Albina du Boisrouvray
On May 8, 2002, Albina du Boisrouvray presented United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan with a symbolic safety net containing signatures of two million people around the world urging governments to act now to effectively address the needs of millions of AIDS orphans and vulnerable children. Every name is a stitch that weaves this gigantic symbolic safety net.
“Albina has championed the cause of children orphaned by AIDS since the beginning of the pandemic, when few people had the understanding, courage and determination to make their voices heard.” (Dr. Peter Piot, former Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS – UNAIDS).
Albina before FXB
After a childhood in New York and a cosmopolitan adolescence, Albina du Boisrouvray settled in the Canton of Valais, in Switzerland, where she met and married Bruno Bagnoud. Following the birth of their son, François-Xavier, in 1961, she studied psychology and philosophy at the University of Sorbonne in Paris.
She worked as a freelance journalist notably for the “Nouvel Observateur”. Her journalistic scoop on the circumstances surrounding the death of Che Guevara was cited by l’Express and by French and Scandinavian television channels.
From 1969 to 1986, she worked in film production, with a documentary for Pathé: « 36, le grand tournant » and then, through Albina Productions. In 17 years, her company produced 22 films including “les Zozos” (1972), Pascal Thomas’ first film, “Police Python” (1975) by Alain Corneau, “L’important c’est d’aimer” (The important thing is to love) (1975) by Andrzej Zulawski, “Je suis timide mais je me soigne” (1978) by Pierre Richard or “Fort Saganne” (1984) by Alain Corneau.
After the death of her only child, François-Xavier, in 1986, Albina sold her film production company as well as 3/4 of her personal assets and committed herself to Médecins du Monde alongside Bernard Kouchner, with whom she went on a mission, notably to Lebanon.
Since then, she has devoted all her energy, credibility and solid entrepreneurial experience to humanitarian causes as well as economic and social development and research by creating multiple programs around the world, including the innovative FXBVillage poverty reduction model in 1991 and the creation of the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University’s School of Public Health in 1992.
The creation of FXB
François-Xavier Bagnoud was a young helicopter pilot who specialized in rescue operations and dedicated his life to providing assistance to others. In 1989, Albina du Boisrouvray, along with family and friends, founded the Association François-Xavier Bagnoud (FXB International), an international non-governmental organization to pursue, in the field of development, the rescue missions that he led, and to perpetuate the values of generosity and compassion that guided François-Xavier’s life.
FXB’s mission is to provide extremely poor families with the tools and support they need to become socially and economically self-sufficient and give their children a dignified future. With a presence in 14 countries and more than 450 employees, FXB currently runs 50 programs in the areas of economic and community development (FXBVillage), education, health, protection and climate change.
The FXBVillage Poverty Reduction Model
The main innovation of FXB’s approach since 1991 has been the provision of seed capital – instead of a loan – to enable the economic strengthening of families participating in FXBVillage programs. Indeed, this small capital combined with business management and financial literacy training – given to participants in the first year of the program allows them to start Income Generating Activities (IGA/mircoenterprises) and facilitate their financial inclusion without worrying about having to repay a loan. FXB’s financial support is decreasing as families become more economically independent. Indeed, the newly created microenterprises enable families o gradually obtain sufficient income to meet their daily needs and continue to prosper after the end of the program.
Since 1991, FXB lifts 10 people out of poverty every day through its FXBVillage programs.
- 1985 : Albina is awarded the “Ordre des Arts et des Lettres” with the rank of knight and becomes the first film producer to receive the “Ordre National du Mérite”.
- 1993 : Title of “Doctor of Humane Letters” by the University of Michigan.
- 1996 : Albina was made a “John Harvard Fellow” by Harvard University.
- 1999 : Special Recognition Award for “Responding to the HIV/AIDS Orphan crisis” at the second conference on Global Strategies for the prevention of HIV transmission from mothers to infants in Montreal.
- 2001 : Albina was made “Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur” by the French Government for her pioneering work in palliative care projects (FXB Palliative Home Care Centers are located in Paris, France and in Sion, Switzerland). The same year, Harvard students presented her with the “Harvard Project for International Health and Development Award”.
- 2002 : Albina received the North-South Prize from the Council of Europe together with Xanana Gusmão, President of East Timor. The North-South Prize is awarded each year to two persons, one from the North, one from the South, who have actively contributed to the development and defense of the rights of the individual, pluralist democracy, and the partnership between North and South.
- 2002 : Thanks to the innovative projects she creates and leads within FXB, Albina was one of the first 30 members of the Schwab Foundation’s “Social Entrepreneurs Group”. This recognition allows the group’s social entrepreneurs to participate in the World Economic Forum in Davos to present and share their expertise with world leaders in politics, business, civil society and the public sector.
