Anika Rahman ’90

Her Life’s Passion

Winter 2009

Anika Rahman ’90 was raised by three strong, university-educated women in her native Bangladesh: her grandmother, her aunt, and her mother. Rahman’s non-traditional upbringing wasn’t easy. Her mother was rendered a social outcast after divorcing Rahman’s father. “Life’s passions come from your own personal experience,” Rahman says in discussing her youth. “I have seen women in my family suffer. I saw the way the world was treating them, and it was wrong, outright wrong.”

Rahman’s early encounters with injustice inspired her to dedicate more than 15 years of her life to advocating for women’s health and human rights. She spent three years at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton before launching her public-interest career as a founding director of the international program at the Center for Reproductive Rights (formerly known as the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy). The switch meant longer hours and a 70 percent pay cut, but financial gain was never Rahman’s main objective. “I so wanted to be the best I could be because I believed in what I was doing,” she says. “Your satisfaction has to come from the belief that you’re improving people’s lives.”

Rahman is now the president of Americans for the United Nations’ Population Fund, where she continues to advocate for women’s issues. The organization helps build moral, political, and financial support for the Population Fund, which is essentially the United Nations’ women’s health agency. Her life is no longer as focused on the law, but, Rahman is quick to point out, “law alone is never enough to get social justice moving.”