Recently, PAI President and CEO Suzanne Ehlers was featured by the United Nation Foundation’s Why We Care campaign, a platform for individuals to share their journeys to becoming champions for international reproductive health. In her essay, Suzanne talks about formative Peace Corps experiences in the Central African Republic that not only piqued her interest in women’s rights and health, but gave powerful insights into how development should be pursued and who should drive it.

Suzanne EhlersWWC

Here’s a sneak peek:

“In 1996, when I was living in Poumayassi in the Central African Republic…I also knew Tikoro and Fersinome, two young girls there who were so concerned by my attempts to cook, clean and adjust to life without running water or electricity that they took my daily care upon themselves. Together, the girls made sure I ate the right things and dressed and behaved properly. Probably about 10 and 13 years old, they had been kept out of school to care for their siblings, sweep the yard and fetch wood and water. But they still wanted to know about the wider world that had sent a naïve 22-year-old American woman to live in their village.

Seeing their strength and creativity despite their difficult lives made me resolve then and there to spend my life working on behalf of women. And it is these women—Tikoro and Fersinome and the millions like them in developing countries—who should be shaping the discussions of the policies and programs that will best meet their needs.”

Want more? Read Suzanne’s full essay on the Why We Care site.