- 2003 : The Rutgers (previously the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey) conferred upon her a “Doctor of Humane Letters Degree”.
- 2003 : Albina du Boisrouvray received the “Lifetime Achievement Award” at the 4th International Conference on AIDS in India, in recognition for the projects that she initiated in the 35 States and Territories of India.
- 2004 : Award of the prestigious “Thai Komol Keemthong Foundation Award of Outstanding Personality 2004” for the work undertaken since the early 1990s in Thailand and Myanmar.
- 2007 : The French “Fédération nationale des Clubs Convergences” gave her an award for her activities on behalf of orphans and vulnerable children affected by AIDS in the world.
- 2008 : the French TV Channel 5 devoted a full documentary within its “Empreintes” Collection to Albina du Boisrouvray. “On behalf of the son” directed by Olivier Horn, produced by Gedeon Programs and France 5, was filmed in Thailand, Burma and from Uganda to the Swiss Alps, following Albina and meeting beneficiaries of her programs. It goes back to the roots of her exceptional career, reveals her conception of humanitarianism and sheds light on the meaning of her commitments. This film is the witness of a unique destiny marked by the gift of self, the convictions of a committed woman, the courage and love of a mother.
- 2009 : the French President, Mr Nicolas Sarkozy, presented Albina du Boisrouvray the insignia of Officer in l’Ordre National du Mérite. During his speech, the President honoured the work and commitment of Albina du Boisrouvray: “Your NGO is a model throughout the world. You are a committed woman. Your solidarity is exemplary and that is why the Republic will honour you“. The same year, she received the BNP Paribas Jury’s Special Prize in recognition of Albina’s 20 years of action on behalf of AIDS orphans and vulnerable children.
- 2009 : Albina received the BNP Paribas Special Jury Prize to mark the 20th anniversary of FXB International’s work with AIDS orphans and vulnerable children. The prize of 50,000 Euros, awarded by Michel Plébereau, Chairman of BNP Paribas, recognizes men and women who are remarkable for their ethics, their personal involvement and the exemplary nature of their actions.
- 2011 : Frederic Mitterrand, the French Minister of Culture and Communication, made her “Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres”.
- 2014 : In India, Albina received the Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS) Humanitarian Award. This price honors and recognizes individuals with exceptionally high contribution to the society in various fields relating to social issues and who have distinguished themselves as true humanitarians.
- 2016 : Albina was conferred the French distinction “Officer of the Legion of Honor.” Highest decoration bestowed in France, the latter rewards the extent and quality of Albina du Boisrouvray’s tireless action in favor of the poor over the past 27 years.
- 2017 : the European Center of Music in Bougival (France) inscribed her name in the Academy of Honor constituted in the name of the therapeutic benefits of Music.
- 2019 : the Board of Directors of the Jodhpur School of Public Health in India awarded Albina the Excellence in Global Public Health Diplomacy Award in recognition of her outstanding work in Rajasthan since 1996.
Albina strongly believes that investing in children, youth and women is investing in world peace and security.
- 2010: Alayne Adams, Albina du Boisrouvray and Bilgé Ogun Bassani publish “FXB’s Development Approach: Foundational Values and Strategies”, which highlights FXB’s fundamental values: child rights, families preponderance, the importance of local expertise, capacities-building, continuing training, and the restoration of human dignity.
- 2015: “To save Humanity: What Matters Most for a Healthy Future”, published by Julio Frenk and Steven J.Hoffman in 2015, aims to share the innovative thinking of the most relevant people around the world. In chapter 13, every fundamental human needs to be fulfilled to improve health.
- 2015: On FXB’s 25th birthday, Albina du Boisrouvray wished to make FXBVillage model available to other organisms who whised to improve their approach in fighting extreme poverty. She published “FXBVillage Toolkit and Planning Guide”
- 2022: Albina publishes « Le Courage de Vivre », a book that traces the journey of a free and committed woman in her time; who knows how to transform the trials of life into unparalleled wealth.
Activist, humanist, and ecologist Albina du Boisrouvray is one of those figures who mark by the courage and strength of their actions. A heiress of a great Franco-Bolivian family, rebel, she spent her childhood in palaces worldwide. She cut early her ties with this glittering environment and its convenience. From May 68 to ecology and Médecins du Monde, she never ceased to affirm her commitment to the 20th century’s leading struggles; before dedicating her wealth to militant humanitarian and the rescue of children worldwide.
