Beyond the cards and gifts, Father’s Day offers us a moment to pause and reflect on the great fathers in our lives – and the great fathers around the world who are paving the way for a better future. Every father wants to create a better life for his children, and we know that one of the best ways to do so is by supporting the health and rights of girls and women. The below list represents just a few of the many incredible fathers who are working to support the vital work of the United Nations to ensure that every girl and woman can be safe, healthy, educated, and empowered.

546920-malalabanBan Ki-moon
“When I was a boy, I remember it was considered ‘normal’ to see women and children die in my village. People accepted this as a fact of life. Women feared giving birth. What should have been the most joyful day was often the scariest or the saddest day instead. Today, too many people still live that reality around the world. We cannot accept that it is ‘normal’ to lose any woman…any child…anywhere.” 

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon firmly believes that when women and children are healthy, societies, nations, and entire economies thrive. That is why he launched Every Woman Every Child in 2010 to save and improve the lives of millions of women and children around the world. Not only is the Secretary-General working with the UN, governments, civil society, and the private sector to create a better world for women and children, but he’s also a father of three and a grandfather of four.

Ziauddin Yousafzai
“Don’t ask me what I did, ask me what I did not do. I did not clip her wings.”

Ziauddin Yousafzai faced every father’s worst nightmare when his daughter, Malala, was shot by the Taliban while returning home from school. But neither of them backed down. Since then, Malala and her father have traveled the world to champion the power of girls’ education. Ziaddin, a teacher himself, opened a school in Pakistan three years before Malala’s birth.

Ray Chambers
“No father should lose a child to a preventable illness, but every year millions of children and newborns are lost to easily treatable or preventable scourges including malaria, pneumonia, and diarrhea. As we strive to meet the health-related Millennium Development Goals, let’s celebrate this Father’s Day by committing ourselves to the health and well-being of the world’s children.”

Following a successful career as a businessman, Ray Chambers became a full-time philanthropist. He now serves as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Financing the Health-Related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and for Malaria. As a father and a grandfather, Ray puts children first in all his endeavors. For the 564 days remaining until the target date for the MDGs on December 31, 2015, Ray is focused on encouraging the global community to do everything it can to end preventable child and maternal deaths. Every life we can save is precious.

Muhammad Yunus
“When tiny, tiny things start happening a million times, it becomes a large thing. It lays down the foundation of a strong economic base. With women participating in building this economic base, it becomes the foundation for better social and economic future.”

Professor Muhammad Yunus, a father of two daughters, is also often called the father of microfinance. Born in Bangladesh, Professor Yunus believed in the power of small loans – especially to women – to help populations break the cycle of poverty. Despite resistance from other banks and government, Professor Yunus created the Grameen Bank, which focused on providing micro-loans. To date, it has served more than eight million borrowers, 97% of which are women. In 2006, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work.

Ted Turner
“Improving maternal and child health, educating girls, and empowering women are some of the best investments we can make. When a girl is educated, healthy, skilled, and empowered, she is more likely to invest in her family and community. When that pattern is repeated throughout the world, we collectively build a better future.”

Ted Turner, an American media mogul, philanthropist, and father of five, wanted to support the vital work of the United Nations. In 1998, he gave an historic $1 billion to start the United Nations Foundation. From the beginning, girls and women have been at the core of everything the UN Foundation does, including work on reproductive health, women’s economic empowerment, and ensuring the health and rights of adolescent girls.

Mike Hamilton
“I invite us all to ask the question: ‘What can I do to help break this cycle, and assure that every mother and child has every chance to live a healthy life?’”

Mike Hamilton, the former Director of Men’s Athletics at the University of Tennessee and a father of five, found a different career path after adopting three orphaned siblings from Ethiopia, including a daughter with HIV. After personally witnessing the devastating effects from lack of access to quality maternal and reproductive health care, Mike was inspired to advocate to break the cycle, ensuring that mothers are healthy, can plan their families, and provide a nurturing environment for their children. Now, he serves as the president of Blood:Water Mission, a Nashville-based organization that partners with grassroots organizations in Africa to provide clean water and HIV treatment and prevention services.

Dennis Ogbe
“We have a global responsibility to every human being on this planet, especially to every child and mother.”

Dennis Ogbe contracted polio in Nigeria at age three, paralyzing him from the waist down. But that didn’t stop him from becoming a Paralympian. Now as a father and as a champion for vaccines with the Shot@Life campaign, he works to ensure that one day, no child will suffer from the devastating effects of polio.

Nigel Barker
“As a father, it pains me that not every girl has the same chance as Jasmine to get an education and pursue her dreams.”

You may know Nigel Barker from America’s Next Top Model, but you may not know about his extraordinary work on behalf of girls around the world. An internationally renowned fashion photographer, filmmaker, TV personality, author, humanitarian, and father of two, Nigel has supported the UN Foundation’s Girl Up campaign since its launch in 2010. As a Girl Up Champion, Nigel works with young people to stand up for the rights of girls around the world.

Naveen Rao
“Men should be central to ensuring the health of women before, during and after childbirth, beginning with planning and nurturing families.”

Dr. Naveen Rao leads Merck for Mothers, which aims to accelerate progress on Millennium Development Goal 5 – reducing maternal mortality. A father and recent first-time grandfather, he is also a board-certified physician who is passionate about engaging men to save the lives of mothers globally.

Stephen Curry
“After working for several years to raise awareness to fight malaria, it was inspiring to meet people who are at risk for this easily-preventable disease and need our help. As a father, I do everything I can to keep my daughter safe. The parents I met in Nyarugusu do the same, but they need help to protect their children from malaria.”

NBA star Stephen Curry is a dad, but he cares for many more kids than his daughter, Riley. He’s working with the UN Foundation’s Nothing But Nets campaign to protect children in Africa from malaria. Every 60 seconds, a child dies from malaria. But Stephen donates three anti-malaria bed nets for every three-pointer he makes during the regular season. Last summer, he traveled to Tanzania with Nothing But Nets and delivered more than 38,000 nets to families in need. That’s why last week, the NBA honored him with the 2013-2014 Kia Community Assist Seasonlong Award for his efforts

Photo credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas