Nationality

Czech Republic

Education

Ph.D. in Demography, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic

Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and Demography, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic

Languages

Czech, English, French, Russian

I grew up in Czechoslovakia, and I was 15-years-old at the time of the 1989 Velvet Revolution. After the swift demise of the single-party state government, people suddenly had new liberties, among them the right to speak and travel freely. These opportunities greatly influenced my generation, which was young enough to really take advantage of them. I studied in France, worked in Germany, married someone from the former West Germany, and now I work in New York; all of this would not be possible in my life had there not been political change.

This transformational era sparked my interest in social sciences, particularly in demography. I wanted to understand how the political, economic and social changes across Eastern Europe were influencing people, especially girls and young women. Some might think demography is just about numbers, but demographers deal with profound and exciting population issues, such as birth, migration, family formation, ageing and death. The trends we discover tell a lot about the lives of people around the world, and this information can be used for evidence-based policies related to social and economic development, the environment or human rights.

As a Ph.D. student, I wrote my doctoral thesis about the decline of fertility in the Czech Republic during the 1990s. In demography, “fertility” refers to the birth rate of a population, rather than to the fecundity of women. I found that with all their new opportunities, more Czech women were postponing marriage and having babies at a later age, quite opposite to the pattern of early family formation in during my country’s socialist era. I studied similar issues as a research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany, for which I examined the effects of social and economic change on demographic behavior in the former socialist countries of Central and Eastern Europe.

Through my research and studies, I became familiar with work done by the United Nations Population Division. I wanted to work there because providing demographic information to decision makers is essential for development programmes; I witnessed the positive changes that happened so quickly and unexpectedly in Eastern Europe, and this made me hopeful about the development possibilities in other countries.

In 2004, I passed the United Nations National Competitive Exam, and moved the next year to New York to work as an Associate Population Affairs Officer in the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). I spent two years in its Policy Section, analyzing governments’ policies on various population issues. I also helped prepare documents for the yearly sessions of the Commission on Population and Development.

I later moved to the Population Estimates and Projections Section, and was put in charge of making population estimates and projections for about 40 countries. That involved collecting data on fertility, mortality and migration, evaluating the quality of such data, and analyzing the results. Unfortunately, many developing countries are unable to provide high quality statistics. In these cases, we must assess all available data sources according to their consistency and plausibility; then use a variety of methods to estimate indicators from incomplete data; and, finally, we try to reconstruct the demographic characteristics of these countries.

Currently, I am a Population Affairs Officer in the Fertility and Family Planning Section, where I collect data and analyze trends on fertility, marriage and contraceptive use. This section provides estimates for three indicators used for the Millennium Developments Goals - adolescent birth rate, contraceptive use, and unmet needs for family planning. These indicators relate to the goal of improving maternal health, but are also relevant to the goals of reducing child mortality and promoting gender equality. I have always been interested in women’s issues, and now I contribute to bettering the lives of women around the world.

In the future, I would like to gain crucial experience at one of the United Nations regional economic commissions, and I’m also interested in policy-making work. But for the moment, I am happy to be in New York. Contrary to what I thought before, it is a pleasant city for families, and on weekends I enjoy taking my two young sons to the city’s many parks and museums.

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