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12 months in 12 days: Marie Stopes International's First Year in Senegal

March 12, 2013

For 12 days in the run-up to International Women's Day on Friday 8th March, Marie Stopes International posted stories and photos to their unique 12 months in 12 days photojournal. The photojournal will give you a glimpse into their first year in Senegal, through the eyes of women and men, young people, their team members and health professionals on the ground.

You can view the full
12 months in 12 days photojournal here, or the French version here. They give Impatient Optimists a taster of their first year in Senegal below.


In 2011 Marie Stopes International Senegal opened its doors and became the youngest of our 41 country programmes. Needs are high in Senegal, so our high quality, voluntary sexual and reproductive health services are crucial. Access to the full range of contraceptive methods, particularly long acting and permanent methods such as implants, IUDs and tubal ligation is extremely limited. As a result, the number of unwanted pregnancies and women dying in childbirth is unacceptably high.

On sex, contraception and being young

Meeting the sexual and reproductive health needs of young people is really important to us, because to a large extent the future of young people in the developing world is determined by whether they can access contraception or not. In each country we work in we identify what the barriers are to young people accessing contraception: in Senegal stigma came up time and time again.

“It’s a shame, but talking about sex still is a big taboo here in Senegal. And sex outside of marriage doesn’t even exist. Officially, that is, because of course it happens. What do you think? Youngsters here want to experiment and live life to the fullest just like people anywhere else.” 

Some of our team took the information and services they provide out of the clinic and down to where young people are: the beach. This is what they found.

On campus

We regularly hold events such as university information days, which can help to break down the barriers, get young people talking about contraception, and assure them that if they want 100% confidential support and advice, they can come to Marie Stopes International.

The most common thing we heard today was that young people fear disapproval from their community if they are found with contraception (and therefore having sex outside of marriage) far more than they fear the risks of having an unsafe abortion if they become pregnant unexpectedly.

“Although sexuality is still a big taboo here in Senegal, young people are very keen to discuss it and learn about it. And they should. It really struck me, for example, how many students don’t know how getting pregnant works.” Read more stories from the students

On being Marie Stopes International

Without our 8,500 team members across the world, we couldn’t help to meet the needs of the 222 million women who want, but can’t access contraception.

“Being a midwife has always been my vocation. As a young girl, all I wanted as birthday presents were medical kits. My work allows me to help women who are suffering. Believe me, women of my age who live with their ten children in one room are not happy. Their bodies are simply exhausted from being pregnant all the time. If they are lucky enough not to die giving birth, that is.”

Read more about how our team members Fambaye, Oumou and Bernadette say their work is changing lives.

On being BlueStar

People commonly associate franchising with chains like McDonalds, but it is also changing the face of health in the developing world. In countries where the public health system is not strong, people already visit private health clinics and pharmacists for their health needs. So it makes good sense to make a wide range of contraception, support and advice available at them too. The way we do this is through social franchising – or franchising for a good cause rather than profit.

“I didn’t hesitate a second when asked if I wanted to belong to the Bluestar network. At our clinic women couldn’t get any long term family planning services like IUDs or implants, and neither did we have the knowledge to administer them. Now I am thoroughly trained in family planning by Bluestar, and provided with affordable materials.”

Read the stories of private healthcare professionals who say that joining our BlueStar social franchise network has brought benefits for them and the women and men who use their services.
On visiting BlueStar

“All women I know, myself included, have been wishing for a clinic like this. Finally, finally we all have easy access to contraception! I just received an implant. And after this one I will take another one. Three children is enough. My husband agrees wholeheartedly.”

On day 6 we talk to Ndack, Nana and Bintou, three women who have benefited from the family planning services their local BlueStar clinic is now able to provide for them.

Read the entire 12 Months in 12 Days: Our First Year in Senegal on!

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