IAWG members are addressing sexual and reproductive rights during COVID-19 humanitarian response. Read More>>

Honoring Jennifer Schlecht

In November 2019, the IAWG community suffered the devastating loss of our colleague and friend, Jennifer Schlecht.

Jennifer was a bright light in our community and a tireless advocate for the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls living in fragile and humanitarian settings for more than 15 years.

In addition to her countless organizational achievements, Jennifer advanced many areas of IAWG’s work, including voluntary contraception, emergency preparedness and disaster risk reduction, adolescent SRH, and HIV/AIDS.

With Jennifer’s collaborative advocacy, the 2017 Family Planning Summit in London brought global attention to the need to address family planning within humanitarian assistance. Her advocacy efforts as co-lead of IAWG’s Voluntary Contraception sub-working group also contributed significantly to the inclusion of “reducing unintended pregnancies” as a new objective of the 2018 revised Minimum Initial Service Package (MISP) for sexual and reproductive health. As a result, access to family planning is now agreed to be an established, life-saving priority at the outset of an emergency response. In her most recent role as the Senior Advisor for Emergency Preparedness and Response at Family Planning 2020, Jennifer was working closely with IAWG colleagues to convene stakeholders and partners working across the humanitarian cycle, from preparedness through response and recovery, to develop a shared vision for the future of family planning in crisis-affected settings.

Jennifer led the global discourse around addressing sexual and reproductive health as part of emergency preparedness and disaster risk reduction at international, national, and community levels. She stood at the forefront of addressing preparedness for sexual and reproductive health, and she ushered in the creation of a Reproductive Health Working Group within the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction’s Thematic Platform for Health. This group has produced policies and guidelines around integrating sexual and reproductive health into emergency health and disaster risk management strategies. Jennifer’s advocacy further contributed to sexual and reproductive health being incorporated into the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, which was adopted by member states at the United Nations World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan in 2015. Most recently, she co-founded the IAWG Emergency Preparedness and Resilience sub-working group.

Jennifer contributed immensely to building the evidence base and strategies around so many areas of IAWG’s collective work. She led cutting edge research on child, early, and forced marriage and developed a toolkit that builds community capacity to address gender and sexual and reproductive health in disaster preparedness. This toolkit has been applied to communities in the Philippines, Pakistan, and northern Iraq and used by many organizations around the world.

To us all, Jennifer was an amazing colleague and friend. Despite her incredible workload, she made time to mentor junior staff and check in with colleagues. She offered to help brainstorm or troubleshoot whenever she could. She was generous with her time and energy, both at work and in her community. She was an amazing listener, remembering small personal details from past conversations and following up on them. She would send thank you emails or small notes of encouragement or praise. She was a thoughtful gift-giver. Above all, Jennifer was an incredible mother – her love for and pride in her daughter, Abaynesh, radiated from her body whenever she spoke of her.

Jennifer was brilliant, strategic, and visionary. She was also empathetic, warm, and held an unwavering dedication to the people that she served, our IAWG community, and her family and friends. Both her work and her kindness have left an indelible mark on the world, which we will continue in her honor.

Jennifer, you are loved and so deeply missed.

Sexual and reproductive health services remain critical during COVID-19

IAWG members and partners are producing clinical and programmatic guidance, assessments, policy papers, and statements to ensure continued prioritization of sexual and reproductive health and rights throughout COVID-19 response in humanitarian settings.