Reproductive and Sexual Health Rights

Every girl has the right to have control over her body.

Many girls are robbed of the right to make their own decisions – from what happens to their bodies, to when and to who they marry. That’s why it is so important for girls and young women to realise their right to sexual and reproductive health, and to have control over their lives and bodies.

An estimated 21 million adolescent girls give birth every year in low and middle income countries (WHO). Teenage pregnancy can end a girl’s education, and give them adult responsibilities before they’re ready.

Pregnancy and birth related complications are also the leading cause of death for adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 in the developing world (United Nations Population Fund).

When it comes to periods, girls face taboos, misinformation and often lack affordable menstrual products and access to clean, private toilets. As a result many girls are forced to skip school or even drop out altogether.

500 million girls and women globally lack the facilities to properly manage their periods (World Bank).

How Plan International Australia are helping

At the grassroots level we work with young people, their families, and local partners to ensure that their sexual health needs are met. We directly involve young women and men, helping them to identify problems and find solutions.

We’ve delivered safe and sustainable period products to women in South East Asia. We’ve also supplied hygiene kits to families impacted by emergencies and COVID-19, which include sanitary items to help women and girls manage their periods.

We also champion policies and funding to improve access to quality sexual and reproductive health services and information in every context.

When I found out that Plan International was going to help us with a hygiene kit that has menstrual pads, body soap, washing soap for clothes, and other products we do not have, I cried. It made me emotional because it was a blessing for many of us.”
  • Deolinda, 19, Mozambique

Ending period shame

No one should be held back because of their period. Yet, for many girls and young women, the stigma and shame attached to menstruation can place their physical, sexual, and mental health at risk.

Many girls around the world have little access to sanitary products and adequate toilet facilities at school, which makes managing their period incredibly difficult. It restricts their movements when they have their period, and this affects their attendance and performance at school.

Taboos, myths and shame surrounding menstruation can also lead to teasing, shaming and exclusion from daily activities, which all have a negative effect on a girl’s sense of dignity.

Roughly 800 million people between the ages of 15 and 49 are menstruating right now. And despite the fact these 800 million people menstruate every month, many still feel embarrassed and uncomfortable when it comes to just talking about it.

Periods are a universal fact of life wherever you live, which is why it’s time to smash this damaging stigma and end all forms of period shame.

Period stigma is keeping girls out of school.

Tackling unplanned pregnancy in Bougainville

Jennifer has been a Plan International community health worker in Bougainville for several years – and they’ve witnessed first-hand the silent health emergency that is gripping girls.

I believe it’s possible to create change in a generation.
  • Jennifer, Community Health Worker.

They have seen too many girls denied access to the education, support and health services they need to manage their reproductive health and make choices about their own lives.

When a girl is denied access to this information – information as basic as how one falls pregnant – unplanned pregnancy becomes a very real outcome. And when a girl does fall pregnant, she can often face social isolation, health complications and an end to her education.

It’s unfair. It’s unjust. But dedicated Plan International community health workers like Rosemary and Jennifer are educating girls around their reproductive health, working with communities to change behaviours that harm girls, and address the critical gap in health services.

Our impact in 2022 financial year

Improved the capacity of 36 healthcare workers
Improved the capacity of 36 healthcare workers
from rural health facilities in Bougainville, PNG to build stronger adolescent sexual and reproductive health services.
Distributed 22,000 pairs of period pants
Distributed 22,000 pairs of period pants
to girls in secondary schools in Laos through our partnership with Modibodi.
4 girl-friendly safe spaces created
4 girl-friendly safe spaces created
for refugee girls in Uganda. On average 24 girls and young mothers benefit from weekly sexual health rights sessions at these spaces.

Learn more in our annual impact report.

Stories from the field

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