A student at Umutara School for the Deaf

Inclusive sexual and reproductive health and rights

Supporting the most vulnerable people to realise their sexual and reproductive health and rights

Over the last three years, we have empowered over 250,000 of the most marginalised and excluded people – including girls, adolescents, people with disabilities, people living with HIV and prison populations – to access sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services and achieve their SRH rights for the first time.

We believe that for vulnerable people to realise their SRH rights, change must occur at multiple levels in society, so we work to:

  • equip people with the knowledge and information they need to live healthy lives;
  • bring about community engagement and behaviour change, using peer-led interventions and innovative communication methodologies;
  • build the capacity of key stakeholders within health and education systems to deliver socially inclusive, accountable and responsive services. 

Challenging harmful attitudes

In many societies, harmful traditional practices and attitudes impact negatively on the sexual and reproductive health of young people, especially girls. Globally, 12 million girls under the age of 18 are married each year, 30 million are at risk of female genital mutilation in the next decade, and around 1 in 10 (120 million) has been a victim of sexual violence.

We work to improve the sexual and reproductive health and wellbeing of young women and girls by reducing the impacts of harmful traditional practices, including sexual violence, early forced marriage, female genital mutilation, male child preference, and unhealthy practices around menstruation. 

Our package of interventions encompasses:

  • training community-based youth advocates and peer mentors, who provide a safe space for young people to discuss their concerns and find their own solutions;
  • raising awareness of the damaging impacts of traditional practices and advocating for changes in attitudes, in novel and engaging ways – including through interactive theatre, sport, and film;
  • engaging local leadership through networks of community volunteers, encouraging them to uphold existing legislation prohibiting practices such as early marriage and FGM.

Empowering young people with disabilities

Globally, young people living with disabilities face even greater challenges accessing SRH information and services, and in realising their rights, than their peers.

We work to:

  • empower people with disabilities to raise awareness amongst their peers, generating demand for health services and promoting positive behaviours;
  • strengthen the response of healthcare providers, through raising awareness of disabilities and providing training in skills such as sign language;
  • advocate for SRHR and disability rights through engaging approaches such as interactive theatre and community volunteering models.

In Rwanda, we have collaborated with the Ministry of Health to improve the quality and accessibility of essential SRH services for Deaf young people, and are now scaling up our work in this area.


Programmes supporting inclusive sexual and reproductive health and rights

Peer educator Alfred Kunda stands in front of a group of seated young men, delivering an outdoor peer education session

Tackling sexual health taboos

Improving young people's sexual and reproductive health and rights in rural Zambian communities.

A married couple high five over a board game they are playing outside

Breaking with tradition: Male engagement

Making life safer for women and girls by challenging harmful attitudes and behaviours.

Community mobiliser Dharmendra Chaurasiya interacts with performers during a theatre performance, watched by a crowd of women
VSO/Omar Havana

Interactive theatre for justice

Using drama to empower marginalised groups.

A young man and young woman stand outside, conversing in Rwandan Sign Language
VSO/Mussa

Ensuring Deaf young people aren't excluded from sexual and reproductive health services

Improving sexual and reproductive health and rights for marginalised and at-risk Deaf young people.


Other areas of our work supporting healthy communities

maternal health in Sierra Leone
VSO/Peter Caton

Maternal and newborn health

Improving access to quality healthcare for mothers and babies. 

A nurse stands in the Chikurubi prison clinic with a trolley of medicines in front of her
VSO/Cynthia Matonhodze

Prison health

Improving the health and wellbeing of marginalised and neglected prison populations.