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Adolescent, sexual and reproductive health

In low and middle income countries, one in every 10 girls becomes a mother by the age of 16. Pregnancy during adolescence is associated with an increased risk for adverse birth outcomes as well as complications during labour and delivery. Mothers under the age of 20 are 50% more likely to have a stillbirth or to lose their newborn baby, and pregnancy, childbirth and unsafe abortions are the second leading cause of death in women between the ages of 15 and 18.

Access to high-quality sexual and reproductive health information and services is a fundamental right. However, in many parts of the world, adolescents lack access to basic information and services. In other contexts, adolescents, and especially girls, are unable to access existing services due to legal and social barriers. This can result from stigma and discrimination related to sexual orientation and gender identity, HIV-status, disability or marital status. Further barriers include religious norms and practices or the requirement for parental consent to access contraception or counselling.

Gender inequality and harmful social norms and practices (such as child marriage) further constrain girls’ autonomy, freedom and opportunities. Furthermore, the threat and reality of sexual and gender-based violence hinders girls’ ability to make decisions about their sexual and reproductive health.

Save the Children’s ASRH programs work with families, schools and communities to increase the availability, accessibility and quality of sexual and reproductive health information and services across the adolescent life span, with a particular focus on meeting the needs of young adolescents between the ages of 10 and 14. The organization works intensively to end harmful social norms and practices such as child marriage, for example through community mobilization, and sexual and gender based violence. Save the Children’s programs support the development of positive life skills.

Photo: Jonathan Hyams/Save the Children

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