AS a student of the social consequences of development and population growth, Perdita Huston has earned high regard among her colleagues. ``She's not an academic, not an expert in the generally accepted sense,'' says Alex Marshall, chief of media services at the United Nations Population Fund in New York. ``She's been there, she's seen it, she's done it.''
She's ``been there'' since leaving her native Maine at age 19 to live in Paris and North Africa. As regional director of the Peace Corps for North Africa, Near East Asia, and the Pacific, she published ``Message from the Village'' (1978). That book continues to be ``quite well accepted'' in the international development community, says Dr. Hernan Sanhueza, executive coordinator for the Inter-American Parliamentary Group on Population and Development.
The next year, after interviewing some 200 women in developing nations, she published ``Third World Women Speak Out: Interviews in Six Countries on Change, Development, and Basic Needs.''
Until joining the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) in London, Ms. Huston was director of the Population and Sustainable Development Programme at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources in Gland, Switzerland.
A persuasive advocate for women's issues, she is a frequent speaker at international conferences. ``She has the knack of saying whatever she says in a way that makes so much sense that nobody can deny its force,'' says Mr. Marshall. ``She's one of the really charismatic figures in this business.''