120 under 40: Carolyn Rodehau Nominated as a Young Leader Making a Difference in Reproductive Health

120 Under 40: The New Generation of Family Planning Leaders” recognizes and highlights the achievements of the next generation of family planning leaders worldwide. 120 Under 40 shines a light on the “positive disruptions” made by young leaders in family planning, enabling others to model their behavior and build on their success. 120 Under 40 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.  

Voting runs from June 1st to June 15th with the winners announced in September: http://120under40.org/nominee/carolyn-rodehau

Describe your contributions to and achievements in family planning:

I work at the nexus of development projects and the private sector, to improve the outcomes for each. As part of a small team, I advocate for big change in the way that companies ensure access to quality family planning and reproductive health services. We are living in a time where 69 of the top 100 economic entities are corporations rather than countries. The private sector’s potential for social impact is significant – particularly within their own operations. Much of my work on the Population Council-led Evidence Project involves elevating these issues in policy dialogues and building the evidence-base that is critical to increasing visibility and priority.

This past fall, I co-authored an article in Globalization and Health, “A call to action on women’s health: putting corporate CSR standards for workplace health on the global health agenda.” This article outlines a new way for the global health community to understand and harness Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to impact corporate policies and voluntary and “soft law” standards. The article argues that the global health community should advocate to improve corporate health policies through the CSR system, in the same way they advocate for government and international health policies. I have also written multiple pieces for Devex, CSRwire, the Institute for Human Rights and Business, and the Wilson Center, articulating new thinking on the role of private sector engagement and family planning.

Another aspect of my role involves overseeing a variety of different partnerships and collaborations. One of those is with the Levi Strauss Foundation, who has really evolved into a champion for women’s health. In a recent blog post on our partnership, LS&Co. made an important public acknowledgement about the realities of women’s health in the supply chain: “Women’s health needs are often overlooked in the workplace – and they may not have access to health services outside the factory at all, particularly around reproductive health and family planning. Recognizing the unique challenges that women face is an important step toward promoting gender equality on the factory floors.” I am proud to see LS&Co. taking such a progressive public stance on family planning and reproductive health and its role in achieving gender equality.

What sparked your passion for family planning?

Early in my career, I worked with an organization called ZERO TO THREE, which really opened my eyes to how important it is to ensure that every child brought into this world is planned and wanted.

Following that, in my work at Save the Children, I saw first-hand how improving access to family planning saves lives by preventing both maternal and newborn deaths. That’s really powerful.

For me, family planning is fundamental for empowering women. A woman's ability to pursue educational opportunities or enter the job market, hold a job and get promoted depends on her ability to choose whether, when, and how many children she wants to have.  That’s my motivation.

Give one or two examples of how you display leadership in your family planning work.

Over this past year, I provided TA to Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) in the development of the “Gender Equality in Codes of Conduct Guidance,” that clarifies why and how a gender dimension – including ensuring access to FP - is critical to corporate codes. This document supports advocacy efforts with BSR’s 300+ multinational members and 6 of the largest corporate standard-setting organizations and has the potential to significantly advance the rights and well-being of women globally.

Most recently I led the development of an advocacy package, “Advocating Corporate Policy Change on Women’s Health and Family Planning: Lessons from the Environmental Movement.” The experience of environmental advocates provides a successful roadmap for the public health community to change corporate health policies. This package pulls together an extensive desk review, semi-structured interviews with employees from nine environmental organizations, and analysis from our experience with shaping global corporate policy.

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? Please be as specific as possible.

If I were named a winner of 120 under 40, I would use the platform to increase the visibility of the role the private sector can play in advancing the FP2020 goal of enabling 120 million more women and girls to use contraceptives by 2020. I currently oversee our internship program and, if selected, I would use the grant funding to support an advocacy fellow for my team. Serving as an incubator for young advocates give our organization the opportunity to build the capacity of students who are passionate about family planning and expose them to this new way of thinking about engaging the private sector. Our fellows have gone on to work for organizations such as Texas Choice Fund and Carafem, conduct research on family planning through the U.S. Department of State’s Fulbright program, and provide support to family planning service delivery projects in the field. I would love to add to their ranks.