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Social franchising

We use the private sector to increase access to contraception and safe abortion services.

We know that we can’t reach all the women who need our services on our own.

That’s why in 2004 we established a social franchising network, where we partner with existing private health providers who can deliver high quality contraception and safe abortion services with our support.

What is social franchising?

People commonly associate franchising with fast foods chains, but it is also changing the face of healthcare 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 sense if they have a wide range of high quality contraception and safe abortion services available too. We do this through social franchising – or franchising for a good cause, rather than profit.

Who do we reach?

Social franchising helps us to quickly scale-up access to services so that we can reach poor and under-served women in a sustainable way.

It works best in countries where private healthcare facilities are already serving poor people. By expanding the services offered by these private providers, we can easily help to provide greater choice to clients.

Increasingly, we are linking these services to demand-side financing mechanisms like vouchers and insurance, so that poorer clients are able to afford them.

While our social franchising networks vary from country to country, we find that this approach is particularly effective in helping extend our reach within urban areas.

I didn’t know too much about family planning - worse still, I felt ashamed to discuss the subject with my clients. But now that I learned so much at the BlueStar training, I feel confident to talk about it, and to offer these services to my clients.
BlueStar franchisee

How does social franchising work at MSI?

Our private healthcare providers deliver services for us under our BlueStar social franchise brand. It works in much the same way as a commercial franchising operation with franchisees – clinics, midwives, and pharmacies – paying a small fee to join the network.

In return they receive ongoing training in a range of sexual and reproductive health services, infection prevention, counselling, and, most importantly, are taught how to put their clients’ needs at the heart of what they do.

Once they have completed the initial training and meet our quality standards they are provided with branded signboards and materials, usually bearing the logo of our BlueStar network. We also provide them with affordable high-quality medicines and other products which they sell to clients using an agreed pricing structure.

We now have almost 2,400 franchisees. We support them to provide quality services, by assessing and assuring they meet our required standards on an annual basis, and work with them to provide training and support.

Services offered through social franchising

Short-term contraception

Many of our clients like the flexibility of using a short-term method of contraception, particularly if they are unsure about when they might want to have children in the future.

Using a short term method means they can stop using it whenever they are ready to start a family or decide they want to have more children. We offer two types of contraception within this category – short-term barrier methods and short-term hormonal methods.

The short-term barrier contraceptives we offer are the female and male condom.
The four types of hormonal method we offer are the combined oral contraceptive, the progestin-only pill, the progestin-only injectable, and the combined patch.

Long-acting reversible contraception

Long-acting reversible methods of contraception are methods which offer protection against pregnancy for a number of years.

Despite their long-term nature, they are also suitable for women who wish to delay pregnancy for one to two years.

Many women prefer the convenience of these methods rather than needing to remember to take a pill every day, or having to get an injection every month. The vast majority of our clients choose long-acting or permanent methods of contraception and in many of the countries where we work, Marie Stopes International is the only provider of these methods.

We can offer clients three long-acting reversible methods:

  • copper intrauterine device (IUD);
  • levonorgestrel intrauterine system (LNG-IUS);
  • contraceptive implant.


Emergency contraception

If a woman has had unprotected sex and wants to protect herself against pregnancy, we can offer emergency contraception.

We offer two types of emergency contraception – the emergency contraceptive pill and the copper intrauterine device.

Emergency contraceptive pill

The emergency contraceptive pill – also known as the morning-after pill – can help to prevent pregnancy when taken up to five days after unprotected sex.

Copper intrauterine device (IUD)

The copper IUD can be inserted up to five days after unprotected sex. Once inserted, it can stay as long as the woman wishes to keep it in place, from a few weeks up to 10 years.

Safe abortion

Where legally permitted, we offer two types of safe abortion services through social franchising - medical abortion and surgical abortion.

Medical abortion is where a woman takes tablets to end her pregnancy. It is a safe, non-invasive alternative to surgical abortion, which we can offer to women outside of a healthcare environment. This means women can have more control over when and where their treatment takes place.

Surgical abortion is a safe and effective procedure performed by a doctor.


Post-abortion care and family planning

If a woman comes to us or one of our social franchisees for an abortion or post-abortion care, the procedure itself is just one part of the service we provide.

Post-abortion care is immediate life-saving medical care for women suffering complications from an unsafe abortion. But we know that often women who seek an abortion aren't using effective contraception, so through post-abortion family planning we are there to offer emotional support, as well as contraception.

We offer many different contraceptive options for women post-abortion, including short-term, long-acting and permanent methods. And we support each woman in choosing the best option for her, depending on her fertility intentions and the type of procedure she has had.


All the women I know 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 for me.
BlueStar client
MSI group education session in DRC

Our vision for the future is bold.

By 2030, no abortion will be unsafe and everyone who wants access to contraception will have it.