… Coeytaux’s journey to social scientist and advocate began in rural California, where her French father moved the family after the independence movement in Tunisia forced a change.
“If you ask me where I was born, I was born in Switzerland. If you ask me where I grew, I would say Tunisia. If you ask me what I am, it’s French,” she says. “If you ask me where I’ve lived most of my life? It’s California.”
While studying at Stanford, she spent a semester working at a pediatric clinic in the slums outside Lima, Peru. The stream of women who came with multiple children and questions as to how to avoid future pregnancies made Coeytaux realize that the greater issue — that of family planning — wasn’t being properly addressed in third world countries.
When she moved to New York with her husband in the 1980s and joined the Population Council, that realization became the foundation of her work. Starting with work in Tunisia, she criss-crossed Africa conducting research and helping put family planning programs in place.