It all began when some women asked for contraceptive advice from a pair of doctors working for a small international research group surveying the oceans in southern Madagascar. At the time, Blue Ventures was a conservation group made up of scientists and volunteers who were gathering data on coral reefs and fisheries in Velondriake, a remote and poverty-stricken part of the country. The doctors were there to provide medical assistance to divers, but they soon found their services were also required by women from the local villages.
“The medics had women coming to them, talking about their reproductive health needs,” says Laura Robson, the health and environment partnerships manager for Blue Ventures. “They [the doctors] were struck by the situation they observed in the community.” The women had little or no access to a regular doctor, so when they heard there was an international medic in the area, they came to ask for supplies and health advice, particularly on accessing birth control.