If the life of the one, who was also a brilliant movie producer, could be dreamed of, however, it hides many deep wounds. The deepest of which is the tragic death of her son François-Xavier during the Paris-Dakar race in January 1986, in the helicopter crash on board which he was transporting Thierry Sabine, the race director and Daniel Balavoine.
The Route of the Rights of the Child
Albina’s first action, with the creation of FXB in 1989, was to engage, alongside Médecins Sans Frontières, in a symbolic maritime pilgrimage: “The Route of the Rights of the Child” linked Nantes to New York via the African coasts and the West Indies, aimed to promote the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by the UN. In New York, they were received by Javier Perez de Cuellar, then Secretary-General of the United Nations, with whom they shared their thoughts and concerns. A declaration issued from this meeting urged governments to ratify and implement the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Children’s rights are at the heart of FXB’s actions, and each of its programs is a response; to the concrete implementation – in the daily lives of children – of their rights as defined by the Convention on the Rights of The Child, adopted on November 20, 1989.
Rescue in Thailand
In 1990, Albina created FXB Thailand and opened, in partnership with CPCR and MSF, four FXB emergency shelters for girls escaping from brothels or evacuated by the police in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai.
In July 1992, FXB received a call for help from young women working on the border between Thailand and Burma. They were subjected to sexual slavery, beaten, malnourished and at high risk of HIV/AIDS. Albina du Boisrouvray then alerted Saisuree Chutikul, advisor to the Thai Prime Minister and in charge of women’s status and child prostitution. The police proceeded to a raid and freed 153 women and young girls, including 95 young Burmese women. Aged between 14 and 20 years, 50% of them are HIV positive. They were repatriated to their country of origin a few months later. In September 1993, FXB opened a program that would offer individualized reintegration; based on the aspirations and abilities of each of these young women.
FXB helped pave the way for the improvement of Thai national legislation through the “Act on the Prevention and Suppression of Trafficking in Women and Children” adopted in 1997.
In 1992, Albina created FXB Uruguay and opened la Casa FXB de Montevideo, which offers an educational project to street children and vulnerable teenagers. The aim was to allow those young people to find ways to face the challenges related to poverty and elaborate a life plan.
At the end of a long campaign launched by Albina, many young people’s families at la Casa FXB managed to benefit from decent housing. Then FXB initiated farming activities development to improve those families’ quality of life on an economic and nutritional level, allowing them to have access to decent supply. By the way, FXB cooperated with a UNICEF initiative aiming to include a new point on the national budget to bring financial support to families taking care of orphans.
In 1994, Albina created FXB Brazil and opened the FXB House in Sao Paulo for children orphans, HIV positive or suffering from AIDS.
As a result of FXB and several Brazilian ONG joint actions, the Chamber of Deputies unanimously approved the modification of article 18 of the law on patents. This modification allowed Brazilian pharmaceutical companies to produce generic antiretroviral drugs, massively reduce tri-therapy pricing and generalize their access.
World AIDS Orphan day
In 2002, on Albina’s initiative, FXB launched the first World Aids Orphan Day. On this occasion, Albina created a symbolic net for Aids orphans composed of two million signatures (without the help of social networks at the time), including the UN’s first secretary Kofi Annan.
AIDS orphans are the tip of the iceberg; that disguises millions of vulnerable children affected by the pandemic. Indeed, AIDS has a catastrophic impact on families and communities, leading to more poverty. More than 95% of children affected by AIDS, particularly orphans, continue to live with their extended family, often in conditions of extreme poverty. Despite advances in funding for AIDS research, prevention and treatment, the plight of these children is ignored or grossly underestimated. FXB works with the conviction that the response to give to the increasing numbers of vulnerable children situates in a global action towards families. By strengthening their global abilities and allowing them to earn a stable income, they are then able to support themselves and escape poverty in the long run. By breaking the vicious poverty circle, parents can raise their children with dignity – the next generation – and avoid them turning to drug trafficking, prostitution, criminality or becoming child soldiers, a lost generation.
It is thus urgent that governments make a strong commitment to intervene with these children and the families and communities taking care of them by allocating at least 10% of AIDS funds to support orphans and children made vulnerable by the virus.
Global Action for Orphans (GAO) and Global Action for Children (GAC)
In the late 1990s, Albina launched Global Action for Orphans (GAO) to bring public and government attention to the plight of the millions of orphans left in the wake of AIDS. Her lobbying convinced Senator Kerry to introduce the 16/9 bill in the U.S. Congress, which failed due to lack of ownership. Inspired by Kerry’s bill, Senator Hyde filed a new request that would become Public Law 108-25 on May 17, 2003: the U.S. Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Act of 2003. Thanks to Senator McCollum’s aggressive lobbying, this bill contains an amendment that calls for 10 per cent of the funds appropriated for this project to be spent on HIV/AIDS assistance to orphans and vulnerable children affected by HIV/AIDS.
