We Lead to claim our sexual and reproductive health and rights

We Lead is an innovative and far-reaching program that aims to strengthen the influence and position of young women whose sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRH-R) are neglected the most. It targets young women and adolescent girls who: live with HIV; face vulnerability and discrimination; live with a disability; and/or are affected by displacement.

Why these rightsholders need to lead

Gender equality, diversity and inclusion (GEDI) are at the heart of Hivos’ vision and mission; they are prerequisites for the more just, fair, dignified and prosperous societies we aim for. Being able to decide about your own body and sexual life is a key element in our GEDI strategy. But this is still a pipe dream for the four rightsholder groups mentioned above. For them, fulfilment of SDG 3 (Ensure healthy lives and well-being for all at all ages) and SDG 5 (Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls) is still far away. The voices, ideas and needs of these four groups are absent from the spaces where decisions are made that affect their SRH-R. This is aggravated by the frequent intersection of these identities, such as young refugee women with a disability or with HIV.

To change this situation, Hivos has joined forces with five other civil society organizations: Positive Vibes, Restless Development, Fondo Centroamericano de Mujeres, FEMNET and Marsa. We work in partnership with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs to reach our mutual aim: support young women to claim their SRH-R, saying, “Nothing about us without us!”

How We Lead gives them a voice

The program puts young women rightsholders in the driver’s seat, connecting them with each other in Communities of Action. In these spaces they share knowledge, experiences and ideas, and learn from one another, while they also develop joint strategies to improve their SRH-R. We accompany and coach them as they work towards achieving the legal and policy changes they have targeted. The program also empowers these young women to participate in movements and develop and lead campaigns to change the perceptions of policy makers and the public on rightsholders’ SRH-R. Finally, an innovative participatory grant-making mechanism provides financial support for them to realize their plans and build and strengthen their organizations. Throughout the program there is continuous attention for rightsholders’ safety and security, and for their psychosocial wellbeing.


Nine countries in Africa, the Middle East and Central America

Selection of results

  • In Honduras, we actively lobbied to lift the ban on emergency contraceptives. Ligia: “We see that women with disabilities are more exposed to sexual violence. Access to emergency contraceptives gives them at least a choice about pregnancy. And women who migrate can take these pills with them while they travel. It provides a safety net in an already vulnerable position.”
  • In Lebanon, we’re fighting for the sexual health of migrant women, many of whom become victims of modern slavery. Amira: “We’ve trained 90 migrant women in Lebanon. Another 60 women have followed the train-the-trainer workshop.”
  • In Guatemala, we work with women living with a disability. Floridalma: “The support has helped me grow as a woman. Hivos trained us to give workshops. Our goal was to get 50 women from the community to attend, but actually 80 showed up.”

Period and budget

2021 – 2025, €40.7 million.

Donor and consortium partners

The program is funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the SRH-R Partnership Fund, which is part of the Strengthening Civil Society subsidy framework. Consortium partners are: Positive VibesRestless DevelopmentMarsaFEMNET, the Central American Women’s Fund, and Hivos as lead party. M&C Saatchi World Services is our technical partner.