I’ve just returned from the International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) in Ethiopia where integrated population, health, and environment (PHE) programs had a strong showing. More than 16 sessions over three days at the conference incorporated PHE themes, including panels on communicating complexity around family planning, conservation and human rights; how PHE helps accelerate the fertility transition in rural Ethiopia; and meaningful ways of linking population and family planning to climate change and sustainable development in Africa. Blue Ventures, one of PHE’s strongest voices, was given one of the first ever Excellence in Leadership for Family Planning awards. At this global meeting of family planning experts, PHE was clearly and squarely at the center.
Population-Environment Program Wins Recognition: Blue Ventures Honored at International Conference on Family Planning›
›December 19, 2011 // By Sandeep Bathala“There is a growing recognition that population is a key driver of environmental, development, governance, and security challenges; however, family planning is not a traditional tool, nor is it often considered an ‘appropriate’ one, for responding to food, water, climate, or conflict,” said Roger-Mark De Souza at a November 30 panel discussion at the 2011 International Conference on Family Planning in Dakar, Senegal. “This presents a challenge for us: How can we change perceptions of family planning so that it becomes part of the solution to wider problems, including natural resource scarcity, lack of economic development, gender inequity, and instability?”
De Souza, vice president of research and director of the climate program at Population Action International (PAI), was joined by Sandeep Bathala, program associate with the Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program; Robert Engelman, president of Worldwatch Institute; and Daisy Magaña, fellow with the GoJoven Program, for a session on “Reaching Out at Rio: Explaining Population Growth and Family Planning to Environmentalists.”
Population Dynamics Part of Climate Vulnerability
“Advocates…need to communicate that empowering women to make their own reproductive choices will improve both their individual well-being and our collective environment,” said Engelman. According to research conducted on behalf of Americans for UNFPA, messages that focus on women – their health or empowerment – resonate well with American environmentalists, as they do with broader audiences.
PAI’s interactive mapping website shows that high levels of unmet need for family planning and rapid population growth rates are common in countries with low levels of resilience to climate change and high levels of projected decline in agricultural production, said De Souza. “Family planning services can be one element of a multi-pronged strategy to reduce especially women’s vulnerability to these interlocking vulnerabilities,” he said.
“Currently, population growth is viewed as a challenge to addressing climate change-related vulnerabilities, but family planning services are commonly left out of conversations about ways to reduce these vulnerabilities.” This is a lost opportunity, said De Souza: “We can integrate family planning into wider environmental, development, and peace-building efforts.”
At the recent UN Climate Change Conference in Durban, a side event on reproductive health and climate was well-attended. However, as panelist Esther Agbarakwe of the Africa Youth Initiative on Climate Change noted, population was not part of the conference‘s official discussion, due to lack of knowledge and fears of population control. PAI is currently working with UNFPA to produce a series of training modules on population and climate change that will help environmentalists, climate change activists, and researchers better understand and explore these connections.
Tapping the Youth Base
Bathala, formerly the Sierra Club’s Global Population and Environment Program director, discussed how the Sierra Club, one of the only major grassroots conservation organizations with a population program, uses youth outreach to raise awareness on the links between the environment, reproductive health, and women’s rights.
Because young people constitute over half of the world’s population, the Sierra Club focuses on empowering youth leaders to make the connection between environmental issues and sexual and reproductive health and rights. The Population and Environment Program reaches youth directly by organizing summits and multi-state campus tours featuring young people from around the world sharing compelling stories with their peers.
“The program provides youth and adult activists with materials, communication strategies, and leadership training,” Bathala said. “With these tools, the activists then educate their community members, campus, and decision-makers about the need for measures that increase access to family planning while addressing poverty, women’s empowerment, and environmental protection.”
In April, fellow panel member and Belize-native Daisy Magaña joined one of the Sierra Club’s U.S. tours to discuss the GoJoven program, which convenes and support youth reproductive health champions throughout Latin America. Through GoJoven, Magaña has worked to expand adolescent reproductive and sexual health choices, services, policies, and programs in Belize.
In a blog post, Magaña discussed how her message was simple: Don’t give up. “If you think being active on environmental and sexual rights issues is hard to do here, imagine doing it in a deeply conservative [Catholic] country like mine,” she told U.S. students.
Sierra Club also leads story tours to functioning population, health, and environment programs in the field, including a 2009 trip to Guatemala and Belize in conjunction with GoJoven. Through visits to 10 project sites, two U.S.-based youth advocates witnessed first-hand the challenges and opportunities associated with community-based sexual and reproductive health programs, significantly enhancing their ability to be pro-active messengers in their own communities. The tour helped the Sierra Club build an international network of young people committed to social and policy change in their countries.
Looking Forward: Finding Ways To Highlight Integration
While recognition of the connections between population growth and environmental impacts is growing, the experience of the panelists shows that it takes innovative methods to reach both the environmental and family planning communities. A similar panel later this winter at the Wilson Center will include representatives of Americans for UNFPA discussing their research on talking to environmentalists about reproductive health and population growth.
With the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) coming in June of next year, highlighting successful strategies is crucial in order to pave the way for better integration in the future.
Event ResourcesRoger-Mark De Souza/Population Action International.
›The original version of this article, by Jake Naughton, appeared on the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting blog.
The Pulitzer Center launched its collaborative reproductive health-reporting project at this year’s International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) in Dakar, Senegal. The project brings together four journalists from Africa and four from the United States who will collaborate to enhance local and international reporting about reproductive health across the continent.
