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The Three Founders of Marie Stopes and Its Growth to a Multinational Organisation

Marie Stopes Kenya has over the years been on the lead in provision of  reproductive health services. The name of the firm is derived from a British author known as Marie Stopes (1880 – 1958) who advocated for family planning through her books.

Stopes was educated at the University of Manchester and in 1921 established the first clinic offering family planning advice to married women in the UK. Even though she received opposition from various quarters including the Catholic Church, her principles seemed to resonate well with the era of the “roaring 20s”.

Marie Stopes. [Photo|nationalarchives.gov.uk]

The roaring 20s simply is the period after the first world war which has been described as glamorous era of technological changes and prosperity. This diversity of life happened in Europe and in U.S. During the post world war 1 period, there were  socio-economic changes that saw women begin taking up white collar jobs and making independent choices such as family planning.

Marie Stopes Controversy 

In her book ‘Married Love’ which was published in 1918, Marie Stopes came out as a proponent of the now widely discredited principle of eugenics. Simply put, eugenics advanced the idea of people with ‘favourable characteristics’ entering into marriage for the propagation of a successful generation. However eugenics proponents including Stopes called for the sterilisation of those deemed ‘unfit’ and also discouraged interracial marriages.

It is for this reason that Marie Stopes International changed its name to MSI Reproductive Choices in November 2020. The firm’s decision was seen as a way to distance itself from the prejudices of eugenics at a time when the ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaign had taken over the globe. However, the company said that they still credit Stopes for family planning advocacy.

“For me, she was an acknowledged family planning pioneer, an extraordinary woman who broke down barriers, but we really need to look forward and not back. It’s the right moment for us,” said Simon Cooke, the Chief Executive of MSI.

Founders of MSI Reproductive Choices

MSI has presence in 37 countries and it should be taken note that the author Marie Stopes did not incept the organisation. Instead, it was founded by Tim Black, Jean Black and Phil Harvey in 1976. Tim Black was a medical doctor who in 1969 saved the life of a 3 month old baby but was shocked that the mother expected her to die. According to Tim Black, the widowed mother had no source of income and by the daughter surviving, it was more of a burden on her.

By saving the life of that child, I had actually compounded her problems, not solved her problems,” said Black as quoted by MSI official website.

Due to this encounter, Black became a champion for women’s choice regarding their reproductive health. In 1970, Tim Black and Harvey founded Population Services International (PSI) which carried out a USAID funded condom marketing campaign in Kenya.

In 1976, the duo brought in Jean Black and they leased one of the historic buildings that housed Marie Stopes’ clinic in the 1920s. This is the reason why the organisation adopted its initial name.

Marie Stopes Kenya 

In Kenya, the organisation still goes by its original name on social media and on its website. They have the following  branches across the country: Nairobi CBD, Rongai, Eastleigh, Kenyatta Market, Pangani, Kangemi, Thika, Nyeri, Meru, Nanyuki, Nakuru, Naivasha, Eldoret, Kakamega, Kericho, Kisumu, Kitale and Mombasa.

The services offered are:

  • Maternity services including antenatal care and post abortion care.
  • Pregnancy crisis and counselling.
  • HIV and STI screening.
  • Cervical cancer screening.
  • Ultrasound and laboratory services.
  • Male circumcision.
  • Family planning services including vasectomy.

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