In the News

20 November 2012

Women Will Change the World, Executive Director Tells CNN

When Babatunde Osotimehin last year became the head of UNFPA -- the international development agency promoting female rights -- the news didn't go down too well with many women working in the field.

After his appointment Osotimehin was told that some female ambassadors at the UN were upset that a man had been made head of the agency. But he was determined to put their minds at ease.

"We had lunch with them [female ambassadors] and they asked me, 'so, justify this position,'" remembers Osotimehin. "I spoke and after that they stood and said 'OK, we're satisfied with that, from today you are an honorary woman.' I carry that title well."

A tireless advocate of female rights, Osotimehin has had a long career caring for women. He qualified as a doctor in 1972 and went on to teach at the University of Ibadan, in his native Nigeria, before heading Nigeria's National Agency for the Control of AIDS and becoming the country's health minister.

Today, as executive director of the UNFPA, Osotimehin, who is also the U.N.'s under-secretary general, is focused on gender equality and reducing poverty, helping hundreds of millions in developing countries.

Some 20 months into his new role, Osotimehin says he wants the agency to reach as many women and girls around the world as possible, improving their access to reproductive and educational services.

Read the full story from Isa Seshay, and view related videos, on CNN.com