Melissa Cockroft

Melissa Cockroft - 2017 Nominee
Position: Senior Grants Manager
Organization: Marie Stopes Madagascar
Masters of Applied Anthropology and Participatory Development (Gender) from Australian National University
Additional Degrees and Certifications:
Honours, Bachelor of Arts International Studies, RMIT University, Melbourne Australia
Bachelor of Arts, University of Melbourne, Australia
Diploma of Modern Languages (Bahasa Indonesia), University of Melbourne, Australia
Awards Received:
  • Award:
    Women Deliver 100 Young Leaders
    Awarding Organization:
    Women Deliver
    Date Awarded:
    May 1, 2013
  • Award:
    Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development (AYAD)
    Awarding Organization:
    Australian Government (AusAID)
    Date Awarded:
    January 11, 2007
Melissa is a talented senior grants manager and technical specialist in sexual and reproductive health, who has dedicated her career to designing and implementing projects to increase access to contraception for women and adolescents. – Lalaina Adeline RAZAFINIRINASOA, Country Director at Maries Stopes Madagascar
Describe your contributions to and achievements in family planning.

In Cambodia, I managed a Hotline creating FP awareness and designed campaigns that now reaches more than 50,000 Facebook users. I facilitated the Cambodian Ministry of Health’s 2012-2016 strategy working group on FP/HIV integration. In South Sudan, I was Director of Programmes for the main NGO provider of FP. The conflict created major logistical challenges, forcing us to adapt operations on an almost daily basis. Despite these challenges, we delivered FP services in 3 states before the situation deteriorated and we were forced to close. Despite the program closing, I am confident that we developed the foundations for other organisations providing FP services. Currently I I am overseeing 7 projects that in 2017 will provide 760,000 FP services across Madagascar.

What sparked your passion for family planning?

It was a gradual awareness, rather than a single event. In high school we were taught very little about anything other than pills and condoms. When I became aware of other contraceptive methods, I was surprised and angered - why had we been kept in the dark about the full range of options like implants and IUDs? I kept seeing this again and again in other countries where I worked. This is what sparked me - knowledge is power. No one should be prevented from understanding all of their FP options.

Give one or two examples of how you display leadership in your family planning work.:

I motivate my colleagues to focus on finding innovative but practical solutions that fit the local context to achieve project objectives while still seeing the bigger picture. I listen to my colleagues and am conscious of how my culture influences my work and decision making. Working in South Sudan was an extremely difficult operating environment.. As Programmes Director I had to keep the team calm in stressful situations and ensure motivation remained high in the face of our imminent closure.

If you are named a winner of 120 under 40, how will you use this new platform and the $1000 grant to advance your work? :

I will use the funds to support advocacy efforts in Madagascar to eliminate current laws requiring youth parental consent to access FP. The money will be used to create a 5-part radio show developed by our youth partner organizations, highlighting stories of how the current FP law impacts youth and how access to FP can have a positive impact. The radio show will be used to lobby local authorities and decision-makers, with the new FP law expected to be passed by parliament in 2017.

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