Ensure sexual and reproductive health, rights, and choices

The Population Council tackles intersecting inequalities that undermine rights and access to contraception, HIV prevention, maternal and newborn health, safe abortion, and sexuality education, among other sexual and reproductive health needs. Our research and partnerships ensure high quality, voluntary, and rights-based comprehensive care.

In 2021, we helped to integrate family planning into worker health and livelihood programs in Egypt; documented the perspectives of policymakers in Ghana to improve HIV self-testing and national HIV programs; and scaled our Research and Analyses for Scientific Transformation and Advancement (RASTA) consortium in India to strengthen programs and policies on family planning and reproductive health. In Nigeria, we launched the North, West, and Central Africa hub of FP2030 to support partners in over 30 countries with operational and technical assistance. Our Baobab Research Program Consortium fills gaps in evidence to enhance sexual and reproductive health programming among vulnerable populations in refugee settings in the East and Horn of Africa.

On the biomedical front, scientists at our Center for Biomedical Research (CBR) develop contraceptives and multipurpose prevention technologies that meet people’s diverse needs and lifestyles. CBR is the leading innovator of high quality sexual and reproductive health products that enhance safety and choice for individuals in the global market. Highlights in the past year include:

Empower adolescents and young people to reach their full potential

collage of adolescents

Through our Girl Innovation, Research, and Learning (GIRL) Center, the Population Council carries forward a global agenda—that we helped define 25 years ago—to transform the lives of adolescents, especially girls. The agenda is more relevant than ever as adolescents face social, health, and economic challenges that have been further compounded by the Covid pandemic.

Our longitudinal studies illuminate persistent and changing needs throughout adolescents’ lives. In Mexico, the Violence Outcomes in COVID-19 EPOCH Study (VoCeS-19) collected a second round of data on livelihoods, education, and experiences of violence since the pandemic. In Egypt, the Survey of Young People in Egypt (SYPE) builds on data, collected in 2009 and 2014, on the health, education, and employment prospects for more than 15,000 adolescents and young people. In a third follow-up round of data capture, SYPE also collects information about the effects of the pandemic and climate change as well as reach new participants, including individuals with disabilities.

To ensure data are used for evidence-based decisions and investments, the GIRL Center launched the Adolescent Atlas for Action (A3), a suite of tools that gives governments, donors, and advocates the information they need to build effective and sustainable programs and policies.

The Evidence for Gender and Education Resource (EGER) is the Population Council’s signature program to address inequalities and injustices in global education. In 2021, EGER published the Girls’ Education Roadmap for governments, NGOs, researchers, and donors, providing a framework for how to prioritize and align investments with the most urgent needs. In the past year, EGER also published results of a multi-country study on the gendered effects of COVID-19 school closures as well as findings showing that significant gaps remain in our understanding of which interventions improve girls’ education and skills. The evidence and analyses make the case for greater collaboration and deeper investment to improve education for girls, boys, and communities around the world.

Achieve gender equality and equity

Gender Flag

The Population Council tackles social norms and power imbalances that underlie harmful practices impacting the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of individuals, especially women and girls. Sexuality, race, and ethnicity, among other identities, intersect in relation to people’s gendered experiences. We work locally, regionally, and globally to develop, implement, and scale proven context-relevant solutions.

In 2021, we supported an Africa-led movement to end female genital mutilation, publishing evidence on what works, developing a research agenda, and convening the FGM Data Hub to enable accountability and evidence use. We evaluated and developed programs to prevent child marriage and conceptualized a simplified framework for evidence-based interventions and investments. Considering the powerful role that inequitable gender norms play in HIV risk, relationships, and gender-based violence, our researchers examined the pathways through which gender norms affect HIV testing and treatment and perpetration of intimate partner violence. We also published insights on what interventions, especially group-based interventions, show promise in economically empowering adolescent girls and young women in low and middle-income countries. The review documented extensive evidence gaps in the economic components and programs that are effective.

Tackling power asymmetries in how research is conducted in humanitarian settings, we helped to develop recommendations for a feminist approach during research in forced displacement settings. The Population Council’s Humanitarian Task Force also hosted a learning seminar with partners on gathering and generating relevant and high-quality data and evidence to produce effective solutions for people affected by complex emergencies, natural disasters, and post-conflict crises.

Pursue justice in the face of climate and environmental changes

people in a boat on a flooded street

Climate and environmental change impacts human health, society, and the planet, and the most severe harms fall disproportionately upon underserved people and communities who have contributed the least to the crisis. The Population Council’s initiative on Population, Environmental Risks, and the Climate Crisis (PERCC) generates ideas and conducts research on sustainable and equitable solutions to ensure equity, justice, and health.

PERCC works across disciplines to build a global body of evidence on population and climate issues—fostering innovation and collaboration among often compartmentalized research disciplines across the climate sciences, demography, economics, and public health.

In the past year, we examined vulnerability of agriculture to climate change and the risk of child malnutrition in Burkina Faso and India; climate-induced livelihood transformations, reproductive health, and fertility in drought-affected communities in Zambia; and arsenic contamination and reproductive health using nationally representative data from India.

PERCC researchers also developed demographic projections to investigate the complex interplay between people and the climate. Our innovative Community Demographic Model, a modeling system and integrated tool, allows users to explore socio-demographic trajectories and understand how global societies might change with respect to population growth and distribution, composition, economic inequality, urbanization, and energy use. The models facilitate more inclusive and scalable solutions.