Leading sexual and reproductive health clinician, Dr Chelsea Morroni, appointed to improve family planning in South AfricaMarch 21, 2017
At the beginning of March, Dr Morroni began her secondment to work with us on family planning service provision in South Africa, as part of our EU funded project.
We are delighted to welcome Dr Chelsea Morroni, a Sexual and Reproductive Health clinician, as a part time secondee, to assist us with our family planning work in South Africa. Chelsea will be providing training and mentorship to a specialist family planning nurse and will strengthen family planning service provision under our EU funded project in Limpopo province, which will improve community knowledge of, and access to, family planning rights and services.
Dr Morroni has extensive experience in strengthening family planning, and sexual and reproductive health service provision more broadly, in resource poor settings. She has lived and worked in this field in southern Africa for nearly 20 years. She currently directs the Botswana Sexual and Reproductive Health Initiative, and is a medical advisor to the Botswana Family Welfare Organisation (the only non-governmental provider of family planning services in Botswana) and is a special advisor to the Botswana Ministry of Health Family Planning Programme.
In addition to having experience of public health programmes in developing countries, Dr Morroni also brings with her an extensive academic pedigree. She has a BA in social anthropology from Harvard University, an MPH and medical degree from the University of Cape Town, an MPhil and PhD in epidemiology from Columbia University, a Diploma in Tropical Medicine from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a Diploma in Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare from the UK Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare. She is currently appointed in the Institute for Women’s Health and the Institute for Global Health, University College London, with honorary appointments at the University of Cape Town, the University of Botswana, the Botswana Harvard Aids Institute Partnership and the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.
Under our two year EU funded project, we will be working closely with partner organisation, the Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Programme, to empower two marginalised rural communities. The project will address both family planning and other human rights issues, as community members are generally unaware of their sexual and reproductive rights. Indeed, it is notable that the South African constitution refers to the right to access health care, and expressly states that this includes reproductive health services. The project focus is to not only promote the exercise of these and other rights, but provide training to clinicians and others, to ensure that when services are requested, they can in fact be provided.
The project will provide community members with vital family planning knowledge, and enable them to hold their local government and service providers to account if services do not meet the levels which department mandates require. Project staff will work with local clinics to address barriers to family planning, improve service provision and contribute to health system strengthening.
These actions are extremely important given the local patriarchal social structures, a high level of gender inequality and appalling levels of violence against women and girls. A 2013 study demonstrated that 77% of local women had experienced gender based violence and 57% of girls interviewed in a 2011 study reported that their first sexual encounter had been forced. Few of these girls or women are fully informed of their sexual and reproductive health rights, and as a result they often do not access services, such as accessing Post Exposure Prophylaxis or emergency contraception. We are therefore delighted that Dr Morroni is joining our team and will be making a valuable contribution to improving the sexual and reproductive health of the poor rural communities at our South African project site.
We recently began work on a major new European Union funded project, jointly with our South African Network member, the Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Programme.
In February, we launched a two year project, funded by the European Union’s Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights for South Africa, which will empower marginalised rural communities in Limpopo Province to know, understand, advocate for, and exercise their sexual and reproductive rights. The project is being delivered in partnership with our Network member, the Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Programme (TVEP). We are combining our decades of experience improving knowledge on sexual and reproductive health and improved family planning provision, with TVEP’s unparalleled local, and internationally recognised, expertise with vulnerable people, especially victims of gender based violence.
We are working with TVEP staff to integrate family planning actions into TVEP’s existing work, both in communities and schools. Our work will also ensure that the staff of local government departments, such as health, justice, policing and education, are adequately providing the services which the communities are legally entitled to access. To this end, we are recruiting a family planning nurse to provide training and mentoring to clinic staff at the project site’s medical facilities. Through the work at the community level and in medical facilities, communities will be enabled to fully exercise their constitutionally protected sexual, reproductive and gender human rights, including their right to quality, rights-based family planning.
