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Global acclaim for conservation organisation addressing unmet need for family planning

Global acclaim for conservation organisation addressing unmet need for family planning

Marine conservation organisation Blue Ventures received an Excellence in Leadership for Family Planning (EXCELL) award at the International Conference on Family Planning held in Ethiopia this week.

Over 3,000 delegates from more than 100 countries gathered at the conference, which was centred on the theme “Full Access, Full Choice”, to discuss effective ways of delivering voluntary family planning services worldwide.

Blue Ventures was one of just two organisations to be presented with an EXCELL award at this global event. The selection committee praised Blue Ventures’ trailblazing commitment to providing isolated communities with full access to voluntary family planning services, as well as its progress in advocating for other conservation organisations to adopt this integrated Population-Health-Environment (PHE) approach.


Caroline Savitzky, Community Health Programme Coordinator for Blue Ventures in Madagascar, received the EXCELL award from Professor Amy Tsui, Director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health, and His Excellency Dr. Kesete-Birhan Admasu, Minister of Health of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (photo credit: David Colwell)

PHE was held up as an exemplary model for reaching the hardest to reach communities with reproductive health services. Over the past six years, Blue Ventures has worked with 40 remote communities in southwest Madagascar, leading to a more than fivefold increase in contraceptive use from 10% in 2007 to 55% in 2013.

The selection committee, convened by the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health, judged nominations on the basis of their proven impact and potential reach. The inaugural EXCELL awards recognise major breakthroughs in the areas of family planning demand generation, service provision, research and advocacy.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Madagascar nominated Blue Ventures for the award, stating:

Blue Ventures is demonstrating how conservation organisations working in remote, highly biodiverse and under-served areas can address unmet family planning needs effectively within a rights-based framework.

They have forged strong partnerships with the Madagascar Ministry of Health, Marie Stopes Madagascar and Population Services International to integrate community-based reproductive health education and services with their existing marine conservation and coastal livelihood initiatives.”


Upon accepting the award, Caroline Savitzky called attention to the extraordinary commitment and impact of Balbine and her fellow community health workers (photo credit: Emilie Filou)

Speaking about winning the award, Dr Vik Mohan, Medical Director of Blue Ventures, said:

This award honours the tremendous dedication of Blue Ventures’ excellent community health team, and represents high-level endorsement for our integrated PHE approach.

It is remarkable for a marine conservation organisation to be receiving this award!

This is clear communication from the international family planning community that PHE offers an innovative, powerful and desperately needed model for providing some of the world’s most under-served communities with full access to reproductive health choices.”

Notes for editors:

Blue Ventures’ integrated Population-Health-Environment (PHE) approach combines voluntary family planning services with community-based marine conservation and coastal livelihood initiatives in southwest Madagascar. Blue Ventures’ community health programme has been kindly supported by the MacArthur Foundation, UNFPA Madagascar and USAID, and benefits from strong partnerships with the Madagascar Ministry of Health, Marie Stopes Madagascar and Population Services International.

Transcript of Caroline Savitzky’s acceptance speech:

Balbine, my colleague, friend and a community health worker I have the privilege of working with and learning from every day recently told me, “I see and I know the impact of our work. My community counts on me to provide access to family planning services that help our families and the environment we depend on.”

It is my extraordinary honor to accept this EXCELL award on behalf of Balbine, her fellow community health workers and the entire Blue Ventures team who work in some of the most isolated parts of western Madagascar. We are all so grateful for this recognition that integration of voluntary family planning services into community based conservation, food security and other environmental programs provides an effective way to reach some of the world’s most remote and underserved communities with the reproductive health services they need.

Working across sectors has empowered women, supported active engagement in natural resource management and greatly improved access to family planning. In six years, the contraceptive prevalence rate has increased more than fivefold, from 10% in 2007 to 55% in 2013.

The success of our work is thanks to the invaluable support of our many partners and although there are too many to name in this short time, I would like to specifically thank the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Environment in Madagascar, Marie Stopes Madagascar, Population Services International, UNFPA and the MacArthur Foundation.

If we, the international family planning community, are truly committed to ensuring full access and full choice, we must explore all options for delivering services and this integrated approach provides a powerful way to ensure access for some of the world’s most isolated communities.

I wish so much that Balbine could be here now to see this enormous endorsement of her work and we thank the ICFP organizers, the awards committee and everyone here for this incredible recognition. Misaotra bevata iaby, thank you very much everyone.

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