The African journalists are Mae Azango of Liberia, Estelle Ellis of South Africa, Sam Olukoya of Nigeria, and Ken Opala of Kenya. Their U.S. counterparts are Christian Science Monitor correspondent Jina Moore; New Yorker editorial staffer Alexis Okeowo; and the Pulitzer Center’s managing director Nathalie Applewhite and visual media coordinator Jake Naughton.
More than two thousand reproductive health professionals and hundreds of journalists from all over the world participated in the conference, which sought to shine a spotlight on the unmet need for family planning services worldwide, and to focus on integrating family planning into general health services.
Continue reading on the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting blog.
Video Credit: “Meet the Journalists: Dakar,” courtesy of the Pulitzer Center.
›The integration of population, health, and environment programming “enables us to create synergies that mean we are more effective at achieving both health and conservation goals,” said Dr. Vik Mohan, director of sexual and reproductive health programming for Blue Ventures, in an interview with ECSP at the 2011 International Conference on Family Planning.
After Blue Ventures established their first clinic in 2007 in the village of Andavadoaka, on Madagascar’s southwest coast, “we felt immense pressure to scale up our intervention,” said Mohan. “We started with one clinic in one village, and now we have a multi-site service covering all 40 villages that we partner with for our community-based conservation work,” he said.
According to data compiled by Blue Ventures, the average total fertility rate in the region is 6.7 children per woman. The London-based eco-tourism-turned health and environment NGO offers a variety of family planning services to meet local demand, including mobile outreach clinics and community-based distribution of contraceptives. They also partner with Marie Stopes International to offer long-acting and permanent methods of contraception for those that want it.
“This Model Can Be Taken to Scale”
By integrating conservation and reproductive health messaging and service delivery, “we are getting greater buy-in from the community because they all see the added value of the breadth of things that we offer them,” Mohan said. “Men who came to hear about fisheries management get to hear about family planning technologies, practically for the first time in their lives.”
The fishermen are able to see the links between food security and population growth through their own experience, he added. “We believe very passionately this model can be taken to scale,” Mohan said. “This is something that could be easily replicated in other regions. Definitely in other coastal regions, but almost certainly in other remote areas – perhaps areas of high biodiversity where there are existing projects, perhaps conservation projects – but where there is an unmet need for healthcare and family planning in particular.”
“My advice to other organizations, whether you are doing healthcare or whether you are doing conservation, is just think holistically,” said Mohan. “If you are a conservation organization that recognizes that there is an unmet healthcare need for the communities that you work with, then…don’t be afraid to ask those questions, and don’t be afraid to build capacity to meet the need, if you find one. Or, don’t be afraid to partner with health NGOs to enable that need to be met.”
For more on Blue Ventures’ integrated efforts, see also ECSP FOCUS Issue 23, “To Live With the Sea: Reproductive Health Care and Marine Conservation in Madagascar,” co-authored by Vik Mohan.
PHE Champions Bring Their Experiences From the Field to the International Family Planning Conference in Senegal›December 8, 2011 // By ECSP StaffThe original version of this article, by Jason Bremner, appeared on the Population Reference Bureau’s Behind the Numbers blog.
This past week at the 2011 International Conference on Family Planning, four practitioners from the field traveled from remote parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Madagascar, and Tanzania to Dakar, Senegal, to share their successes and challenges in reaching remote communities with an integrated package of health, livelihood, and environment services. Together they made up the panel, “Reaching the Hardly Reached: Delivering Family Planning Through Population, Health, and Environment Integration.”
The panelists came from four environmental organizations whose starting point for working in these remote places was the protection of the biodiversity and natural resources upon which all life depends. Dr. Vik Mohan, physician and medical director for Blue Ventures, talked about how he and his organization transitioned from focusing initially on the conservation of coastal marine reserves and coral reefs to now working to improve health care, including access to family planning.
Blue Ventures, in response to community and women’s needs, opened a family planning clinic, and on the opening day, 20 percent of the women of reproductive age in the community came out to request contraceptives. Today they offer a whole spectrum of short- and long-acting contraceptive methods through partnerships with Marie Stopes International, Population Services International, and various funders. Blue Ventures reported that contraceptive prevalence had risen from 8 percent when they began in 2007 to 35 percent today.
Continue reading on Behind the Numbers.
Photo used with permission courtesy of PRB. Left to right: Didier Mazongo, WWF; Vik Mohan, Blue Ventures; Baraka Kalangahe, Tanzania Coastal Management Partnership; and Jason Bremner, PRB.
›December 2, 2011 // By ECSP StaffThe original version of this article, by Sarah Lindsay, appeared on the Ministerial Leadership Initiative’s Leading Global Health blog.
With more than 2,200 family planning policymakers, researchers, and advocates watching the opening plenary of the International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) – including some in seaside tents outfitted with big-screen TVs – two youth leaders captivated the audience.
The featured speakers included international dignitaries, headlined by the president of Senegal, but the younger leaders made a dramatic plea with an adamant demand: involve youth in family planning decision making.
As many family planning advocates say, family planning can improve the lives of future generations. Based on this argument, the youth leaders said they should be fully included in the discussions in making policy, and not have policymakers make decisions for them.
Both speakers, Saudou Node and Mohammed Barry, expressed disappointment that more has not been done to ensure universal access to family planning. Node told the plenary that projects and policies created to increase family planning access often never make it to the field.
Continue reading on Leading Global Health. For more on ICFP 2011, see Sarah’s full series of posts.
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