Lester Coutinho, deputy director of Family Planning at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, leads the country action initiative aimed at contributing to the goals of Family Planning 2020, and ensuring universal access to family planning.
Prior to joining The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Lester worked with the Family Planning and Reproductive Health program at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation from 2001 to 2014. During his tenure at the Packard Foundation he led the program in India, and later led the family planning research and advocacy initiatives in South Asia. Previously, Lester conducted research and taught at the University of New Delhi in the Health Policy Research Centre of the Institute of Economic Growth, the Centre for Development Economics, and the Department of Sociology. In 2000, Lester was awarded the Population and Reproductive Health Leadership Development Fellowship by the MacArthur Foundation. He also previously worked as a journalist at The Times of India between 1989 and 1992.
Lester holds a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from St. Xavier’s College in Ahmedabad, India. He also has his master’s degree in Political Science from University of Gujarat in India, and a master’s degree in Philosophy and Sociology from the University of Delhi. Over the past two decades Lester has conducted sociological and anthropological research on a wide range of public health issues including child health, sexual and reproductive health, primary health care, and ethics of health research and implementation. He has partnered in various capacities with donors, universities and global health institutions, and has published and presented papers on health issues at numerous international conferences. He was also a member and co-chair of Gender and Rights Advisory Panel of WHO’s Reproductive Health and Rights program from 2008 to 2014.