Reproductive Empowerment


There are few events more consequential to the lives of men and women than those tied to reproduction. In virtually all societies, sexual behavior and the act of having children are important markers and determinants of social status, meaning that one’s ability to shape those experiences is vitally important.

The right of individuals to freely make decisions about their reproductive lives has been a cornerstone of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) programming since at least the 1994 United Nations Conference of Population and Development.

By sexual and reproductive health, we mean that “people are able to have a responsible, satisfying and safe sex life and that they have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when and how often to do so.” This includes being informed of and having access to “safe, effective, affordable and acceptable methods of fertility regulation of their choice, and the right of access to appropriate health care services.”

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ICRW's Role


“The process and outcome of transformative change where individuals expand their capacity to make informed decisions about their reproductive lives, amplify their ability to meaningfully participate in public and private discussions related to reproduction and act on their preferences and choice to achieve their desired reproductive outcomes. To be truly empowered, this process must take place free of violence, retribution or fear.”

ICRW is leading work to help define and measure reproductive empowerment.

Below are the activities that ICRW recently conducted in this area:

With funding from USAID and in partnership with MEASURE Evaluation, led by former ICRW staff member Jeffrey Edmeades, we developed a conceptual framework for reproductive empowerment with the goal of providing conceptual clarity around what reproductive empowerment means, which will allow for the development of better ways to measure it. This, in turn, will provide the evidence needed to develop more effective programs that enhance reproductive empowerment and improve the lives of women, men and their families.

Funded by USAID, we conducted qualitative and quantitative research in Nepal, which resulted in a new set of measures related to reproductive decision-making agency.

Another study conducted by ICRW, and in collaboration with the University of Ibadan, was carried out in Ibadan, Nigeria from June through December 2017. We examined and compared marital relationships of child brides and non-child brides with regards to power dynamics, decision-making patterns and contraceptive use.

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