Nafis Sadik, a Pakistani doctor and advocate for women’s health and rights, died at the age of 92

Nafis Sadik, a Pakistani doctor who advocated for women’s health and rights and pioneered the groundbreaking action plan endorsed by 179 nations at the United Nations Population Conference in 1994, died four days before her 93rd birthday, her son announced late Monday.

Omar Sadik says his mother died of natural causes on Sunday night at her home in New York.

Nafis Sadik joined the United Nations Population Fund in 1971, became its deputy executive director in 1977, and was named executive director by then-Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar in 1987, following the unexpected death of its leader, Rafael Salas. She was the first woman to lead a major United Nations freely financed initiative.

Perez de Cuellar appointed Sadik as secretary-general of the fifth United Nations International Conference on Population and Development in 1994, and she became the architect of its groundbreaking program of action, which recognized for the first time that women have the right to control their reproductive and sexual health, as well as the choice whether or not to become pregnant.

The Cairo conference also agreed on a set of goals, including universal primary education in all nations by 2015 — a target that has yet to be accomplished — and increased access for women to secondary and higher education. It also established targets for lowering infant and child mortality and maternal mortality, as well as increasing access to reproductive and sexual health services, including family planning.

Natalia Kanem, current executive director of the U.N. Population Fund, called Sadik a “proud champion of choice and tireless advocate for women’s health, rights and empowerment.”

“Her bold vision and leadership in Cairo set the world on an ambitious path,” a journey that she said continued at the 1995 U.N. women’s conference in Beijing and with adoption of U.N. development goals since 2000 that include achieving gender equality and many issues in the Cairo program of action.

Since Cairo, Kanem said, “millions of girls and young women have grown up knowing that their bodies belong to them, and that their futures are there to shape.”