IN MEMORIAM – Dr Nafis Sadik

Dr Nafis Sadik, former Executive Director of UNFPA from 1987 to 2000, has died. Dr. Sadik was an obstetrician-gynaecologist by training, and was Director-General of the Pakistan Central Family Planning Council. She joined UNFPA in 1971 and served as Assistant Executive Director from 1977 until her appointment as Executive Director in 1987. In 1994, she led the negotiations for the landmark International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, at which the ICPD Programme of Action was adopted. Her bold vision and leadership in Cairo set the world on an ambitious path – a journey that passed through Beijing at the 1995 World Conference on Women, helped shape the Millennium Development Goals and anticipated the transformative vision of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 integrated and universal Sustainable Development Goals. Throughout her career, Dr Sadik called attention to the importance of addressing women’s needs, and of involving women as decision-makers and drivers of development policy. As the first woman to head a major, voluntarily funded United Nations programme, she demonstrated through her own example the transformative power of women’s leadership. “The first mark of respect for women is support for their reproductive rights,” she said in her address at the Beijing Women’s Conference. “Reproductive rights involve more than the right to reproduce. They involve support for women in activities other than reproduction, in fact liberating women from a system of values which insists that reproduction is their only function.” After she retired in 2000, she served as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser and Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Asia and the Pacific. She is remembered for the strong, impactful statements that she made in various UN meetings.

SOURCES: Statement by UNFPA Executive Director Dr Natalia Kanem on the passing of Dr Nafis Sadik, 15 August 2022 + photo ; and Statement by Marianne Haslegrave, Director, Commonwealth Medical Association, 16 August 2022