Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights 

Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) are about making sure people have the information, care, and freedom they need to achieve physical, emotional, mental, and social well-being across all aspects of sexuality and reproduction.

Bodily integrity, privacy and autonomy

Freely define thier sexual orientation and gender identity

Choose if and when to be sexually active, and choose sexual partners

Choose if, when and by what means to have children

Safe and plesurable sexual experiences

Live free from discrimination, coercion and violence

Challenges and barriers to achieving universal access to SRHR  

Despite the progress made in past decades, many challenges persist for the realisation of universal access to SRHR, ranging from legal, political, cultural or economic barriers to health system limitations. Many people, especially in remote or underserved areas, do not have access to accurate and comprehensive information about sexual and reproductive health. Cultural barriers and taboos can prevent open discussions and restrict access to necessary services, particularly for women and LGBTIQ+ individuals. In many countries around the world, laws and policies limit access to certain reproductive health services, such as contraception and abortion. The cost of health services and lack of insurance coverage can make it difficult for many people to afford the care they need. This is especially challenging in low-income communities and countries, which also often struggle with limited resources, lack of trained professionals or facilities to provide comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services to all who need them. 

257 million women worldwide have an unmet need for modern contraceptives

One in four women of reproductive age are unable to decide for themselves if, when, with whom and how many children to have. They do not want to get pregnant, but have no means of contraception. According to a 2018 study by the Guttmacher Institute, 24 per cent of women of reproductive age in sub-Saharan Africa have an unmet need for modern contraception. In West Africa, the figure is 36 per cent.

121 million unitended pregnancies every year

In developing countries, around 43 per cent of all pregnancies are unintended. One of the main reasons for this is that one in four women there cannot use contraception, even if they would like to.

13 Million teenage pregnancies

13 million children are born to women under the age of 20 worldwide. More than 90% of these births are to women living in developing countries. Complications of pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among women aged 15-19 in these regions.

The role of international cooperation 

Continued international support and official development assistance (ODA) remain crucial to speed up progress on achieving SRHR for all and to avoid further setbacks as experienced during the COVID-19 crisis and to counter the growing backlash at women’s rights and gender equality globally. ODA can fill persisting financial gaps, ensuring that essential services like modern contraceptives, maternal health care, and sexual education are accessible to all, particularly in underserved communities. ODA and policy dialogue can also be directed towards the creation of legal frameworks that support SRHR. This helps ensure that rights-based approaches to sexual and reproductive health are embedded in national policies, promoting sustainability and local ownership of SRHR initiatives.

The importance of SRHR advocacy 

Both Germany and the EU institutions are among the top five global public donors of official development assistance (ODA). When looking at how much of this ODA is spent on promoting SRHR, Germany and the EU institutions only rank 15th and 22nd respectively. There is thus significant room for improvement and need for continued advocacy.  

Our advocacy teams in Berlin and Brussels, engage with the German government and the European Union (EU) institutions with the aim of driving policy and financial commitments for the promotion of SRHR, especially as part of their external action. What we bring to our advocacy:

The experiences and lessons learnt from our programmes in East Africa.  

The voices of young people to decision-makers in Berlin and in Brussels.  

The expertise of a wide range of partners.

In-depth publications, research pieces, newsletters, webinars, and workshops to share data and resources

We are part of the Countdown 2030 Europe consortium, made up of 15 leading European non-governmental organisations, seeking to increase European SRHR funding in international cooperation and strengthen political support for sexual and reproductive freedom worldwide. 


Reality check:
International donor support to SRHR

The Donors Delivering for SRHR report is an annual DSW publication analysing and ranking the latest data available to track the disbursements of members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) to SRHR, reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health (RMNCH), and family planning (FP), as part of their Official Development Aid (ODA).

Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE)

Access to modern contraception services and information

Access to antenatal and postnatal care, and safe services for childbirth 

Safe abortion services, and treatment for complications arising from unsafe abortion

HIV and STI prevention and treatment 

Services for prevention and detection of SGBV (sexual and gender based violence) 

Reproductive cancer prevention, detection and management 

Information, counselling, services for subfertility, infertility, sexual health wellbeing 

Six reasons for
Investments in SRHR


Prevent child- and forced marriage


End discontinuation of education among girls


Prevent underage pregnancies




Key Publications

The EU Youth Action Plan.

Insights from civil society on how to translate commitments to transformative action

SRHR overview

Short overview with key facts about SRHR

The EU’s bilateral cooperation with partner countries

What’s REALLY in it for SRHR?