Enhancing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Well-being of Young People

Building Common Ground between the United Nations and Faith-Based Development Partners

No. of pages: 25

Publication Date: 2012

Author: Helen Stawski

Publisher: UNFPA

Adolescence is a time of great change and growth, when young people are negotiating a range of influences, including religious ones. Strategies, including work on sexual and reproductive health, which seek to support the wellbeing and dignity of adolescents and youth, need to give greater consideration to internal and external drivers of wellbeing generated by religion, spirituality and the work of faith-based organizations (FBOs). This paper seeks to unpack some of these dimensions and suggest ways forward for more fruitful collaboration between the UN and faith-based organizations on the sexual and reproductive health of adolescents and youth.


The religions of the world have a rich history of engagement with adolescents and youth. Religious leaders and faith based organizations take responsibility, alongside parents and the state, for nurturing children, by equipping them with values and skills required to grow into adulthood. The imperative to protect young people, but also to take seriously their own experiences and perspectives, are foundational principles contained within in most religions. Religious youth are not always given adequate voice within their traditions, but they remain a significant and permanent fixture in all faith communities, who continue to challenge and refresh all faith traditions.

Given the holistic nature of much work carried out by faith-based organizations, they often provide multiple entry points, for engaging with adolescents and youth. Most FBOs have some form of youth group, youth worship, youth formation or youth leadership scheme. In addition religious organisations run schools, health centres, vocational training schemes, as well as other outreach programmes for orphans and vulnerable youth, such as migrants and refugees. These services are ‘ready made’ platforms for engagement, which are currently being underutilized by the UN. Local FBOs and religious leaders are rooted in local communities and frequently their networks are able to stretch far beyond the reach of the UN or the state. This means their service provision and wider presence and engagement with local communities is rich in social capital.