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EngenderHealth Logo color.png
Founded 1937 (1937)
Founder Marian Stephenson Olden
Type Nonprofit organization
IRS exemption status: 501(c)(3)
Focus sexual and reproductive health, family planning, contraception, HIV and AIDS, gender equality.
  • 440 Ninth Avenue, New York, NY 10001, United States
Area served
United States, Africa, Asia
Key people
Pamela W. Barnes, Hugh Moore
$58,420,745 (FY2012)
Slogan "for a better life"
Mission "EngenderHealth is a leading global women’s health organization committed to ensuring that every pregnancy is planned, every child is wanted, and every mother has the best chance at survival. In 20 countries around the world, we train health care professionals and partner with governments and communities to make high-quality family planning and sexual and reproductive health services available—today and for generations to come. "
Website www.engenderhealth.org
Formerly called
Association for Voluntary Sterilization

EngenderHealth is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in New York City, active in women's health and sexual and reproductive health (SRH) in dozens of countries around the world.[1] The organization has been working since 1937 under various names, and with shifting goals. Currently, EngenderHealth focuses on:


In the course of its existence, EngenderHealth has undergone changes in name and mission, reflecting internal debate, shifts in public policy, and adaptation to evolutions in public opinion and international awareness. The organisation has been described as a prime example of how the modern US family planning movement was shaped by three overlapping but distinguishable social forces, i.e. the eugenics movement, the movement for (female) reproductive rights and the population control movement (Critchlow, 1995).

1937-1945: The U.S. Eugenics Movement[edit]

The organization was founded in 1937 by Marion Stephenson Olden (1888–1989), a eugenics-minded social worker and wife of Princeton professor Paul R. Coleman-Norton (Dowbiggin, 2008, p. 36), as the Sterilization League of New Jersey (SLNJ) with the purpose "to aid in the preparation, promotion, enactment and enforcement of legislative measures designed to provide for the improvement of the human stock by the selective sterilization of the mentally defective and of those afflicted with inherited or inheritable physical disease."[2]

Encouraged by the eugenic sterilization legislation enacted by Georgia in 1937, the SLNJ lobbied intensely, although unsuccessfully, between 1939 and 1942 for the passage of a state sterilization law in New Jersey and conducted an educational program of publications and exhibits designed to promote sterilization.

In 1943, the League was renamed Sterilization League For Human Betterment and began to expand its activities nationwide. After objections from relatives of Ezra Gosney, founder of the Human Betterment Foundation, the organization formally incorporated and changed its name again to Birthright, Inc.: a national, nonprofit, educational organization with the aim of promoting "all reliable and scientific means for improving the biological stock of the human race."[3] When the Human Betterment Foundation was dissolved in 1943, its promotional activities for eugenic sterilization were continued through Birthright, which received most of the Foundation's records regarding its work on sterilization programs and also the (financial) support of such past Foundation-backers as C.M. Goethe, Paul Popenoe, and Lois Gosney Castle, who had succeeded her father in 1942 as head of the Foundation.[4]

The Manhattan studio at the New York Academy of Medicine of Robert Latou Dickinson, who had been a member since 1943 and became the first chairman of the organization's medical and scientific committee in 1949, served as new headquarters in 1950. That same year, Birthright was renamed the Human Betterment Association of America (HBAA).

1945-1972: The U.S. Voluntary Birth Control Movement[edit]

After the Second World War, when the full scale of the Nazi eugenics program became apparent, organizations and persons promoting eugenic sterilization were under pressure to change their advocacy. This was also true for HBAA. Internally, the organization was nearly torn apart by debates, pitting eugenics-minded members against those who believed sterilization should be voluntary and available to anyone who wanted it, for personal or socioeconomic reasons. The latter philosophy prevailed, and in the 1950s the organization's mission changed to focus on rights, choice, and voluntary action. It discarded its eugenics rationale and condemned compulsion (legislative or otherwise) for sterilization.[5][6]

In 1962, the organization's name was changed to the Human Betterment Association for Voluntary Sterilization (HBAVS). Although the organization attracted a number of prominent scientists and activists, its influence soared in 1964 when Hugh Moore, the wealthy inventor of the Dixie Cup and noted supporter of population control, threw his influence and money behind the group. Apart from financial support, Moore served as president from 1964 to 1969. Under his presidency, in 1965, the HBAVS was renamed the Association for Voluntary Sterilization (AVS).[5] In 1969, AVS funded the first vasectomy clinic in the United States.

