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Communities

We work to build trust with communities and understand their challenges.

Without the co-operation of the communities we serve, we wouldn’t be able to reach nearly as many people as we do.

Many of the problems we see every day can only be tackled in a meaningful, long-lasting way when lots of people work together and commit to solving them.

Going it alone just won’t work

Our clients face challenges that go far beyond visible obstacles such as poverty and geographical location. There are unseen pressures too, leading to high unsafe abortion rates and low contraceptive uptake - even in countries where these services are legal and freely available.

Because we build our teams around people who are from or near the communities they serve, they see and understand the real challenges first-hand.

Our community-based educators and health workers have a very real knowledge of the issues on the ground, as well as the context and the sensitivities, insights that are sometimes lacking from Western-based NGOs. They identify common issues such as:

1 Myths, misconceptions and cultural taboos

Lack of sex education in schools and within families means that false information about abortion and contraception is rife. Sex and sexual health are often taboo subjects in conservative communities, preventing people from talking about it and seeking help. This is particularly damaging for young people who are discovering their sexuality and need someone to talk to.

2 Cultural traditions and religious beliefs

In many of the countries we work in cultural and religious traditions restrict women’s freedom and movement, forbidding them from using contraception without their husband’s consent, or even leaving the home without a chaperone - often male.

3 Fragile environments

Our work often takes us into communities that are suffering the effects of war, unstable political regimes, natural disasters and humanitarian crises. For example, in the midst of the Ebola crisis our teams continued to provide vital services to women in Sierra Leone and other high-risk countries.

4 Unsafe providers

In every community we work with we see untrained or unlicensed ‘quack’ doctors, ready to perform unsafe and illegal abortions, or push dangerous concoctions on their desperate clients. Their empty promises leave women disabled or, worse, dead - ravaging whole families and communities.

We know we can’t fix everything. But we're committed to making a positive impact on the communities we serve. Our approach has always been to take a holistic view of problem-solving.

It means working with individuals to meet their immediate needs, such as visiting women who are unable to leave their homes for services. Alongside this we work with community leaders, local authorities and organisations to tackle the root causes. For example by promoting the benefits of our services among faith leaders.

With their local knowledge and connections, our community-based staff are the best people to drive this approach.

 

We're committed to building trust and relationships with communities – without their collaboration it would be impossible to do our work.

"Working with a community, you work 24 hours…you never stop working." (Brenda, Marie Stopes South Africa)

We never stop working

Building trust with communities doesn’t happen overnight. It is forged through the constant communication and dedication of team members like Brenda, a community-based educator for Marie Stopes South Africa.

In the short film below we see the unstoppable Brenda on a mission to stop women falling victim to unscrupulous unsafe abortion providers.

 

“It’s my mission to help women to educate themselves, to know their rights. I want women to be independent, to have a say. I’m not going to stop, I think I’ve just started!” (Brenda, Marie Stopes South Africa)

Building strong relationships

Community health workers like Brenda are vital to relationship building. They will go out into the community every day to meet people, talk about contraception and the options available to them, make appointments, distribute contraception, chaperone clients to clinics, promote upcoming outreach visits, and follow up with clients afterwards.

Around a quarter of our impact in 2015 alone can be attributed to distribution of low cost and high quality contraception through pharmacies and community based distributors. They are fully embedded into the community, and that means they don’t just switch off at the end of the day.

Moving forward with community leaders

We plan outreach activity weeks in advance, co-ordinating with community gatekeepers like village chiefs and faith leaders. The influence and respect that these leaders possess helps us to gain acceptance by residents. Many leaders will even work with us to promote our visits or translate messages into the local language. We have had great success working with religious leaders in particular, who have shown people that family planning can be compatible with their beliefs. These inspiring and forward-looking leaders recognise the enormous benefits that contraception and safe abortion can bring - not just for the individual but for the whole community.

Pastor James Kainerugaba, Uganda

“Religious leaders everywhere should help people access family planning information and services that lead to their stability and development. If a home is not stable, the church will not be stable. Church starts in a home and if people are not happy in their homes, even our churches will not be happy.”

Reverend Dickson Kasirye, Uganda

“I love what I do because I know that in the end, I am making a positive contribution in the lives of people in the community.”

Fousseini Doumbia, Mali

“We work with Marie Stopes International to make the Muslim community aware that Islam is not against family planning.”

There at times of crisis

Working with the community can be challenging but relationships are particularly tested at times of crisis.

The 2014 Ebola epidemic was the most widespread and deadly outbreak of the virus the world had ever seen. It resulted in massive loss of life and many communities were understandably gripped with fear. This led to negative consequences for our nurses in West Africa, who continued providing services throughout.

Mary Kaifineh, a nurse with Marie Stopes Sierra Leone, tells us what the experience was like for her and how she worked with the community to regain their trust.

 

Mary Kaifineh

I became a nurse because I strongly believe that it is one of the most significant ways of serving humanity.

Elizabeth Pappoe – Marie Stopes Ghana team member

I enjoy maternal and reproductive health a lot, as women are special.

Naomi Mwansa – young client

I was scared to go to prison. I was worried about the number of years I would spend there. I was really scared.

Lizzie Banda – Marie Stopes Zambia nurse

I have to work, for the people. That’s why I chose this career. I’m proud to work for my Zambian people.

Support our mission

By 2020 we want to have reached 40 million people with contraception. Our work with communities will be crucial to this – but we can’t do it without investment and dedicated people on the ground.

If you want to be part of something that will transform millions of people’s lives, please get in touch and lend your support to our mission.

Invest in our work Join our team

The Mexico City Policy means millions in the developing world could lose access to contraception

We will not turn our back on those who need us most.

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