Gender equality is a universal human right and is foundational to Marie Stopes International’s mission of ‘children by choice not chance’.
As a health care provider and advocate for human rights, Marie Stopes International (MSI) recognises that gender inequality impacts an individual’s needs, choices and access to health information and services. Understanding inequalities and the power relations that exist within families, communities and wider societies is essential to developing programmes that increase access to services, improve reproductive health outcomes and reduce stigma.
Our commitment to gender equality is informed by the Sustainable Development Goals, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action.
Our commitment to gender equality is part of our broader intersectional approach to diversity and inclusion. This is based on the understanding that gender inequality intersects with other forms of discrimination that can act as barriers to healthcare, such as race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, age, marital status, disability, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, caste and social class. MSI recognises that gender is not binary, and that rigid gender norms and hierarchies systematically privilege some groups over others.
Sexual and reproductive health and rights are key to gender equality. For more than 40 years, MSI has delivered de-medicalised, client-centred services that aim to give adults and young people choice and control over their sexual and reproductive lives. Reproductive health services based on respect and informed choice can strengthen people’s agency, challenge negative gender norms and help to improve their social and economic position. However, we acknowledge that this does not happen automatically; every aspect of service delivery and advocacy must be designed in a way that recognises and aims to challenge the prevailing power dynamics, inequality and discrimination that exist. This is particularly important when designing programmes to reach individuals who have traditionally faced significant barriers in accessing health services, such as people living in extreme poverty, adolescents, people with disabilities and sex workers.
To deliver our commitment to gender equality, MSI has formed an internal gender working group focussed on delivering organisational and programme level commitments. These involve a focus on balancing gender representation in leadership positions particularly in our country programmes; applying a ‘gender lens’ to our programming; and supporting our staff and partners to integrate gender equality into the way we work and as a critical component of quality of care using approaches including training, safeguarding and first line response to sexual and gender-based violence.
We aspire to a gender transformative approach at every level of our operations, and we recognise that we have a lot to learn from others. We are committed to building and strengthening relationships with leading partners so that we can work together to realise the potential of all our programmes to support gender equality in the communities and countries in which we work.
MSI commits to working towards a gender transformative approach at all levels.
Approaches that take advantage of existing gender inequalities, behaviours and stereotypes in pursuit of programme and/or service delivery goals. These approaches reinforce unequal power in the relations between women, non-binary individuals and men, and between providers and clients, potentially deepening existing inequalities.
Approaches that do not reflect or recognise gender norms and inequalities (and how they intersect with other forms of discrimination) neither reinforcing them nor addressing them.
Approaches that adjust to or compensate for gender differences, norms, and inequalities. These approaches respond to the different roles and identities of women, non-binary individuals and men, and how these intersect with other forms of discrimination. However they do not explicitly challenge unequal relations of power or address underlying structures that perpetuate gender inequalities
Approaches that explicitly examine, question, and challenge institutions and norms that reinforce gender inequalities and other forms of discrimination. The lived experiences of women, non-binary individuals and men are validated and they feel empowered to fully participate in the organisation's activities.