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“Faith Actor Partnerships in Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health”

PaRD’s SDG 3 work-stream on Health has published a new study with the Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities (JLI).

Within its mandate of enhancing partnerships at the nexus of religion and development, PaRD’s SDG 3 Health work-stream commissioned this study to its knowledge partner, the Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities (JLI)Furthermore, the PaRD members Islamic Relief Worldwide, the Faith to Action Network and World Vision International have been engaged in the cooperation.

Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health (ASRH) is a sensitive but pressing area of development. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), adolescent pregnancy and childbirth contribute significantly to maternal and child mortality with approximately 16 million girls aged 15 to 19 years and 2.5 million girls under 16 years giving birth each year in developing regions. Complications during pregnancy and childbirth are the leading causes of death for 15 to 19 year-old girls globally.

The overarching objective of this study is to examine faith actor roles in ASRH and partnerships between faith-based, governmental, and intergovernmental actors that promote access to ASRH services and information. An analysis of the opportunities, challenges, and lessons that enhance partnership effectiveness is also included in the main findings.


This scoping study started with a brief background review of existing grey and academic literature (144 resources reviewed). As a second step, we conducted a survey to produce an overview of partnerships between faith- and non-faith based actors on ASRH. PaRD SDG 3 work-stream members were engaged in the design and dissemination of the survey, which resulted in 39 usable entries. We then conducted interviews with 12 key informants using snowball sampling. The scope of this study was limited by time and resources. The data collected largely emerged from sub-Saharan Africa and the Global North as well as from Muslim and Christian contexts. Due to the sensitive nature of the subject matter, complete anonymity was observed. The sensitivity around this issue underlines the worthwhile nature of the research – as it is only through better understandings of each other can we break down misconceptions and enter dialogue. However, this report only represents an initial foray into this area.

Main Findings

Although non-faith actors still hold many hesitations about faith actor partnership and faith actors equally have strong reservations, there was little doubt that faith, governmental, and intergovernmental actors need to partner around ASRH – the more pressing questions was how and to what extent. Faith actors often feel there is a lack of understanding from non-faith actors about how to work with faith actors and the ways in which faith actors operate. However, thanks to careful negotiation and mutually accepted compromise, partnerships have been successful between both likeminded groups and groups of different opinions. Some suggestions include a religious literacy approach for non-faith actors nervous about navigating partnerships with faith actors on ASRH.  In turn, local and national faith actors (LNFAs) cited the need for greater capacity building, so they can operate within the structures of international partnership. To this extent, there is a need for capacity strengthening, experience and knowledge sharing – for LNFAs and international actors to learn about each other’s ways of operating.