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PAI Celebrates the Life of Dr. Fred Sai, Giant of Family Planning and Safe Motherhood

Stories and Profiles

The PAI Board of Directors and staff mourn the loss of Dr. Fred T. Sai who died on September 17 in Ghana at the age of 95. Dr. Sai was one of our most loyal board members and a true giant in the fields of family planning, safe motherhood, and women’s empowerment.

Dr. Fred T Sai
Dr. Fred T Sai

PAI had the honor of working closely with Dr. Sai in his many career incarnations over the years—international NGO leader, World Bank official, and trusted advisor to his own government—dating back to PAI’s founding days.

A distinguished Ghanaian physician, Dr. Sai received the 1993 United Nations Population Award and the 1995 Prince Mahidol Award in recognition of his long-standing involvement and global leadership on international family planning and population issues. Since co-founding the Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana in 1967, Dr. Sai was affiliated with several leading international organizations working in the sexual and reproductive health field. From 1989 to 1995, he was president of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF). He held that post after serving as senior population advisor at the World Bank and working with the Food and Agriculture Organization and other intergovernmental organizations.

In his native Ghana, he served in several positions in the Ghana Health Services, including being chief physician for nutrition and the director of medical services. He also was professor of preventive and social medicine at the University of Ghana Medical School. The author and editor of numerous publications relating to family planning, health and nutrition, Dr. Sai served as an advisor to the president and Government of Ghana on reproductive health and HIV/AIDS.

His signature and crowning achievement in our minds—and in his own we suspect—was his successful persuasion of the international community at the last two international conferences on population to embrace and uphold the right of couples everywhere to determine the number and spacing of their children, to have the means to do so and to increasingly acknowledge the role of women within their families and the global community and to make them central in the development equation.

When the preparatory meetings were convened at UN headquarters for the Second International Conference on Population, to be held in Mexico City in the summer of 1984, Dr. Sai was wisely selected from many possible candidates to chair the discussions of the proposed conclusions of the conference.

And when the conference was held in Mexico City, with most of the delegations headed by officials with cabinet rank, it was Dr. Sai who was called upon to chair the sessions which came to consensus on eighty-eight recommendations for advancing a worldwide plan of action.  His skill in bringing together the widely-varying views of the national delegations was acclaimed as a truly extraordinary accomplishment in the face of the interjection of the Arab-Israeli conflict into the discussions and as the unconstructive antics of a Reagan-appointed U.S. delegation threatened to derail the proceedings.

Based no doubt on his performance in Mexico City, Dr. Sai was again called upon as the Chairman of the Main Committee of the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in August 1994.  With the appearance on the scene of new actors and controversies—and the rehashing of some old ones—the attainment of consensus was jeopardized once more.

Aided this time by a more helpful U.S. delegation and strong support among many of the donor and developing countries, Dr. Sai was skillfully able to forge consensus—despite vigorous opposition from the Holy See and its conservative allies—on a landmark agreement which placed the discussion of population and family planning within an overarching ethical and policy framework of broader sexual and reproductive health and rights.

As anyone who was in Mexico City or Cairo knows, the role of the Chairman was not just formal and ceremonial but required active involvement in securing positive language on the controversial issues of which there were many—in Cairo, not just abortion, but women’s equality and adolescent sexuality.

As we celebrate the progress and achievements since the Cairo population and development conference on its 25th anniversary, we salute you Fred and your lifetime of accomplishment and service to humanity and treasure the memory of PAI’s long and productive association with you. Rest in peace good doctor.

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