Susan Roylance, first and foremost a wife and mother of seven children, as well as a strong advocate for families, founded United Families International in 1978. Since then she has written four books, including the United Nations Negotiating Guide. She has also written many articles for Deseret News. With seven children still at home, she ran for Congress in Washington. She said it was a great sacrifice, but as she and her husband prayed about it, she felt that God wanted her to run. Reflecting on her campaign, she feels she was never supposed to win. However, she learned much from that experience that helped her greatly in the years to come with her work at United Families International.
In 1995, Susan attended a caucus in New York to prepare for the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. There she experienced something that would shape her advocacy for the rest of her life. All the women at the caucus were asked to stand up and introduce themselves and share a little bit about their organization. She was the only pro-family representative in the room. As she introduced herself and her organization, the room erupted with laughter and jeers. She sat stunned and couldn’t believe what had just happened. After a few minutes, she asked the moderator if she could say something. The moderator allowed it, and Susan stood up and bravely declared there was no reason being pro-family and supportive of the advancement of women had to be mutually exclusive and walked out. There were many times that Susan left conferences feeling defeated and frustrated with what was happening within the U.N. She remembers shortly after the New York experience, as she looked over the Wasatch mountains from her home in South Jordan, she had the thought, “I don’t have to worry about this stuff. My kids are safe, we live in Utah, and generally we have a good legislation. I don’t have to worry about this.” Then a thought came into her mind, “ If I didn’t worry about it, who had nothing to lose, who could?” She knew God’s will was for her to keep moving forward in defending the family within the walls of the U.N., which she continues to do even now, 20 years later.
Susan has attended a large number of U.N. conferences over the past 40 years. While attending one conference in 2010, she was shocked to find the final Outcome Document had no mention of family or parents as a viable way to achieve the development goals. She decided to partner with DOHA International Institute for Family Studies and Development and many other authors to put together, Family Capital and the SDGs: Implementing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. It is a powerful resource that features articles and studies that focus on specific targets of the SDG’s. Through her years participating in U.N. conferences, she also began to see a problem with the language that was used in the documents. Many people don’t understand the ramifications of how certain language is presented. She decided to put together a “cheat sheet”, known as the U.N. Negotiation Guide. She wants to inform the public of the key words they need to be familiar with to negotiate international documents that can later become law.
Susan’s devotion to her family, as well as hundreds of small, impactful life decisions, has led to great change in our world. Susan has taken her beliefs about the family’s essential part in creating lasting change to 44 different countries. In Kenya, she and her husband aided the street orphan problem by helping people successfully farm and sell french beans and sugar peas in exchange for taking in orphans and caring for them like they were their own.
When asked how women can make a big impact in the world, Susan discussed the importance of strengthening the family and what she refers to as “family capital.” In her book, Family Capital and the SDG’s, family capital is defined as “Mothers, fathers and their children engaging in the business of life supported by an extended and intergenerational family network- all working together to create a virtuous web that serves economic, emotional, physical and spiritual well-being of all family members; and ultimately serving communities and nations.” She says there are many family-based solutions to the world’s problems. That is why it is so important to keep the family represented in the U.N. documents.