Skip to main content

New cohort of gender-transformative research projects to improve sexual, reproductive and maternal health in Africa

Seven implementation research projects were selected by IDRC to advance sexual, reproductive and maternal health innovations in Africa using gender-transformative approaches. Gender-transformative research (GTR) involves examining, analyzing, and generating evidence on what works in addressing the root causes of gender inequalities to create lasting social change in households, communities, and institutions. 
Adolescent girls in The Gambia who were trained on embroidery by the early marriage project funded by IDRC.
Adolescent girls trained in embroidery through the IDRC-funded early marriage project in The Gambia. This project aims to enhance the vocational skills of girls and improve their access to economic development opportunities.

The African-led interdisciplinary teams are working over three years in seven countries across West, East and southern Africa to:   

  • Generate and promote evidence-informed gender-transformative innovations that advance sexual, reproductive, and maternal health and strengthen health systems.  

  • Adopt an intersectional gender-transformative approach and a lens of inclusion in all aspects of the project design and implementation.  

  • Strengthen participatory and community-based approaches that build trust, empathy, ownership and continued engagement to address the root causes of poor sexual, reproductive, and maternal health outcomes.    

  • Strengthen the research and leadership capacities, particularly of young female researchers, to conduct research and effectively communicate results to influence policies and practices.  

About the projects  

Ghana and The Gambia  
Agency for the Development of Women and Children, Society for Study of Women's Health and Youth Harvest Foundation Ghana  
Shifting gender norms for improved maternal and adolescent health in The Gambia and Ghana  

This project uses gender-transformative approaches to address both supply-side and demand-side challenges encountered by adolescent girls and boys in addressing their sexual, reproductive, and maternal health needs. The supply side focuses on making adolescent sexual and reproductive health services more youth-friendly, and the demand side involves strengthening birth preparedness and complication readiness of pregnant adolescent girls.  

Ghana, Niger and Burkina Faso  
Ghana Health Service, Institut Africain de Santé Publique et Laboratoire d'Etudes et de Recherche sur les Dynamiques Sociales et le Développement Local  
Gender-transformative approaches to address unmet adolescent mental, sexual, and reproductive health needs in Ghana, Niger, and Burkina Faso  

This project will examine these pressing, and largely unmet, adolescent health demands in Niger, Burkina Faso and Ghana. Using participatory approaches, the project will co-design activities and interventions with adolescents, communities and front-line health providers to enable gender-transformative and responsive health systems at the primary care level.   

Health Policy Research Group, University of Nigeria   
Gender-transformative and intersectional approach to youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services in Nigeria  

This project aims to increase service providers’ awareness and critical thinking on gender, intersectionality (linkage with other factors such as age, ethnicity, ability, education, social status, and other potential intersecting identities), and power dynamics. It also aims to improve uptake of and satisfaction with sexual and reproductive health services provided to young people.     

Burkina Faso and Malawi  
African Population and Health Research Center, Centre for Social Research and Institut Supérieur des Sciences de la Population     
Action to empower adolescent mothers in Burkina Faso and Malawi to improve their sexual and reproductive health  

This project seeks to test three gender-transformative interventions aimed at supporting adolescent mothers in Burkina Faso and Malawi to continue their education and improve their sexual and reproductive health. They include a cash transfer conditioned on (re)enrolment in school or vocational training, subsidized childcare and adolescent mothers’ clubs, where adolescents who are parents will receive life-skills training covering childcare, sexual and reproductive health, and financial literacy.   

South Africa   
University of the Western Cape    
Learning partnerships to support gender-transformative innovations in adolescent and young people’s sexual and reproductive health in South Africa  

This project will create a collaborative community-based learning platform to support dialogue, exchange and capacity strengthening on gender-transformative approaches in adolescent and young people’s sexual and reproductive health rights and services. The platform builds on a multi-sectoral program called “My Journey”, which delivers comprehensive biomedical, behavioural and structural support and services to adolescent girls and boys aged 10-24 in South Africa.   

Groupe de Recherche et d’Action pour le Développement (GRADE Africa), l’Association des Sage-Femmes du Niger and Zinder Regional Health Directorate    
Mazan Daga and adapted care for better maternal health in Niger  

This project is based on the Mazan Daga concept (which means “bold or forward-thinking men” in the Hausa language) and aims to implement a model that combines the promotion of supportive male roles, capacity building and female awareness. The ultimate goal is to improve maternal health through a complementary model of group prenatal and postnatal consultations and a participatory approach involving communities, husbands, social advisors and mothers-in-law first.     

Regional (Burkina Faso, The Gambia, Ghana, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria and South Africa)  
University of the Western Cape    
Gender-transformative research in Africa: collective learning and synthesis to improve sexual, reproductive and maternal health rights and services  

This project will contribute toward filling the knowledge and practice gaps on the gender-transformative paradigms, conceptual frameworks, research designs and methods and knowledge-translation strategies that can help improve sexual, reproductive and maternal health rights and services in low- and middle-income countries. It aims to produce: a co-created framework to use gender-transformative research of sexual, reproductive and maternal health rights and services in Africa; a map of relevant research paradigms, frameworks, methodologies and metrics; and synthesis documents, blogs, podcasts, policy briefs and a journal supplement geared to make voices from Africa on gender transformation more visible.    

Expected results  

It is anticipated that the knowledge generated through this cohort of projects, with proper knowledge translation, will inform local and global action to advance gender-transformative innovations on sexual, reproductive and maternal health through and beyond health systems strengthening. Overall, these projects will help contribute to the Centre’s development outcome of improved health for vulnerable groups such as women and adolescent girls, refugees and displaced populations. IDRC’s Global Health program has articulated pathways and strategies to achieve this through its focus on improving sexual and reproductive health and rights for vulnerable women and girls.