As Marie Stopes International celebrates its 40th anniversary, we look back at the empowering work they have done for women across the globe…
Marie Stopes is the UK’s leading independent provider of sexual and reproductive health services. But what is less well known is the valuable work done by its global organisation, Marie Stopes International, which provides contraception and safe abortion services in 37 countries across the world.
Marie Stopes International was founded in 1976 focusing on one central principle: every woman worldwide has the right to have children by choice, not chance. This November the global organisation celebrates its 40th anniversary.
When it first launched, very few women in developing countries had access to contraception. The lack of reproductive choice resulted in regular deaths during childbirth and left women faced with significant economic and social disadvantages.
In the last 40 years, Marie Stopes International has brought quality, low-cost contraception and safe abortion services to millions of women in some of the world’s poorest countries, providing 21 million women across the globe with a method of contraception just last year.
But there is still more to be done.
Right now 225 million women worldwide are unable to access contraception, making them more likely to have an unwanted pregnancy and drastically reducing their chances of completing an education, building a career, or pursuing their plans and dreams for the future.
Even more shockingly, women in many parts of the world remain unable to access safe abortion services, with over 20 million women resorting to unsafe methods to end a pregnancy each year. This results in a woman dying every 11 minutes.
It is organisations like Marie Stopes International that are pushing for progress, giving women the power to choose when they have children and the freedom to pursue their plans and dreams, for both themselves and their families.
Here’s to 40 years of Marie Stopes International and the enormous difference that it has made to the lives of millions of women worldwide…
Marie Stopes Burkina Faso employs local midwives to take contraceptive services out into the community. One of these ‘MS Ladies’, Alima Ouédraogo, travels by motorbike to towns and villages surrounding the capital Ouagadougou.
Local midwife and Marie Stopes representative, Alima Ouédraogo is pictured demonstrating an IUD to a group of women in Ziniaré.
In Sierra Leone, some villages are only accessible by boat. Marie Stopes Sierra Leone uses a speedboat to ensure women are able to access contraception, no matter where they live.
Junior nurse Zainab Sesay demonstrates different contraceptive methods to a group of women in Bonthe District.
In the mountains of Nepal, some women live hundreds of miles from their nearest health centre. Marie Stopes Nepal nurses Laxmi Kumari Shah and Anita Dahal trek through the mountains, carrying bags of contraceptive supplies to outreach sites. They regularly walk for many hours to reach these communities, sometimes camping overnight.
At an outreach site, 20-year-old Srijana Bika waits to receive a contraceptive implant that will prevent unplanned pregnancy for five years. She already has one child, and wants to wait before having more children.
In some parts of Zambia, there are very few facilities suitable for health services, so Marie Stopes Zambia create their own. Their inflatable outreach tents provide a clean environment for fitting long-acting methods of contraception.
An outreach team sets up a tent in the village of Nsuluka, Zambia, and dozens of women queue for services.
Outside, Nurse Lizzie Banda speaks to a large group of women about the different methods of contraception available, so that they can choose the one that is right for them.
Marie Stopes Afghanistan operates 12 clinics across five provinces, working with community and religious leaders to promote family planning within an Islamic context. Imam Badol – wife of a religious leader in Mazar Province- runs a session for local women.
In Mazar-e-Sharif, Dr Anaita talks to client Fatime about methods of contraception.
In Papua New Guinea, men are almost always the decision-makers of the family. Here, Nurse Joseph Mondo from Marie Stopes Papua New Guinea speaks to a group of men in Jiwaka province about the benefits of child spacing.
A team member at Marie Stopes Cambodia demonstrates an IUD to a group of women.
Marie Stopes International Uganda uses a three-wheeled tuk tuk to get services through to women in low-income areas of Kampala, where other vehicles can’t reach. Women in these areas have little to no access to health centres.
The tuk tuks double up as private counselling rooms, while the tents they transport become mobile clinics. Peer health educator Proscovia Namugumya counsels a young woman about her family planning options in Katende zone, Kampala.
Marie Stopes International was founded in 1976, when Dr Tim Black, his wife Jean Black and friend Phil Harvey took over the struggling family planning clinic Marie Stopes House (founded in 1925 by family planning pioneer Marie Stopes). The house on Whitfield Street, London remains a working clinic today, and there are representations of its blue door on Marie Stopes International services all over the world, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.