Today, 214 million women around the world would like to use contraception but still do not have access to it. The health implications behind this figure are staggering. Every year millions of women fall pregnant unintentionally, and 289,000 die from pregnancy-related causes. Marie Stopes International (MSI), which was founded over 40 years ago and is active in 37 countries, works to support access to contraception so that every woman and every girl, can decide for herself if and when she wishes to have children Tailoring its services to suit each individual client, Marie Stopes International operates through its 600 health centers, a network of 2100 socially franchised clinics, nearly 500 outreach teams, and a team of mobile healthcare professionals providing community level service delivery, called the Marie Stopes Ladies or “MS Ladies.”
Making Family Planning Accessible Everywhere
MS Ladies are qualified nurses and midwives who provide family planning counselling and services to women whose access is severely limited for economic, cultural, or geographic reasons. They are often members of the communities that need these services the most, such as poor peri-urban areas (shantytowns) and remote villages, which provides a real added-value for the program. This service delivery model is currently operational in 12 countries, including the three countries where it is supported by the Fondation CHANEL: Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Vietnam.
According to Suren Raymond, the organization’s director of development for the MS Ladies Channel, the goal of the program is twofold.
“We want to offer low-cost family planning services to women who don’t have access to them while creating a source of supplementary income for health care professionals who need additional income.”
Tana Bagnoa, who supervises a team of 20 Community MS Ladies in Burkina Faso, explains: “We train [the MS Ladies] in delivering contraceptive solutions, preventing infection and inventory management, but also in communication techniques, particularly for working with young people.” This is because, in addition to providing short or long-term contraception solutions, raising awareness and providing information and advice is critical. “Women come to see the MS Ladies because they take the time to listen to them,” says Bagnoa.
Proximity and a Virtuous Ecosystem
MS Ladies work from their own small clinics. They can also make house calls.
“Their strength lies in the fact that they are very close to their communities, but they also provide the discretion that their clients need,” says Bagnoa.
In addition to offering proximity, the system is designed to be affordable to the greatest possible number of women. First of all, it doesn’t require the establishment of any new health centers. Secondly, MSI cuts out the middleman by purchasing medicines, contraceptives and technical equipment directly from the manufacturers or main suppliers. The organization then sells these products to Community MS Ladies at a low margin and invests all the earnings back into the project. In addition, every MS Lady receives an initial supply that she only pays for after use.
Raymond adds, “We give them a service fee ceiling, but we let them set their own fees within the guidelines. They set reasonable fees, and if that is still too expensive for a client, the MS Lady directs her to a Marie Stopes Center or partner clinic where we can provide the service for free. When that happens, the MS Lady is compensated by that center or clinic for sending the client to them.” The overall result is that MS Ladies increase their own incomes by an average of 10-15% while giving women access to their services for about 20% less than they would pay in a health clinic.
So That Every Woman Has a Choice
MSI strongly believes that contraception can change women’s destinies and contribute to a country’s social and economic development.
As Raymond explains, “We give women the chance to take control of their lives, to plan. They can then control the size of their families. This affects the standard of living in their homes, and the education and attention that their children receive. For example, many of our clients want to space out their pregnancies.” That is the heart of MSI’s mission: to help women to have children by choice, not chance.
Par Camille C.
Reporter pour la Fondation CHANEL
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Photos : ©Marie Stopes International Sophie Garcia