Ford Foundation Working with Visionaries on the Frontlines of Social Change Worldwide
Gender, Sexuality and Reproductive Justice

Youth Sexuality, Reproductive Health, and Rights

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The goal of this work is to advance policies and programs that ensure the improved sexual and reproductive health of, marginalized young women.

The Challenge

In many parts of the world, gender inequality and poverty close off countless life options for girls. Yet most sexual and reproductive health programs ignore the social, cultural and economic factors that prevent young people from making healthy decisions and that contribute to their vulnerability to poor sexual and reproductive health outcomes, exposure to HIV, sexual violence and undesired or unsafe pregnancy. Many young people are also denied access to information and support that would enable them to protect their own sexual and reproductive health.

This is compounded by the rapid pace of growth of young people in developing countries and disadvantaged communities where access to information, services and support is typically scarce. The United States is also seeing dire outcomes: Young people, specifically ages 15 to 24, account for 40 percent of new HIV infections; nearly 13 million adolescents give birth each year; and sexual and gender-based violence against youth is widespread.

Perhaps one of the starkest examples is manifest by the nearly 10 million girls who are married every year—many as young as aged 8 or 9. In developing countries, 1 in 3 girls are estimated to be married before the age of 18. Child marriage lies at the intersection of a broad set of structural and social problems facing girls today. The practice violates girls’ human rights; curtails their educational future and success; exposes them to greater health risks related to maternal mortality, maternal disability, infant disability and HIV; and is more likely to lead them in to violent and abusive circumstances, social exclusion and poverty.

What We're Doing

We believe that effective policies and programs can address the stark realities and poor life outcomes of young people and help them explore how social norms around gender and sexuality shape their own attitudes and behaviors. Education and communications efforts can begin to transform social norms and stigma that often stand as barriers to young people’s improved srhr outcomes.

Engaging young people in the design of, and in advocating for, improved policies and programs can create more solutions and engage new leadership that contribute to long-term impact and change.

We support efforts to advance and enforce policies, to scale promising initiatives that build the leadership of local civil society organizations in many countries, to address issues of gender norms that harm girls, to expand quality SRHR education, and to demand more effective policy and enforcement of existing laws. We do this through efforts that:

  • Support education and policies to address gender and economic inequalities
  • Harness the reach and innovation of social media to expand access to quality information and engage in advocacy to advance youth SRHR
  • Challenge social stigmas that prevent services from meeting the needs of youth
  • Apply an integrated approach to HIV/AIDS and sexual and reproductive health
  • Improve girls’ health and development and that of their families, communities and nations by significantly reducing child marriage
  • Develop the leadership of young people themselves to access the information and services they need and to be visible champions of policies and programs that will serve a large numbers of their peers

Learn more about how our strategies and approaches shape our grant making.

From the Library




  • Margaret Hempel
  • Rocio L. Córdoba
  • Susie Jolly
  • Friday Okonofua
  • Eka Esu Williams

From the Newsroom


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