The Fistula Foundation funds more obstetric fistula surgeries than any other non-governmental organization in the world. When Kate Grant MPA ’94 joined the Foundation as its first CEO in 2005, it supported surgeries at one institution in Ethiopia. Since then, the Foundation has helped women in 29 countries in Africa and Asia.
It was on a seven-month trip through this region that Grant realized she needed to leave her advertising career for a new path.
“Going into the developing world, it’s hard not to see that women are not as empowered as they could be,” Grant said. “It was a literal journey that started opening my mind to the world’s problems.”
Volunteering at Planned Parenthood showed Grant an avenue for action, but she wanted to broaden her scope. After completing the Wilson School’s MPA program, Grant served as professional staff member for the House Foreign Affairs Committee and deputy chief of staff at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). She has been a consultant to USAID’s Mission in Tanzania, the Rockefeller Foundation, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative and the Women’s Funding Network.
Grant sees her experiences as cumulative training for her current role: she gained a theoretical understanding of policy from the Wilson School, practical skills from working in public affairs and a talent for translating the Foundation’s message from her advertising days.
When her career led her back to Africa, she visited an obstetric fistula hospital by chance.
“My heart was captured,” Grant said. “I’m very taken by this cause. I’m able to throw my life force, for what it’s worth, against it. These women are often so young and grievously injured. They’re very courageous, but they live in countries where their needs are not necessarily looked after. For us to be able to support life-transforming surgery is unambiguously good."
To read more about Kate Grant and her success growing the Fistula Foundation, click here