Nafis Sadik (Pakistan)

Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General

Dr. Nafis Sadik, a national of Pakistan, was educated at Loreto College (Calcutta) and received her Doctor of Medicine degree from Dow Medical College (Karachi). She served her internship in gynecology and obstetrics at City Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. She completed further studies at The Johns Hopkins University and held the post of research fellow in physiology at Queens University, Kingston, Ontario (Canada). Dr. Sadik began her professional life as a physician, practicing obstetrics and gynecology in rural communities in Pakistan. She was appointed Pakistan’s director-general of the Central Family Planning Council, having occupied the post of deputy from 1968. In 1971, she joined the United Nations and became a technical adviser to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Chief of its Programme Division in 1973. From 1982 to 1987 she served as assistant executive director.

In 1987, Dr. Sadik was appointed executive director of UNFPA, with the rank of under-secretary-general, becoming one of the highest ranking women in the UN system and the first woman in the history of the United Nations to lead one of its major voluntarily funded programs. Dr. Sadik is a dynamic leader and guiding force in the field of international maternal and child health and reproductive and sexual health, including family planning. Dr. Sadik champions the concept that women’s health and well-being are best approached from the broader angle of reproductive and sexual health, within the social and economic context of women’s lives. She has consistently called attention to the importance of addressing the needs of women by involving women directly, as well as men.

Dr. Sadik was the first female recipient of the Hugh Moore Award in 1976, named after a pioneer in the United States credited with calling attention to the world population crisis. She was cited for her leadership in the family planning field as well as for her leadership in encouraging other women to find careers in the population field. Dr. Sadik is a member of the Association of Pakistani Physicians in the United States. She was elected to the 1988 Fellowship ad eundem of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in the United Kingdom.

Her contribution to improving the health of women and children of the global community has brought, and is continuing to bring, her many international awards and honors. Dr. Sadik is currently special adviser to the United Nations secretary-general, and has been named an Eminent Person for the International Year of Volunteers (IYV). Dr. Sadik continues her prestigious career by lending support and sharing her expertise with several boards of directors of organizations sharing mutual interests.

Her numerous publications are in the areas of reproductive health and family, population and development, women, and gender and development. Some of these are: Population: The UNFPA Experience (New York University Press, 1984); Population Policies and Programmes: Lessons Learned from Two Decades of Experience, (New York University Press, 1991); and Making a Difference: Twenty-five Years of UNFPA Experience, (Banson, London, United Kingdom, 1994).

She is married to Azhar Sadik, businessman (retired). They have three children and two adopted children.

Video Interviews

Nafis Sadik: What advice do you have for young people?

Nafis Sadik: What are the biggest issues the world faces?

Nafis Sadik: What is the value of the UN today?

Nafis Sadik: How has the UN inspired you?

Nafis Sadik: What should people know about Ted Turner?