By Lison Garrel, Safidy (Community Health) Programme Coordinator, Belo sur Mer, Madagascar
Last month the commune of Belo sur Mer was in a party mood! And no, it wasn’t because of the rallies preceding the presidential election, it wasn’t because of Christmas getting closer, it was because Blue Ventures’ Safidy programme was holding some family planning festivals!
Safidy has been running in the Belo sur Mer area since June 2013, providing 8,000 people across 10 remote coastal communities with access to sexual and reproductive health information and services. Our baseline health needs assessment highlighted low levels of knowledge about contraceptives, and so we have set about organising a variety of educational activities (including village outreach presentations) to enable couples to make informed choices about their sexual and reproductive health.
In four villages around Belo sur Mer, we took advantage of the popularity of kilalaky music and the traditional seafaring culture to organise special awareness raising events, alongside pirogue races and music video projections, focusing on different contraceptive methods, and how to access them from our community-based distributors and through our partnership with Marie Stopes Madagascar‘s mobile outreach teams (for long-acting reversible methods).
One of the most popular aspects of these festivals were the night projections. Short films and power point presentations animated by our community organisers explored the link between reproductive health, family size, food security and the marine environment, in line with Blue Ventures’ integrated Population-Health-Environment (PHE) approach.
Our event in Belo sur Mer, the commune centre, was even bigger, with members of the Safidy team from Velondriake (including their four community-based distributor supervisors) travelling up to assist with a three-day training workshop for our community-based distributors, followed by the two-day community festival.
Our community-based distributors had the opportunity to share their knowledge of contraceptives gained from the learning exchange with the Velondriake team, as we set up various stands offering information about different methods: condoms, pills, injections, implants and intra-uterine devices. Posters and leaflets were kindly provided by our partners Marie Stopes Madagascar and Population Services International.
A special stand about STIs and HIV was staffed by the Belo sur Mer midwife, offering rapid HIV tests, and lots of HIV questions were discussed and answered. Our partner MAHEFA was also present with a water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) stand, and Blue Ventures’ conservation team presented the results of the mangrove reserves in 2013, as well as the latest news on the aquaculture trials.
Many little games took place in the morning, to focus attention on the stands and to share information about family planning. In the afternoon, more important races were organised: on the Saturday it was women with paddle pirogues in the channel by Belo sur Mer, and on the Sunday it was men with sailing pirogues.
On the final night, the winners were presented with brand new pirogue sails painted with family planning messages. These will act as mobile advertisements for Safidy throughout the Belo sur Mer area for years to come.