The local need is great. For instance, a 2013 Gender Based Violence Indicator Study revealed that 77% of women in Limpopo had experienced such violence, and only one in 10 women sought medical attention after such abuse. Another study commissioned by the Department of Social Development in 2011 found that 57% of girls interviewed reported that their first sexual encounter had been forced. Most of these children are not well informed of their sexual and reproductive rights and therefore do not know that they are legally entitled to access Post-Exposure Prophylaxis or emergency contraception. Therefore, increasing knowledge of, access to and provision of quality and comprehensive health services, including family planning, is vital to improve women and girls’ health and empowerment.
David Johnson, our Chief Executive, is excited about the project and said, “We estimate that at the very least 12,000 community members will benefit from improved knowledge and services thanks to project actions. This is the perfect example of the impact which can be achieved when members of the Population & Sustainability Network collaborate.”
The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of The Margaret Pyke Trust, with the Population & Sustainability Network and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.
SOURCE: Blue Ventures
This month we feature our fellow Population & Sustainability Network member, Blue Ventures, a renowned Marine conservation organisation. Blue Ventures has been integrating community-based family planning and other health services with locally led marine resource management efforts and alternative coastal livelihood initiatives along the western coast of Madagascar for the past decade. This holistic approach is often referred to as "PHE" because of the way that it reflects the connections between people, their health and the environment.
In resource-dependent and under-served settings, challenges such as poor community health, unmet family planning needs, food insecurity, resource depletion and environmental degradation often interact and compound each other in increasingly negative ways. PHE is a joined-up approach designed to stop and reverse these vicious cycles by kick-starting a series of positive chain reactions: enabling couples to plan and better provide for their families, improving their food security, and equipping them with the skills they need to manage their resources sustainably.
In the first site where Blue Ventures developed its PHE programme with health partners including Marie Stopes Madagascar, the proportion of women using contraception has increased more than fivefold since 2007 and recent elections of the committee governing the locally managed marine area in the region saw female representation increasing from 13% to 38% of general assembly members. The community health component of Blue Ventures' PHE programme is known locally as "Safidy", meaning "the freedom to choose" or "choice", reflecting the organisation's commitment to upholding reproductive rights and enabling all individuals to make free and fully informed family planning choices.
Blue Ventures' distinctive style of working emerged through conversations with local communities, which challenged the organisation to appreciate the ways in which human and ecosystem health are intertwined. Their unconventional journey in conservation began through listening. They learned that people in Madagascar’s first locally managed marine area thought that fish stocks would collapse without improved access to family planning. They also saw that, as a field-based organisation working with these isolated communities, they were ideally positioned to address this critical unmet need with health partners in the region.
Today, Blue Ventures' PHE programmes reach more than 25,000 people along Madagascar's western coast and the organisation plays a leading facilitatory role in Madagascar's national PHE network. This network was established in 2014 to facilitate and support the creation and development of PHE partnerships among health and environmental organisations working in some of the island's most biodiverse and under-served zones. This platform is enabling Blue Ventures to share its PHE experiences and learning with numerous like-minded organisations while uniting Madagascar's health and environmental sectors to achieve and sustain meaningful changes for people, their health and the environment.
In April 2017, Dr Marian Davis will become the Margaret Pyke Trust’s first runner to take part in the London Marathon. Marian will be running to raise money for the Margaret Pyke Trust, with the Population & Sustainability Network, to help improve sexual and reproductive health around the world.
Dr Marian Davis is no stranger to a challenge. Running her first marathon at 49, she has gone on to complete more than six marathons and five half-marathons in over five different countries. There is, however, one marathon that she has always wanted to enter - the London Marathon.
“We’re thrilled to have Marian as our first Margaret Pyke Marathon runner. She will be joining around 36,000 runners in one of the world’s most famous running events, taking her past some of London’s most iconic landmarks, and we’re honoured that she will be running to support the Trust”, said David Johnson, Chief Executive of the Margaret Pyke Trust.
“I am delighted to be running the London Marathon for the Margaret Pyke Trust. The organisation has worked for over 50 years, both in the UK and internationally, providing training in contraception and reproductive health to clinicians. As part of the Population & Sustainability Network, they work towards improving reproductive health as a step towards empowering women, eradicating poverty and sustaining the environment, which is something I feel very strongly about.”, explained Marian.