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Sexual health and rights 

Every girl should have control over her body, her life and her future. 

Sexual health and rights 

Every girl should have control over her body, her life and her future.

An equal world can only be achieved when girls are able to choose their own future. That’s why sexual health and rights are so crucial.

Right now, it's an area where girls and young women worldwide are still robbed of the right to decide. From being told when and whom to marry and have children with, to lacking the freedom to access the contraception they need, when they need it.

Without these choices, girls and young women are not in control of their futures. Yet they have every right to be. Together we can build a better world where all girls can make informed decisions. Free from discrimination, coercion and violence.  


of adolescent pregnancies in low- to middle-income countries each year are unintended.


countries restrict girls’ and women’s right to move around outside the home.


(nearly) of girls and women in low- to middle-income countries are denied their bodily autonomy.

Useaking, 21, standing in her home in Bangladesh.
Useaking, 21, learnt about sexual health and rights through a community group in Bangladesh.

Contraception and choice: Useaking’s story 

Useaking married at 15 in Bangladesh. When she was pregnant with her first child, she didn’t access any maternal care: 
“At that time, I didn’t know I could use the health services in my area,” says Useaking. “No one told me about this or was there to guide me.” 
Now 21, Useaking is learning about sexual health and rights through a community group run by Plan International.  
“I am now more vocal and confident. I feel comfortable discussing problems,” says Useaking.  
“I am also teaching my younger sister, so she won't face the same challenges that I did.” 

Sexual health and rights for all

Empower girls to make their own choices.

Why are sexual and health rights important?

Why are sexual and health rights important?

  • Girls want to know about their bodies, sexuality, relationships and consent. But they often have limited access or learn from the wrong or inaccurate sources. This puts girls’ health, lives and futures at risk. 
  • If girls can’t or don’t know how to manage their periods due to no fault of their own, they might miss out on important parts of life – like going to school.   
  • If girls don’t know about contraception choices, they might not be able to choose if and when to have children. Being pregnant too young can be physically dangerous. As can unsafe abortions. 
  • If girls don’t know about HIV and sexually transmitted infections, they can’t prevent them. Untreated, these can be detrimental.  
  • Knowing about sexual health and rights is just the start though. Girls have the right to see the decisions they make about their bodies become a reality. Which means tackling the beliefs, practices and norms that deny girls access to what they need, when they need it.  

Remembering girls in emergencies: Keira’s story 

In an emergency, sexual health and rights are not seen as critical. But neglecting these can have serious consequences. 
Take the Covid-19 pandemic. Among lockdowns, school closures and the loss of income, Zambia saw a surge of adolescent pregnancies. One of them was 18-year-old Keira. 
“I wanted to stay in school, but we didn’t have enough money. I was so sad. It was my happy place,” says Keira. 

“I started to date guys. I didn’t know anything about contraceptives and was just told that they were for married people and if I used them, I would not have children in the future. But I got pregnant.” 
Post pandemic Keira has access to information and services through a youth-friendly corner. We continue to ensure girls and young women in emergencies elsewhere continue to have access, too.

Keira, 18, standing outside her home in Zambia
Keira, 18, became pregnant during the Covid-19 pandemic after being forced to drop out of school in Zambia

Fulfilling girls’ rights

Fulfilling girls' rights

Girls have a right to make choices about their bodies. That’s why they need comprehensive sexuality education. And access to quality advice and services as and when they need them. We work with young people to design projects which deliver this.  

Girls have a right to see change. We challenge harmful beliefs, practices and norms which drive inequality and limit girls' choices. This means working with communities, girls and young people to prevent child marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM) and other harms. 

Girls have a right to be heard. We champion girls and listen to their experiences and ideas. It’s why we take a sex-positive, pleasure-based approach. We also work with girls to influence policy makers to prioritise sexual and reproductive health and rights. 

From peer to peer:  Boyd and Anette’s story

Peer educators Boyd, 23, and Anette, 19, work hard in Zambia to promote sexual and reproductive health and rights.  
“I actually didn’t think girls were equal to boys,” admits 23-year-old Boyd. “I didn’t believe girls had any rights but now I understand we are equal.” 
This peer-to-peer learning helps reach a wider range of adolescents and increases the chance that key messages will be heard.  

Boyd, 23, sitting on a step outside a building in Zambia
Boyd, 23, is a peer educator in his community.
Annette, 19, standing with her arms cross in a village in Zambia
Annette, 19, is a peer educator in her community.

“We distribute contraceptives in schools and sanitary pads for emergency use,” explains Anette.  
“We have awareness raising seminars and I have seen a change in our community and in myself.  
“Before, people laughed at you if you handed out contraceptive, now they don’t.” 

Power to Decide  

Every day, adolescent girls are making decisions about their lives and futures. Where they go, who they talk to, what goals they set for themselves. Whether they have sex, when and with whom.  
Our research report examines the factors behind these decisions and the trends on adolescent girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights. And it calls for urgent action to tackle the inequality that stops girls claiming those rights. 
Read the report 

 Loveness and Shakira, two young women from Malawi, riding on a bike and smiling

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