In the early 1970s, AVS and its allies in the family planning movement launched an intensive campaign to promote sterilization. Concurrently, AVS launched—together with the ACLU and Zero Population Growth—"Operation Lawsuit": a series of successful lawsuits against various U.S. hospitals for refusing to comply with patients' requests for sterilization. These campaigns resulted in the increasingly widespread acceptance in the medical profession that sterilization was an effective birth control method, and that sterilization decision making was purely a matter between patients and their physicians.[3] AVS also worked to establish the first informed consent and client-counseling components in health services and produced one of the first manuals on family planning counseling.[6]

1972-2001: International Family Planning[edit]

In the changing atmosphere of the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the importance of population control and family planning in the Third World for U.S. foreign policy was being stressed, AVS became in 1972 for the first time the recipient of funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). In its subsequent international activities, AVS became instrumental in the widespread acceptance and utilization of surgical sterilization. It is in large part due to its pioneering work that this is the most prevalent method of contraception worldwide.[7]

In the early 1970s, AVS supported the work of surgeons who were developing a new approach to tubal ligation (female surgical sterilization) called minilaparotomy, or "minilap."[8] Prior to minilap, surgery for female sterilization often required women to remain in the hospital for up to a week. Minilap, however, could be performed under local anesthesia as an outpatient procedure, in basic health facilities without specialized equipment.

In the 1980s, AVS helped pioneer a new method of vasectomy called "no-scalpel vasectomy" (NSV), which had fewer complications and healed faster than traditional vasectomies, making it more attractive for men seeking sterilization.[9] In 1985, AVS introduced the technique in the United States.

AVS was renamed the Association for Voluntary Surgical Contraception (AVSC) in 1984. The next year, the nonprofit published a landmark reference book, Voluntary Sterilization: An International Fact Book, a comprehensive source of information about contraceptive sterilization around the world. It included reviews of service delivery, usage trends, laws and policies, research gaps, and more. This was updated in 2002 as Contraceptive Sterilization: Global Issues and Trends.[10]

AVSC launched an international postabortion care (PAC) program in 1993 to reduce injury and death among women who undergo unsafe abortions. Since then, the program has been introduced in more than 30 countries.[10] (The organization has never provided abortions.)

The organization changed its name to AVSC International in 1994. In 1995, AVSC published COPE: A Process and Tools for Quality Improvement in Family Planning and Other Reproductive Health Services, the first of its COPE methodology books. Developed through work in Kenya and Nigeria in the late 1980s, the name means "Client-Oriented, Provider-Efficient", and is a process "[to help] health care staff continuously improve the quality and efficiency of services provided at their facility and make services more responsive to clients' needs."[11] Since then, the COPE methodology has been expanded to many other health services and adapted by many other organizations.

In 1996, AVSC also launched its unique Men As Partners (MAP) program, working with men to promote gender equality, reduce gender-based violence, and recognize their important roles in the health of their families and communities. Since then, MAP has worked in more than 15 countries in Africa, Asia, and the Americas.[11]

Also in that year, AVSC introduced "facilitative supervision," an approach to quality improvement in health care service delivery.[12] This methodology promotes "mentoring, joint problem solving, and two-way communication", and was formally described in the 2001 Facilitative Supervision Handbook.[13]

With support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, AVSC partnered with four other international agencies in 1999 to launch the Alliance for Cervical Cancer Prevention (ACCP). Other partners include the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), Jhpiego (an affiliate of the Johns Hopkins University), the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), and the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH).

2001-2008: EngenderHealth and Women's Health[edit]

To reflect the fact that its mission had expanded beyond sterilization, in 2001 the organization changed its name to EngenderHealth, added the tagline "Improving Women's Health Worldwide," and introduced a new logo. It operates under this name today, although its logo and tagline changed in 2008.

In 2002, EngenderHealth was awarded the United Nations Population Award for institutions for its contribution to family planning and reproductive health care in resource-poor countries.[7] In recognition of this honor, Mayor Michael Bloomberg declared July 1, 2002, as "EngenderHealth Day" in New York City, and presented a certificate to the organization.[14] At the XVI International AIDS Conference in 2006, EngenderHealth was one of five finalists nominated for the Red Ribbon Award: Celebrating Community Leadership and Action on AIDS for its MAP work in South Africa to engage men in HIV and AIDS prevention and reducing gender-based violence.

With funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), EngenderHealth became the managing partner of the large-scale ACQUIRE Project (which stood for "Access, Quality, and Use in Reproductive Health") in 2003. This global project worked in more than 20 countries around the world to improve family planning, maternal health, and postabortion care services. Other partners in the project included the Adventist Development and Relief Agency International (ADRA), CARE, IntraHealth International, Inc., Meridian Group International, Inc., the Society for Women and AIDS in Africa (SWAA), and SATELLIFE. As one of USAID's flagship projects in the field of family planning, the ACQUIRE Project developed new approaches to international family planning work that have since been adopted and extended by other USAID-funded projects.

Also in 2003, and also with funding from USAID, EngenderHealth became the managing partner of the AWARE-RH Project ("Action for West Africa Region -- Reproductive Health"), which worked with governments, donors, and private institutions to improve access to health services, lower the costs of health care, and strengthen existing medical institutions in 21 West African countries. Other partners in the project included Abt Associates, the Academy for Educational Development (AED), and Management Sciences for Health (MSH).

In August 2005, another international family planning organization, DKT International, filed a lawsuit against USAID over a federal requirement that organizations receiving funding for HIV and AIDS work must adopt policies "explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking." This policy was introduced in the U.S. Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003,[15] and was commonly referred to as the "anti-prostitution loyalty oath" (or "pledge").[16] In its suit, DKT asserted that this requirement was unconstitutional, and a violation of its First Amendment rights.[17] EngenderHealth participated by providing a detailed court statement in support of DKT.[18] In 2006, U.S. District Court sided with DKT, ruling the requirement unconstitutional;[19] however, this was overturned in March 2007 by a U.S. Court of Appeals.[20] DKT continues to fight the decision.

Also in 2005, EngenderHealth was the subject of an investigation by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of USAID, for improper management of government funds. The nonprofit denied wrongdoing. However, it entered into a settlement with the OIG: first, to repay the U.S. government for the amount in question, and second, to join an Organizational Integrity Agreement with the OIG and work with an independent monitor to oversee compliance.[21] By 2007, the OIG had concluded that EngenderHealth was in full compliance and withdrew the oversight.

EngenderHealth's Men As Partners program continued to expand during this time. For example, EngenderHealth and Instituto Promundo founded the MenEngage Global Alliance, an international alliance to promote "research, advocacy, and interventions that encourage men and boys to increase gender equality." MenEngage continues to work around the world to raise awareness and support initiatives that reduce gender-based violence, with additional partnership from the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Save the Children, International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), the White Ribbon Campaign, Sonke Gender Justice, and several other organizations.

In 2006, EngenderHealth partnered with the Population Council, Ipas, Marie Stopes International, Willows Foundation, and the Ministry of Health in Ghana to launch the R3M Program: Reducing Maternal Morbidity and Mortality.[21] The project supported family planning and long-term and permanent contraceptives in Ghana.

2008-Now: EngenderHealth "For a Better Life"[edit]

In 2008, EngenderHealth recognized its 65th anniversary by launching a new logo, visual identity, and tagline: "for a better life." It operates under this brand to this day.

In 2009, EngenderHealth announced two new projects with USAID funding. The first was the CHAMPION Project, a five-year project in Tanzania, working with men to improve "serious reproductive health challenges" in Tanzania, including HIV and AIDS.[28] The CHAMPION Project also received funding from the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). A second USAID-funded project worked to expand HIV prevention services for the most at-risk population in urban areas of Ethiopia.[29]

EngenderHealth was one of several nonprofits mentioned in Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, a best-selling book written by Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn and first published in September 2009. In support of the book, EngenderHealth published an online Reader's Companion with additional stories and resources following the themes of the book, and partnered with Equality Now and Ashoka to co-host Accelerating Euqality for Women and Girls Around the World, a discussion panel featuring the authors.

