UNITED NATIONS, New York, 8 April 2015—Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, a former Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, and the African Population and Health Research Centre (APHRC), an African non-governmental organization, have won the 2015 United Nations Population Award. The General Assembly established the award in 1981 to recognize outstanding achievement in the fields of population and health.
Ms. Obaid, who led UNFPA from 2001 to 2010, is a champion of women’s and young people’s heath and empowerment. During her tenure at the Fund, she emphasized the importance of promoting development through a culturally sensitive approach, working within the context of each society, and taking into consideration local cultural values and religious beliefs. She also invited young people to provide their input to UNFPA’s work around the world, allowing them to develop their capacities as citizens with rights and responsibilities.
A Saudi Arabian, Ms. Obaid was able to break the “glass ceiling” by becoming the first woman to receive a scholarship from the Saudi Government to study in the United States and the first woman to be nominated by that government to head a United Nations agency. She is also in the first group of 30 women to be appointed full members of the Saudi Parliament from 2013 to 2016, according to documents submitted to the Population Award Committee.
APHRC, this year’s other winner, was founded in 1995 to provide sub-Saharan governments with credible scientific evidence for their population, health and education policies, according to papers submitted to the Award Committee. In doing that, according to the submission, APHRC brings together African scholars to analyse new data, build scenarios and monitor and evaluate interventions. APHRC’s research focuses on urbanization and well-being; population dynamics and reproductive health; ageing and development; health challenges and systems; and education.
The Award Committee for the United Nations Population Award, which made the selections, is chaired by the Czech Ambassador to the United Nations, Edita Hrdá. Other members include Bangladesh, Côte d’Ivoire, Denmark, Grenada, Jamaica, Qatar, Tanzania, Nigeria and Pakistan. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin are ex-officio members.
Past laureates selected by the Committee included individuals and organizations, such as Bill and Melinda Gates, Dr. Mahmoud Fathalla, Dr. Allen Rosenfeld, the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital and the Population Council. The award is scheduled to be presented at the United Nations on 26 June.
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