Population Dynamics & Reproductive Health

Population Growth and Environmental Change

The Center has developed a robust and multifaceted evidence base about sexual and reproductive health (SRH) issues, with special attention to young people. Our research has also provided understanding of what works to
increase uptake of modern contraceptives within high-fertility communities, and has informed debate around unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortion.

The Center has also generated evidence on drivers of sexual violence and contributed to innovations in how to address sexual violence among refugee populations. Our work is exploring how poor men express their masculinity as breadwinners with few options for employment, and how they might become champions in the global struggle for gender equality.

A deeper understanding of contexts, drivers, experiences and preferences for family planning remains. Understanding SRHR throughout the life course is critical to many health and development pathways, as is improved understanding of population dynamics and their implications for sustainable development: specifically, the realization of the demographic dividend.

There are four areas of inquiry in this Unit, aiming to promote sustainable population growth and improved sexual and reproductive health and rights across the life course:

The signature issue for the Unit will be young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). We will focus in particular on early adolescents (10-14 years) and those from marginalized communities, and the magnitude and impact of adverse SRH events on adolescent health and wellbeing. We will aim to clarify the contexts for comprehensive sexuality education, including SRHR/ FP counseling for adolescents. This program will also generate
evidence about what works to reach youth with safe, respectful and comprehensive SRHR information and services.

The second signature issue for this Unit will be unsafe abortion. We will aim to understand the contexts and dynamics of unsafe abortion, family planning, and contraceptive behaviors; deepen our understanding of the mortality and morbidity associated with unsafe abortion; and assess the impact of unsafe abortion prevention programs and barriers to quality post abortion care. We will contribute to knowledge on drivers, experiences and preferences among populations for the array of options for family planning, and illuminate pathways for optimizing the provision and sustainability of services, including financing and delivery options.

The third program of work will address gender and sexuality-related vulnerabilities. Assessing the magnitude and perceptions of gender-based violence will drive this programmatic area, including identification of where
men and boys might engage in promoting women’s SRHR. The program will also seek to clarify the origins and implications of gender ideologies and practices, including masculinity.

The Unit will spearhead efforts to contribute to the discourse around the Demographic Dividend. We will seek to understand population dynamics, including regional and intra-regional fertility, mortality and migration trends,
and their implications for sustainable development and how to position Africa to achieve the demographic dividend.

Featured Project

The gendered socialization of very young adolescents in schools and sexual and reproductive health

Program: Population Dynamics & Reproductive Health

Adolescents in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, particularly those in low-income urban settlements, are at significant risk for poor sexual and reproductive health (SRH) outcomes. Most interventions aimed at improving adolescent SRH have focused on older adolescents aged 15-19 years, often neglecting very young adolescents aged 10-14 years, whose emerging sexuality can determine future SRH.

In this study, we will investigate schools as sites for the gendered socialization of very young adolescents in relation to SRH issues; generate evidence on what works to change norms and advance very young adolescents’ SRH at scale; and facilitate the broader uptake of approaches that can foster positive gender norms and improve SRH outcomes in early and later adolescence and adulthood.

The study, which will be conducted in three countries (Burkina Faso and Nigeria in West Africa and Kenya in East Africa), builds on a strong collaborative partnership between three institutions: Institut Supérieur des Sciences de la Population (ISSP) in Burkina Faso, Academy for Health Development (AHEAD)/Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) in Nigeria, and the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC) in Kenya. These institutions have long-standing collaborations in both research and capacity building initiatives, including the Global Early Adolescent Study (GEAS), an international study led by Johns Hopkins University and the World Health Organization to understand the factors in early adolescence that drive sexual health risks and promote healthy sexuality among young people.

The cross-cultural nature of our study, which includes perspectives from West and East Africa, provides a unique opportunity to identify and assess low-cost interventions that can be implemented in schools in a range of settings in sub-Saharan Africa to foster positive gender norms among very young adolescents and improve SRH outcomes in later adolescence and adulthood while enhancing south-south collaboration and knowledge sharing.


  • Institut Supérieur des Sciences de la Population (ISSP) in Burkina Faso
  • Academy for Health Development/Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria


2018 – 2020

Project Funders

  • www.idrc.ca ...


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