Marie Stopes International Australia

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Marie Stopes International runs an Innovation Fund that gathers ideas from employees and provides start-up funding to pilot exciting new ways to deliver our services. In Kenya, this funding has been used to trial an evolution of our Community Health Worker (CHW) scheme, which has potential to expand our family planning services within a sustainable financial model.

Community Health Workers are recruited by many of our country programmes to work within local communities and generate demand for sexual and reproductive health services. They play an important role in reducing barriers, however, because funds often do not exist to make these positions salaried, it can be difficult to maintain motivation levels.

Adapting the Community Health Worker model

To counter this, the Innovation Fund granted Marie Stopes Kenya funds to pilot a sustainable network of “micro-entrepreneurs”.

Within this, CHWs would be recruited to sell both consumer goods and family planning products door-to-door, while helping generate demand and referrals for sexual and reproductive health services. Support and training from MS Kenya and the opportunity for commercial income act as incentives for CHWs to increase their engagement within local communities.

Training and supporting micro-entrepreneurs

Putting the plan into practice, MS Kenya partnered with the charity Living Goods to carefully select, train and equip CHWs for their role. The CHWs recruited were given five days of training in family planning and business skills, and were supplied with a branded start-up kit, an initial stock of goods and a loan to support their business.

So far MS Kenya has recruited 80 CHWs in Nairobi and Machakos, who provided almost 400 referrals to our family planning services between May and June of this year. This represents a higher referral rate than in comparable CHW networks and more in-depth analysis is planned to review the effectiveness of the “micro-entrepreneurs” against more traditional models.

Developing and expanding the model

Through analysing their progress to date, our team in Kenya plans to develop the scheme into a sustainable, scalable social marketing model that can be replicated to help under-served women in other countries.

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