Imagine if you didn’t want to get pregnant but you lived four hours’ drive away from the nearest clinic or doctor.
Without a local bus or train to take you there your only option is to walk. When you finally arrive hours later, the contraception you want is out of stock, isn’t available, or costs more than you can afford. What would you do?
This is one example of the challenges faced by millions of women around the world, every day.
We think this is unacceptable. And it's why our outreach teams travel long distances by any means necessary to reach people with services that many of us take for granted.
Outreach is our most effective way of reaching the millions of people who still don’t have access to contraception. We have over 500 outreach teams who will drive, fly, sail or trek to deliver services to people in rural and remote communities. And because we offer a range of short-term, long-term and permanent methods, it means the women we reach can get on with their lives without constantly worrying about their health or getting pregnant. Sometimes they don’t have to think about it for years.
Half of the clients we served in 2015 had no other way of getting their preferred method of contraception.
Our outreach services take a range of free or subsidised high-quality and modern contraception to people who wouldn't be able to access it any other way. Operating on a wide scale we visit over 30,000 locations every year, reaching:
Without Marie Stopes International we’d still be having babies!
For many women a visit from a Marie Stopes outreach team is life-changing. It can mean the difference between her living happily, or having her health, family finances or education suffer. And the impact of empowering a woman to control her destiny creates ripples that touch her family, community and country.
Our interactive story, We go to where they are, focuses in more detail on the work of our Kahama outreach team in Tanzania. They also feature in the video below, meeting Elizabeth; a client who tragically lost three of seven children before accessing family planning.
Every one of the countries we work in is different, and within those countries there can be great disparities between towns and villages. Our country programmes plan their outreach trips long in advance, working with governments and the local community to identify what will work best for their unique local contexts and communities.
This could mean longer periods out in the field, different team sizes and make-ups, working with government facilities and local businesses to enhance existing health systems, or offering different services based on local demand.
The majority of our outreach teams travel cross-country using 4x4s to help them navigate difficult terrain. They set up in places where they can meet with lots of clients, to counsel them and give them a method of contraception if they want one. Depending on the location the teams set up clinics at under-used public health centres, or in large inflatable outreach tents at pre-selected sites. Sometimes they even visit clients in their own homes. The video below shows an average day for our Mpika outreach team in Zambia.
Outreach is powered by the dedication, passion and courage of our expert teams. Small but perfectly formed, our teams work hard to build trust with the communities they serve, working in challenging and sometimes hostile environments. Our photo gallery shows how far they will go to to reach people in need.our work with communities
Outreach teams often consist of some variation of a doctor, a nurse and a driver. Although team sizes change depending on the type of outreach, we task share in line with WHO guidelines so that we run efficiently and can serve even more people on our visits.
In urban areas smaller teams use public transport or light vehicles like motorbikes to navigate busy neighbourhoods and dense traffic. Marie Stopes Tanzania does some outreach by auto-rickshaw (called Bajaji). They can travel door-to-door quickly and overcome cultural norms requiring women to remain in the home.
Our team in Sierra Leone reach remote communities by speedboat. Without us delivering contraception, this community would have no other way of accessing it.
In Vietnam, we partner with garment factories to deliver services on site. This means workers - the majority of which are young women - can access expert advice and affordable healthcare at their convenience.
Teams can be out in the field, tackling difficult terrain and spending time away from their own families for anywhere from one to 21 days a month. They will return to base only to stock up on supplies.
Our teams trek between locations on foot, tackling mountains and jungles, and camping overnight if need be. Our Meri Didi nurses in Nepal, for example, walk for hours with heavy sterilising equipment so that women living in the remote northern mountains can receive implants and IUDs.
We’re committed to making sure that anyone who wants quality and modern contraception can get it, regardless of where they live or how much money they have. We want people to be properly informed about their choices and empowered to take decisions that are right for them.
That’s why we don’t just turn up, give out condoms and leave. We give comprehensive care that continues long after we’ve left a site, and build lasting relationships with the communities we serve.
Outreach clients always receive private and supportive one-to-one counselling before receiving any method of contraception.
A Marie Stopes team member starts by giving the client information about her family planning options, quashing myths and misinformation so she can make informed and voluntary decisions about the choice that is right for her.
Our outreach teams offer a wide range of contraception, including short term, long term and permanent methods.
We don’t offer the methods we think people should have. We offer all methods of contraception registered in the client’s country, so she can choose for herself.
There may be occasions where the desired method isn’t available, such as when a woman wants a tubal ligation on a home outreach visit. If this happens we always refer the client to her nearest Marie Stopes centre, or another facility or provider where she can get the service.
No outreach visit is complete without making sure our clients have follow up care arranged, so they can replenish their contraception and manage their health.
This could mean returning to a site two or three months later, or selecting an outreach site where trained government staff are available to continue providing this type of care after we've left.
Clients who visit us on outreach can expect to be treated with respect, compassion and receive high quality care – just as they would if they visited one of our centres or pharmacies.
We work hard to build trust and put people at ease. And even though some of the locations we visit are very basic, we do everything possible to make our clients comfortable.
An example of this is having all teams trained in Vocal Local - a highly effective pain relief technique called Vocal Local where they reduce the client's anxiety and pain through talking and singing to her.
Every year Marie Stopes International goes further than others, and we don’t just mean the number of miles we travel. We go further in our approach to problem solving, by designing innovative solutions to huge challenges: