Recently, our colleagues at the Wilson Center hosted “Oysters, Octopus and Resilience,”an event whose title does not immediately suggest a strong link with maternal health. And, indeed, the event featured organizations, TRY Oyster Women’s Organization, which works in the Gambia, and Blue Ventures, which works in Madagascar, that did not start out with an explicit emphasis on maternal or reproductive health either. Both organizations began with a focus on fostering community-based efforts around marine conservation, specifically sustainable fishing and oyster harvesting projects. Both organizations, however, adapted their approaches based on recognition of the overlapping challenges that women, families and communities face. As TRY Executive Director Fatou Janha described her organization’s approach to the Wilson Center:
“We talk about the sustainable stewardship of the environment…but we can’t afford to have this if we don’t have healthy people.”
As a result of this shared realization, both organizations link communities with vital resources, including education and services around family planning and maternal health. Blue Ventures’ Medical Director Dr. Vik Mohan pointed out, this sort of approach has enabled both organizations to pursue an approach that holds promise for reaching across the gender barriers that often hinder reproductive health programming. As Dr. Mohan said of Blue Ventures’ approach:
“It means that when women come to hear about family planning, they also get to hear about fisheries. It means that when men come to learn about fisheries, they hear about contraception, probably for the first time in their lives.”
For more, visit the Wilson Center’s blog or webcast of the event.