through the lens of our youth leaders and their community projects. As an organization, we pride ourselves in ensuring that all our programs and projects are born from the bottom-up, with youth on the ground leading their own agenda.
If you are named a winner of 120 under 40, how will you use this new platform and the $1000 grant to advance your work?
My desire to see family planning charities spending their energy on the battles they want to fight as oppose to spending time navigating the nonprofit and fundraising parameters is my newest mission. I wish to further develop my skills and knowledge in management, fundraising, and social entrepreneurship to be better equipped in implementing sustainable measures for improved non-profit growth and scalability – especially in the family planning field. Youth deserve unhindered access to opportunities and I hope to provide that through sustainable and reliable foundations through which they can continue to advocate for better family planning in their countries.