‘You See that Your Work Counts for Something’

25 Nov 2019

When Victor Igharo was six, he saw his mother battle for her life after she suffered a hemorrhage shortly after giving birth. Miraculously, she survived. But the shock of the experience was the first of many that shaped his work ensuring that women and girls have access to appropriate health care and family planning tools.

This lifelong passion led Igharo to the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs and his work directing The Challenge Initiative (TCI) in Nigeria, where he has helped local governments increase their allocations for family planning by 23 percent in the last year alone and has seen more than 900,000 women and girls access family planning services through targeted interventions.

120 under 40For this work, Igharo, 36, has been named one of 120 Under 40: The New Generation of Family Planning Leaders which recognizes and highlights the achievements of the next generation of family planning leaders worldwide. The 120 Under 40 project is organized by the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, with sponsorship from Bayer. Igharo’s cohort is the last of three groups of 40 named since 2016.

“The award is a form of validation, especially for many of us who are out in the field who work really hard to advance the family planning agenda,” Igharo says. “All the effort and hard work is beginning to pay off. Whether you get an award or not, you see that your work counts for something.”

Mwikali Kioko, who leads CCP’s work in Nigeria, says that Igharo and his team are supporting states “to finance and implement family planning programs in a way that aims to be truly sustainable.”

“This takes an incredible amount of hard work, passion, patience, creativity and a genuine desire to work in the true spirit of partnership,” she says. “These are all values embodied by Victor and the team. We are proud of Victor and the great team for the contributions to and achievements in family planning in Nigeria.”

The 40 winners for 2019 were chosen through public online voting, scoring by a jury of experts and leaders in family planning, and the project secretariat. The winners each receive $1,000 from the Gates Institute to continue their work in family planning.

This year’s 40 winners are advocates, researchers, service providers, epidemiologists, medical doctors, program officers, communications/media professionals and founders of NGOs and nonprofits. They work all over the world — in clinics and universities, in offices, and in the field — to advance family planning and reproductive health.

“This final group of winners is as remarkable as the first,” says Jose “Oying” Rimon II, Director of the Gates Institute and chair of the 120 Under 40 jury. “These young leaders are creating lasting positive change worldwide, and their impact will only multiply as they forge new relationships and collaborations with their fellow 120 Under 40 winners.”

In 2017, CCP’s Elizabeth Futrell and Chizoba Onyechi were named 120 Under 40 winners. Margaret Bolaji, who works with CCP’s Nigerian Urban Reproductive Health Initiative, won in 2016.