2016 marks the 40th anniversary of Marie Stopes International (MSI). MSI was founded in 1976 by Dr Tim Black, CBE and his wife Jean. Their vision was to make family planning services available to women and men around the world, based on their experiences of travelling to countries in Africa and Asia and seeing the impact of unplanned pregnancies first hand.
Today, we work in 37 countries around the world. The challenges have changed over time — from those faced by women in London in 1976 to women in Yemen today — but our approach of working locally with communities and governments has built vital trust and respect across the sector.
MSI’s approach has evolved over 40 years to address challenges for women in a variety of different socio-cultural and economic contexts, but remains consistent in our mission of ‘children by choice, not chance.’ We have responded to significant global shifts over time, including changing attitudes to sexual and reproductive health, challenges around cultural and social barriers for women to make decisions about their sexual and reproductive health and fluctuations in funding.
We have introduced innovative services and products, pioneered new models of service delivery and worked to tackle challenges around supply and demand in contraception markets. Initiatives include tools to measure the impact of reproductive health services, services for women who have undergone an unsafe abortion, training and monitoring to ensure high quality standards of service and using data to better target services toward communities in need. We have also helped strengthen capacity in sexual and reproductive service provision in partnership with governments and private providers all over the world.
We have helped shape discussion on women’s rights. MSI was a key organisation supporting maternal health initiatives under the Millennium Development Goals and now the Sustainable Development Goals. We also partner with the United Nations Population Fund to support health programming.
MSI has built social franchising networks which use private providers to help deliver healthcare services, increase awareness among women, build capacity and improve access to quality products, equipment, supervision and marketing.
This business model has successfully seen MSI serve 120 million clients over the last 40 years. In 2015, nearly 21 million people were using a modern contraceptive method provided by MSI, which also provided more than 3.4 million safe abortion and post-abortion care services.
“MSI has refined and enhanced its approach to remain at the forefront of practice and delivery, from education, to providing access to contraception and reproductive healthcare.”Jo Pradela, head of policy and advocacy at the Australian Council for International Development.
Despite 40 years of providing assistance to women, there is still more work to be done. Over 220 million women today are still living with an unmet need for family planning.
Plans for the following decades are already underway. Marie Stopes International will continue our work to increase women’s access to quality sexual and reproductive health and family planning services and address cultural and social barriers to help women exercise their health rights.