ICRW has partnered with Population Services International (PSI) to undertake research and technical assistance for the Support for International Family Planning Organizations II—Sustainable Networks (SIFPO 2) project, funded by USAID’s Office of Population and Reproductive Health. The SIFPO 2 project aims to increase access to and use of high quality, affordable family planning and other health information, products and services globally by strengthening international family planning organizations with a global reach and network of clinics and other health platforms.
Under SIFPO 2, ICRW is conducting research to expand the currently limited evidence base on couple communication related to fertility intentions and reproductive decision-making, with a specific focus on men married to adolescent girls.
Adolescent girls in many countries are at great risk of child marriage, early and unintended pregnancy, unsafe abortion, and maternal mortality and morbidity. Research has documented that young wives have very low levels of agency in their marriages, and are likely to have reproductive outcomes more in line with their perception of their partner’s preferences rather than their own desires and intentions. While many young brides assume that husbands place a premium on their wives’ fertility and having children soon after marriage, research has also demonstrated that in some contexts, men are in fact more open to family planning than their wives assume. Evidence suggests that improving couple communication can lead to increased family planning use, but there is limited research on this issue for couples with significant age and education gaps.
To better understand couple communication and support for family planning among men married to adolescent girls, ICRW conducted a literature review to inform the design of a qualitative research study, which employed focus groups and in-depth interviews with married couples in urban and rural Zambia. The research explored the determinants of and barriers to men’s support for family planning and will examine the role of couple communication in reproductive decision making. The findings are informing PSI’s programming to increase male support for family planning, improve couple communication and shared reproductive decision-making, and empower married adolescent girls to access and use family planning services.
In addition to specific research studies on gender dynamics such as the one described above, ICRW is providing technical assistance for PSI’s programming on gender-based violence prevention and response, as well as contributing to technical consultations on adolescent sexual and reproductive health issues.