In 2003, Albina du Boisrouvray and Paul Zeitz decided to expand this lobbying to other vulnerable children by launching the Global Action for Children (GAC), which was officially launched in 2004. GAC, which Albina du Boisrouvray co-chairs and Jennifer Delaney leads, has had many successes. In particular, by developing a set of recommendations to the U.S. Congress, supported by Senator McCollum, which led, in 2005, to a specific law for orphans and other vulnerable children in developing countries: Public Law 109-95 (PEPFAR), signed by President George W. Bush. It was the first comprehensive legislative response to the global crisis of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC).
These efforts by the GAO, through 2003, and the GAC resulted in $3 billion (10% of PEPFAR funding) allocated for OVC programs. Although the GAC ceased operations in December 2010, its impact and work for OVC continue to affect the lives of millions of children around the world.
Clinton Global Initiative
In 2005, Albina joined the “Clinton Global Initiative”, which brings together a community of worldwide leaders to share and implement innovative solutions to face some of the world’s most pressing challenges. This initiative differentiates itself by its determination to make a difference quickly and by being action-oriented for each participating member. The FXB President made several commitments this year and in subsequent years.
In collaboration with the Green Belt Movement, FXB implemented measures to achieve carbon neutrality by mitigating environmental costs of its organizational activity – such as transportation, paper use, lighting and heating – through tree planting.
In partnership with the United Nations Foundation, Albina committed to convening a Think Thank involving key business leaders from the private and public sectors, bilateral aid agencies, NGOs, developing countries ministries and internet companies. The aim is to understand how to use new technologies effectively in development aid.
FXB also launched 30 FXBVillage programs over five years programs that would lift 18 0000 adults and children out of extreme poverty in Africa and Asia.
In partnership with the Hindustan Construction Company (HCC) in India, FXB developed HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention programs for the 10’000 employees, often vulnerable migrant workers, of its partner’s subsidiaries.
Through a partnership and funding at the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, FXB is committed to providing care and psychological support to Israeli and Palestinian children affected by the conflict. Project components included training Palestinian doctors through fellowship in Israeli hospitals, access to medical care for Palestinian children in Israeli hospitals, and twining soccer schools to foster friendships between Israeli and Palestinian children.
The Joint Learning Initiative on Children and HIV/AIDS – JLICA
In 2006, the Joint Learning Initiative on Children and HIV/AIDS – JLICA was launched, with FXB as one of the founding members. JLICA is an independent alliance of researchers, practitioners, policymakers, activists and people living with HIV dedicated to improving the well-being of children affected by HIV/AIDS. The Joint Learning Initiative on Children and HIV/AIDS (JLICA) final report in 2009, called “Inconvenient Truths: Children, AIDS and Poverty”, advocates for a shift in policy in countries severely affected by AIDS.
Extract from Albina’s speech at the final report presentation in London :
JLICA’s work finally provides solid evidence to convince all those who need to hear it and act on it. It corroborates other significant research findings, including that of the Inter-Agency Task Team on Children and HIV and AIDS.
The JLICA findings do not identify a single policy model applying to all countries. It will be up to policymakers to make choices based on national priorities and opportunities. However, the JLICA does provide a set of options in which policymakers can have confidence.
We now have consistent and clear information, but we all know that the biggest challenge will be to put it into action. That is why we are here today: to draw on our vast collective experience and strategic vision to plan the way forward for children affected by AIDS and poverty.
I can’t tell you how happy I am to see so many organizations taking the issue of vulnerable children seriously and joining hands to find lasting solutions. My fight was lonely twenty years ago when I dedicated my life to AIDS orphans and vulnerable children. They need our love and commitment. But now, we have an important tool with the Joint Research Initiative on Children and HIV/AIDS to influence government policies.
It is the responsibility of all of us to save the millions of children spawned by AIDS and the millions more who live in extreme poverty and drift away from their societies, all of whom I call the “lost generation. By investing in these children and the families who raise them, we make our world a better and safer place.
Partnership with Palthink for Strategic Studies in Gaza
In 2017, Albina initiated a partnership with PalThink for Strategic Studies, an independent think tank and workgroup founded in 2007 in Gaza. The objective is to carry out activities to promote, diffuse and strengthen the concept, culture and principles of nonviolence within the Palestinian society, focusing specifically on young people from Gaza. They are the key to a positive change in society.
Albina is convinced that investing in children, youth, and women, is investing in peace and security across the globe.