The gendered socialization of very young adolescents in schools and sexual and reproductive health

Adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly those in low-income urban settlements, are at significant risk of poor sexual and reproductive health (SRH). Most interventions aimed at improving adolescent sexual and reproductive health have focused on older adolescents, often neglecting very young adolescents, aged 10-14 years, whose emerging sexuality can determine future sexual and reproductive health and well-being.

This project seeks to better understand how the youngest adolescents learn about the social expectations, roles, and attitudes associated with their gender socialization in the school environment, and how these aspects relate to sexual and reproductive health. It will generate information on what evidence-based and low-cost interventions are effective to change norms and advance early adolescents’ sexual and reproductive health at scale. The project will also facilitate the broader uptake of approaches by schools, adolescents, and communities to enable them to challenge gender inequities, eliminate negative gender stereotypes, foster positive gender norms, and facilitate the exercise of SRH rights.

To achieve these objectives, the research team will apply a participatory mixed-methods research design that will integrate community engagement with school administrators and teachers, adolescents, parents, community leaders, and policymakers. The key outputs from the project will include a range of written reports (manuscripts for peer-reviewed journals, fact sheets/briefing papers, etc.) and visual outputs. The project’s results will be shared through meetings with stakeholders, institutions’ websites, social media, and exhibitions. Anonymous data collected during the project will be made publicly available two years after the completion of this project.

This is a multi-country project that will be conducted in Burkina Faso, Kenya, and Nigeria. The collaborating partners are Université de Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso), the African Population and Health Research Centre (Kenya), and Obafemi Awolowo University (Nigeria).

This project represents one of nine selected as a cohort of implementation research projects spanning two regions (West Africa and the Middle East) and two thematic topics (adolescent sexual and reproductive health and health information systems). It is closely aligned with the Government of Canada’s new Feminist International Assistance Policy, the strategic priorities detailed in the 2016-2030 WHO led Global Strategy for Women, Children and Adolescents, and the overarching 2030 global agenda for sustainable development.

Project ID


Project status



36 months

IDRC Officer

Marie-Gloriose Ingabire

Total funding

CA$ 683,300


Burkina Faso, Kenya, Nigeria