Marie Stopes International Internship (January-March 1999)

Regarding: Dickey Center Grant

Beverly Guttag

 

For the past 8 weeks, I have been working in Marie Stopes International’s London office. MSI is a registered charity whose efforts towards the provision of reproductive health care include political advocacy, fundraising, press relations, education campaigns and the monitoring of a global network of clinics. All of these activities are carried out in order to secure the MSI mission: Children by choice, not by chance. My contribution to these various elements of MSI’s work has been stimulating and pleasurable.

While at MSI, my experiences have been varied. I attended a press conference in which the International Conference on Population and Development was discussed. In addition, I helped organise and attended a Sheffield symposium in which local teachers, health care providers and policy makers took part in a dialogue regarding adolescent reproductive health care.

However, the bulk of my time-expended and knowledge-acquired has dealt with the creation and publication of two documents. The first of these is a document which will be distributed to donors and MSI staff alike for the purpose of increasing knowledge about MSI’s experiences with young people. In order to gather data for this report, I interviewed MSI programme managers in the African, European, Latin American and Asian divisions. I learned about the relationship between financial donors, clinics and governments. Additionally, I became fluent in acronyms, learning about the international funding organisations, such as UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) and DfID (Department for International Development), which support service provision and education projects.

After an entire month of speaking with programme managers and reading field reports, project proposals and programme reports, I had an excellent understanding of the breadth of MSI’s work. In addition, attending the ICPD press conference and reading about the 1994 Cairo and 1999 Hague conferences allowed me to develop an understanding of MSI programmes with relation to international policy measures. Using this information, I created ‘MSI: Working with Adolescents, ICPD in Action.’ This document details various youth-targeted programmes throughout the world, including contraceptive social marketing in Albania, Condom Cafés in Ethiopia, the mobile cinema bus in Uganda, and social franchising in Nicaragua. In addition, the report describes the necessity of adolescent reproductive health care, despite cultural taboos and conservative politicians which hinder public health efforts. It is my hope that this advocacy document increases respect and support for adolescent health programmes.

While evaluating Marie Stopes International’s progress towards ensuring children by choice, not chance, it became apparent to me that although MSI’s experience is broad, it is not complete. After discussing this observation with my supervisor we decided that I should research a second document: a framework of recommendations. I researched this document by reading international publications, such as journals and UN reports, and by soliciting expert opinion from representatives of other international reproductive health providers. I have spoken with Brook Advisory Clinics (specialising in adolescent-friendly clinics in the UK) and met with professionals at the offices of Population Concern and the International Planned Parenthood Association. Using the wealth of publications and opinions which I had been exposed to, I created a thirty page document detailing the most efficient methods of working for and with young people. This report, titled ‘MSI: Working With Adolescents, Best Practice Recommendations’ contains strategies and guidelines to be used by programme managers, thereby ensuring that MSI’s knowledge continues to come to life in the field.

At the end of my last week, I gave presentations to the External Relations Team and the Overseas Programmes Team, explaining my findings. When I am gone, the reports I have created will be used to increase donor awareness and support of MSI’s adolescent programmes and provide technical assistance to programme managers at MSI and beyond with regard to young people’s reproductive health care services.

In my research, I have been exposed to persons and opinions of differing cultures and have become familiar with the societal status of adolescent sexuality in various regions. Despite my own views, I have had to admit and adapt to traditional thinkers, many of whom refuse to acknowledge that the safe expression of sexuality is a human right. I now understand that the success of actions depends not only upon policy and pounds sterling, but on the cultural environment in which actions are undertaken.

My experience at MSI has been extremely rewarding, both personally and professionally. The energetic and creative staff, with whom I have had the pleasure to work, have been friendly and encouraging as well as professionally supportive. In terms of reaching my professional and academic goals, my experience here has been incredible. I came to MSI with the intention of learning more about the international status of reproductive health care. I leave having published two substantial reports, now knowing that I can make a significant impact in the field of international reproductive health. Following the next stage of my professional advancement -- which includes earning money to pay for a Masters degree in Public Health -- I hope to continue working in international development. My experience with Marie Stopes International has been an excellent beginning to what will hopefully be a life long journey.

 

I am more than happy to discuss my findings with any interested party. More importantly, at least for students interested in working abroad, I am willing to discuss such mundane tasks as obtaining a work permit, living well on a strict budget and finding a place to live. (I certainly could have used some advice!) Please feel free to ask.


Beverly Guttag '00 (Valhalla, NY) is studying (Comparative) Religion at Dartmouth. Her actvity and interest in sexual health began in high school via her involvement with the Westchester Youth AIDS Council and continued in College by means of RAID (Responsible AIDS Information at Dartmouth) and a research project within the Education Department on the efficacy of "abstinence-only" outreach.

Since studying international politics and environmental science, her interest in reproductive health care has broadened, intellectually and geographically. During the past years, she has worked with Marie Stopes International (London) and Family Care International (Manhattan), helping these organizations re-evaluate their approach to adolescent reproductive health education. Currently, she is studying Arabic and Augusto Boál's "Forum Theatre" and working with Hanover Middle School's peer education acting troupe.

During the coming years, Beverly hopes to work in a combination of the following arenas: international family planning education (Peace Corps or a grant), domestic adolescent education and theatre (Planned Parenthood), international policy research (The Alan Guttmacher Institute) and/or studying theatre as political/public health discourse (Augusto Boál at NYU and a grant). Advice, chit-chat, pointers for getting above-mentioned grants and career suggestions from your Ouija board may all be directed towards:

Beverly.Guttag@Dartmouth.edu

 

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