Meet Our New CEO, Anu Surendran

Anu Surendran, CEO of Friends of UNFPA. Image courtesy of Anu Surendran

Friends of UNFPA is proud to announce our new Chief Executive Officer, Anu Surendran. Anu joins us with more than 15 years of experience raising funds and building partnerships for UN agencies. She has also restructured UN national committees, like Friends of UNFPA. She has previously worked at UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, and UNICEF, the UN children’s agency. Anu enters her new role as CEO of Friends of UNFPA with a deep understanding and passion for reproductive rights, gender equality, and women’s empowerment. 

She has hit the ground running and is working with providers on the ground, UN colleagues, the Friends of UNFPA team, and most importantly, supporters like you, to deliver lifesaving care to every woman and girl. 

The UN has impressed Anu ever since she was young. Even in the most difficult of situations, the UN brings together a variety of stakeholders to get things done. In her previous roles at UNHCR and UNICEF, Anu saw the difference the UN can make in people’s lives. She also saw how women and girls are the first to suffer when crisis strikes

During emergencies, women and girls are the first to go without essential items like food, medicine, and personal products, and are more likely to experience violence. Last year, we distributed nearly 12 million dignity kits, which contain everything women and girls need to brush their teeth, wash their clothes, and manage their periods, even while migrating or living in a camp for displaced people.

Anu knows that even simple interventions mean the world to those in need.

Anu saw first-hand the challenges Syrian refugees faced when she visited Lebanon and Jordan with UNHCR. About 1.5 million Syrians had made a home for themselves in these two countries, often arriving with only the clothes on their backs. The war completely overturned their lives. But, by through simple interventions, UN agencies made all the difference for families in a time of need. 

Humanitarian emergencies around the world have produced record levels of human suffering, leaving women and girls among the most vulnerable. UNFPA is on the ground delivering essential supplies and services to women and girls in these difficult situations. Simple, low-cost interventions like UNFPA’s emergency birth kits help pregnant women give birth safely. One kit is only $5, but having supplies like gloves, an umbilical cord tie, and a plastic sheet can prevent life-threatening infections and save the lives of women and newborns. Thanks to your support, UNFPA is there for women and girls, providing access to the care they deserve. 

One of Anu’s inspirations is her grandmother, whom she calls patti. 

Ammouna, a woman from Aleppo, Syria, went to a UNFPA clinic for prenatal care during her fourth pregnancy. UNFPA Syria

“My patti was very young when she got married, which was the norm in India in 1940. She had five kids. But, she figured things out. She was an extremely generous person and determined and incredibly hardworking.”

Anu continues, “My grandfather, a doctor, was always working and it was my grandmother who managed the household and the kids. They had three sons and two daughters, one of whom is my mother. My patti did not attend high school, but she made sure her daughters were educated and became doctors. And I think that’s something we all want, for our kids to have a better future than us. This was something she really had to fight for. My grandfather was not too keen on educating the girls and it was not common practice. She stood her ground and got all her children an education, including her daughters. For me, my patti is someone who was ahead of her time. She embodies the values of the work I do today: empowering women and girls to reach their fullest potentials.”

Anu’s Vision for Women and Girls

Shahla Oruzgani, head midwife at Kabul’s Malalai Maternity Hospital, attends to a newborn. ©UNFPA Afghanistan

As CEO, Anu’s vision for Friends of UNFPA is to fundamentally change how the world values women. “It’s imperative that we build a world where we support women and girls, we break down barriers, and we empower individuals to reach their fullest potential. At Friends of UNFPA, we know providing women with access to health care and empowering them with information to make decisions about what is best for their bodies, families, and futures has huge implications. Our mission is to mobilize Americans to end the unmet need for family planning, to end preventable maternal deaths, and to end all forms of gender-based violence, including harmful practices like child marriage and female genital mutilation.” Working in more than 150 countries, from refugee settlements in Jordan, to the mountains of Nepal, to the island nations of the Caribbean, UNFPA is there for every woman and girl. 

But Anu’s vision for a better world for women and girls isn’t possible without supporters like you.  “Through this work, this community, and your support, I am confident that we can realize a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.” 

Anu ends, “I so look forward to working together with you towards our goal of delivering sexual and reproductive health care to every woman and girl, no matter what.”

Show your support for Anu’s vision for building a better world for women and girls. Donate today.


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