The June edition of NonProfitPRO recognized the “2019 Nonprofit Professionals of the Year.” Included among those recognized this year is Bill Ryerson, President and Founder of Population Media Center (PMC). There are nine categories within the contest and Ryerson was selected as the winner for the “Lifetime Achievement” category.
“Bill’s story has captivated our team,” Nhu Te, Editor-in-Chief of NonProfitPRO explained. “Thank you for everything you do, not only for our sector but for the world. Keep up the amazing work!”
Bill founded Population Media Center (PMC) 21 years ago, as yet another step in his personal mission to achieve a sustainable population by enhancing human rights. PMC is a nonprofit leader in entertainment-education that has helped 500 million people live healthier lives in more than 50 countries. PMC creates entertaining, long-running shows in formats that are appropriate for the audience — TV, radio, web — drawing huge audiences. These popular shows are designed to inspire positive behavior changes for issues at the intersection of social and environmental justice with a focus on gender equality.
“It’s gratifying to have this kind of recognition. With 48 years spent as a nonprofit professional, it’s been a rewarding way to spend a career,” said Ryerson of the award. “In the broad field of sustainability, PMC is making a difference. Sustainability is the most important environmental issue, public health issue and human rights issue. Everything rests on our ability to ensure sustainability. If the system collapses, nothing else matters.”
With a career that spans almost 50 years working in the field of reproductive health, and extensive experience in international development and entertainment-education, Ryerson has traveled around the world, meeting with government leaders, UN agencies, NGOs, writers, producers, funders, and local PMC offices.
“As I continue to travel around the world, I am still consistently surprised at the treatment of women,” said Ryerson, “the degradation of women, violence against women, taboos about women’s menstruation and menopause, accusing women of being witches and inflicting punishment and even death. The maltreatment of women happens domestically and abroad. It is shocking that women are treated this way in the 21st century. Violence against women in its various forms is the most pervasive public health and human rights issue.”
It is no wonder that PMC works to empower women, addressing numerous social injustices ranging from child marriage to FGM to lack of access to reproductive health services and information to spousal inequality. And this impacts population size and environmental impact in a huge way because empowered women have the ability to choose when and if they have children. It’s been repeatedly shown that when women are given education, equal voice to husbands and male partners, and employment opportunities – as a few examples – that women choose to have fewer children and the health of entire families and communities improves.
“I traveled to Awra Amba in Ethiopia in 2016,” said Ryerson, “and was amazed. The village leader reinforced what we believe – that when there is non-violence and gender equality and every child goes to school, when there is opportunity…tremendous health and happiness result. It’s a real-world place of inspiration. So, there are wonderful innovations like this in developing countries that can actually benefit the West”
Ryerson will be the first to admit that although inspirational stories and people have been prevalent in his experience, it has been difficult to continuously work on issues that are so controversial. He has been attacked personally and publicly, but he reiterates that it’s essential to always work toward what you believe, looking for opportunities to effect change wherever possible.
“I could have worked in something less controversial, but it wouldn’t have been true to my personal mission,” Ryerson said, “and to be able to focus, for decades now, on using mass media for social change done within a human rights context is such an obvious opportunity for the progress of humanity globally. PMC’s work has been studied and evaluated by independent agencies and shown to be highly effective in achieving change, as well as enormously cost-effective. As I look back on my career and think about this award, I realize that my lifetime achievement is having stuck to my personal mission despite the difficulties involved. I am grateful to NonProfitPRO for this recognition across all the categories they included.”
NonProfitPRO’s other eight categories were: nonprofit professional, fundraiser, executive, board member, technology professional, marketer, unsung heroes, and rising star.
ABOUT POPULATION MEDIA CENTER (PMC):
Population Media Center is a nonprofit leader in entertainment-education, dedicated to women’s rights and empowerment, population stabilization, and the environment. For the past two decades, PMC’s entertainment programming has promoted social and cultural changes and has helped 500 million people in more than 50 countries. www.populationmedia.org
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