Adolescents in Bangladesh: A Situation Analysis of Programmatic Approaches to Sexual and Reproductive Health Education and Services

The health of Bangladesh’s 29.5 million adolescents, who make up nearly one-fifth of the country’s total population, is critical to the country’s future, but issues surrounding adolescent sexual and reproduc­tive health remain taboo. ASRH initiatives have been implement­ed by both the Government of Bangladesh (GOB) and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), but with limited coordination, documentation or evaluation, making it difficult to know what worked well and what did not. It is critical to identify, invest in, and accelerate the expansion of approaches to ASRH programming that have been proven, through strong evidence, to effectively and efficiently provide SRH information and services that meet the needs of adolescents. Un­derstanding what works and what does not for adolescent SRH interventions will help inform the scale-up of promising interventions, minimize duplicative efforts, and ensure efficient use of available resources.

This report presents findings from a comprehensive review and situation analysis of ASRH programming in Bangladesh, carried out by the Evidence Project/Population Council, with financial support from USAID/Bangladesh, as part of a larger research initiative on “Improved Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health (ASRH) Outcomes in Bangladesh.” The objective of the review was to identify programmatic and evidence gaps, as well as best practices, and support the development of effective, inclusive, and sustainable ASRH programs that can operate at scale.

Among the key findings of the review were:

  • There is a lack of SRH programs that are exclusively focused on adolescents.
  • Programs directed specifically to adolescents do not usually focus primarily on SRH, instead incorporating SRH as a secondary component, strategically bundled with other interventions.
  • ASRH programs focus predominantly on girls, with little specific attention to boys.
  • There is a critical gap in SRH information and services for unmarried adolescents, especially girls.
  • Traditional awareness raising approaches remain the most common, but without a strong base of evaluation and evidence.
  • School-based interventions are increasingly popular as a strategy for reaching adolescents, but face serious implementation challenges.
  • More emphasis is needed on rigorous evaluation and generation of evidence of what works.

Detailed findings and recommendations are available in the report; an accompanying policy brief is also available.