Around 12 million girls aged 15–19 years and at least 777,000 girls under 15 years give birth each year in low and middle-income countries. Prioritizing adolescent sexual and reproductive health services and information can address these and other urgent 1 needs. Religious communities and faith leaders influence the decision-making, norms and values that 2 can have a profound effect on ASRHR. How religious actors choose to speak about gender, sexuality and sexual practices can substantially impact the attitudes and perceptions of those in their communities.

Around the world, faith institutions have formed platforms to learn and take action on family planning and reproductive health. In some cases, faith actors have started discussing more sensitive issues of ASRHR as a starting point for any collaboration between faith actors and other stakeholders. A small but growing contingent of faith actors is working slowly to help their sisters and brothers in faith understand that healthy families and communities result from destigmatizing, increasing understanding of and advancing ASRHR.

Some important lessons have been learned from this work. Sometimes religious institutions seem very rigid, when in fact there is flexibility. ASRHR is a topic on which internal advocacy must happen with FBOs before advocacy can be generated externally, and all need partners to understand this to achieve success. Success factors include combining theological, medical and socio-demographic perspectives; building on individual contacts as a change strategy; drawing on a range of influential focal points and resource persons; engaging in intra-faith dialogue before discussing with other faith groups in plenary; providing external expertise as a tool for change; creating positive space by focusing on what people have in common, not what divides them; seeking support from political and health officials in the province; transparent and close collaboration among partners; and ensuring public recognition of the leadership and expertise of each organization. Working in partnerships requires a clear definition of roles and responsibilities. Governments that want to partner with FBOs need to see them not as implementing tools, but as equal partners, which provide unique advantages and also have needs.

When faith leaders understand the importance of ASRHR and have the technical knowledge to intervene, their resources – including the health services and health personnel they provide, their extensive community outreach and their influence with decision- makers – they can have a tremendous impact on access to ASRHR.

The following brief describes the emerging landscape for faith-secular partnerships to advance ASRH; identifies key challenges and opportunities; describes promising initiatives; provides tips on how to start such partnerships and how to expand them. It provides key lessons from experience and details actionable recommendations gathered through facilitated group discussions in November 2022 at the International Conference on Family Planning. Key policy recommendations include: (1) Those concerned about ASRHR should redouble their efforts to support collaboration among faith actors, community leaders, and politicians to mobilize for better understanding and access to sexuality education; (2) Donors and policy makers need to find better ways to support this work, such as providing longer-term funding, as building the needed relationships requires time.

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