Affiliated persons[edit]


  • 1937-1948/1951? Marian S. Norton (secretary)
  • 1945-1961 H. Curtis Wood Jr (president)
  • 1961-1963 Ruth Proskauer Smith (executive director)
  • 1963-1972 John Rague (executive director)
  • 1972-1973 Charles T. Faneuff (executive director)
  • 1973-1981 Ira Lubell (executive director)
  • 1981-1990 Hugo Hoogenboom (executive director)
  • 1990-2005 Amy Pollack (president)
  • 2005-2010 Ana Langer (president)
  • 2010–present Pamela W. Barnes (president)

Notable members:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Our Countries". EngenderHealth. Retrieved 2012-03-09. 
  2. ^ "Constitution and Platform of the Sterilization League of New Jersey". Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries. Retrieved 2006-11-06. 
  3. ^ a b "Historical note to the Association for Voluntary Sterilization Records". Social Welfare History Archives, University of Minnesota. Retrieved 2010-01-15. 
  4. ^ Valone, David (2003-11-16). "Foundations, Eugenic Sterilization, and the Emergence of the World Population Control Movement". Philanthropic Foundations and the Globalization of Scientific Medicine and Public Health. Quinnipiac University and Rockefeller Archive Center. Retrieved 2006-11-08. 
  5. ^ a b Dowbiggin, Ian (2006-06-01). "Reproductive Imperialism: Sterilization and Foreign Aid in the Cold War". Globalization, Empire, and Imperialism in Historical Perspective. University of North Carolina. Retrieved 2006-08-02. 
  6. ^ a b Jezowski, Terrence; Rachael Pine. "EngenderHealth at 60". EngenderHealth. Retrieved 2006-12-12. 
  7. ^ a b "Secretary-General praises winners of annual UN Population Award for 'outstanding contributions to the betterment of our world'" (Press release). United Nations. 2001-07-01. Retrieved 2006-11-11. 
  8. ^ "Minilaparotomy for Female Sterilization: An Illustrated Guide for Service Providers". EngenderHealth. Retrieved 2008-01-11. 
  9. ^ "No-Scalpel Vasectomy Curriculum Participant Handbook". EngenderHealth. Retrieved 2008-01-13. 
  10. ^ a b "Contraceptive Sterilization: Global Issues and Trends". EngenderHealth. Retrieved 2008-02-11. 
  11. ^ a b "COPE: Client-Oriented, Provider-Efficient". EngenderHealth. Retrieved 2008-01-29. 
  12. ^ "Working Paper: Facilitative Supervision". EngenderHealth. Retrieved 2008-01-29. 
  13. ^ "Facilitative Supervision Handbook". EngenderHealth. Retrieved 2008-01-29. 
  14. ^ "EngenderHealth to Receive 2002 United Nations Population Award at UN Headquarters Ceremony". Global Health Council. Retrieved 2008-02-02. 
  15. ^ U.S. Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003
  16. ^ PEPFAR Watch: Sex Workers
  17. ^ U.S. HIV/AIDS Funding Dependent on Anti-prostitution Pledge that Jeopardizes HIV-prevention Success
  18. ^ DKT International, Inc., versus United States Agency for International Development, Exhibit 4
  19. ^ DKT International, Inc., versus United States Agency for International Development, Final Court Order
  20. ^ U.S. Court Reverses Decision on "Antiprostitution Loyalty Oath"
  21. ^ a b "EngenderHealth Agrees to Pay $3.3 Million Settlement" (PDF). USAID. Retrieved 2008-02-12. 
  22. ^ "USAID Awards Fistula Care". USAID. Archived from the original on 2008-01-09. Retrieved 2008-01-12. 
  23. ^ "EngenderHealth Leads Fistula Care Project, a Major Global Effort to Improve Women's Lives". EngenderHealth. Retrieved 2008-02-11. 
  24. ^ "Maternal Health Task Force: About Us". EngenderHealth. Retrieved 2009-09-24. 
  25. ^ "About the Maternal Health Task Force". Maternal Health Task Force. Retrieved 2012-11-27. 
  26. ^ "EngenderHealth Selected to Lead Major International Family Planning and Reproductive Health Project". EngenderHealth. Retrieved 2009-09-24. 
  27. ^ "Advancing Male Circumcision to Prevent HIV in Kenya". EngenderHealth. Retrieved 2012-03-12. 
  28. ^ "CHAMPION Project Launches in Tanzania". EngenderHealth. Retrieved 2009-09-24. 
  29. ^ "EngenderHealth Leads HIV Project to Reach At-Risk Urban Population in Ethiopia". EngenderHealth. Retrieved 2009-09-24. 

Further reading[edit]

Van Essendelft, William R. (1978). "Association for Voluntary Sterilization". In Romanofsky, Peter; Chambers, Clarke A. Social Service Organizations. The Greenwood encyclopedia of American institutions, 2. Westport, Conn: Greenwood. ISBN 978-0-8371-9829-3. OCLC 300541401. 

External links[edit]