Dr Joannie Marlene BEWA, MD, MPH is a physician, researcher, global advocate for girls, women and reproductive health. She has ten years of combined experience in global health, policy, clinical care, research, international development and non-profits management. She has been appointed in 2018 by the United Nations Secretary-General Special Envoy on Youth as a United Nations Young Leader for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to support the UN system, governments and CSO efforts in implementing the SDGs.
In 2016, she was featured on Melinda Gates’ list of six influential women on the topic of global access to contraception and was invited in 2017 by Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on a panel during which, he announced a 650 million dollars for women’s health globally. She is a member of the Global Advisory Board for Merck for Mothers, Merck's 10-year, $500 million initiative focused on improving the health and well-being of mothers before, during and after pregnancy and childbirth. She co-led the creation of the UNFPA Youth Panel in Benin in 2014 and joined in 2015 the advocacy for the creation of the Adolescent and Youth Constituency in the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn, Children’s Health (PMNCH). She is the current observer, representing the Adolescent and Youth Constituency in the PMNCH Academic and Research Institutions Constituency.
She founded the Young Beninese Leaders Association (YBLA) in order to help solve some of the issues she was witnessing in Benin. Since 2010, YBLA is actively working in 3 focus areas: Health, Youth Leadership and Entrepreneurship and Gender Equality. In 2011, YBLA collected over 2000 signatures which led to the adoption of the anti-gender-based violence law in Benin. YBLA reached more than 10 000 youth on reproductive health and HIV, and 3000 girls on leadership with the support of the First Lady Michelle Obama Young African Women Leaders Grant Program.
As part of Benin Government official delegation, Joannie attended to various negotiations at the United Nations Headquarters on Population, International Development and Health. Joannie is a Women Deliver Young Leader Alumni, a state department IVLP / YAL alumna and Secretary Clinton Women in Public Service Project Fellow. She collaborated with governments such as Benin, Canada, US, served as a technical consultant for the United Nations Fund for Population UNFPA Benin, One World UK, OXFAM, HIV Young Leaders Fund, and as an expert with the United Nations Non-Governmental Liaison Service (UN NGLS), Merck for Mothers, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the "Safe Mothers and Newborns Leadership Workshop" led by the Harvard School of Public Health Maternal Health Task Force and the Barcelona ISG School of Global Health.
Joannie is a U.S Senator William J. Fulbright Scholar, who holds a doctorate degree in Medicine from Faculte des Sciences de la Sante, Universite d'Abomey Calavi (Benin Republic), a master degree in public health, specialized in Maternal and Child Health at the University of South Florida (U.S), where she is currently pursuing a PhD in public health, in order to solve health issues through an activist and scholar lens. She is a research assistant at the Florida Prevention Research Center (FPRC), a CDC supported research center and at the Lawton Rhea Chiles Center for Mothers and Babies (LRC), at the College of Public Health, University of South Florida, Tampa.
I am passionate about health, gender equality, rights and empowerment
At nine years old, I almost died from an asthma attack but was lucky enough to be treated by a qualified physician in Cotonou, Benin. At such a young age, it became clear that I wanted to become a physician to give back and save every single life.
While nurturing the desire to become a physician, another tragic loss occurred in my life. As a teenager, my best friend became pregnant, underwent an unsafe abortion and died. “She never came back to school, that‘s how we knew something serious happened to her”. All of these events shaped the person I became and nurtured my high interest in girls' empowerment, adolescent, mother, women sexual and reproductive health.
I was raised in Cotonou, Benin Republic, West Africa, where I spent most of my life. Currently, I spend my time between my native Benin Republic and the United States and define myself as a global citizen.