Reproductive Empowerment

Reproductive empowerment (RE), a distinct dimension of empowerment, is a process of change whereby individuals expand their capacity to make informed sexual and reproductive health (SRH) decisions and act on their choices to achieve desired reproductive outcomes. RE includes people’s ability to participate in public and private discussions and act collectively on reproductive health matters. The Reproductive Empowerment Conceptual Model, pictured on the right, describes RE as a function of agency at three levels—levels of agency. Empowerment is also described as being exercised through three key expressions—expressions of empowerment. In addition, intermediate and long-term RE outcomes are included as illustrations for family planning programs that desire to make RE a key program goal.

SBCC and RE Desk Review

The Health Communication Capacity Collaborative (HC3) scanned the literature to explore the use of social and behavior change communication (SBCC) SRH interventions that address concepts in the RE conceptual model. Interventions at the individual, intermediate and/or distal relational levels, regardless of whether expected outcomes pertained to SRH decision making, leadership or collective action were selected for this database (e.g., an intervention that addressed gender norms at distal relational level to affect changes in SRH joint decision making). Read this brief for more details on RE and HC3’s desk review.

SBCC and RE Evidence Database

Search this database by country, target population, SBCC activity and key RE concepts. A link to the abstract and summary descriptions are provided for each study. Interactive hotspots are mapped onto the Reproductive Empowerment Model for one-click, predefined searches on each RE concept.

Get Started

Scroll down to search this database or click the hotspots in the image below to jumpstart specific search results

Click here to view a search on “Individual Agency”.


Click here to view a search on “Immediate Relational Agency”.


Click here to view a search on “Distant Relational Agency”.


Click here to search on “SRH Decision-Making”.


Click here to search on “Leadership in SRH Decision-Making”.


Click here to search on “SRH Collective Action”.

International Center for Research on Women & MEASURE Evaluation. (Forthcoming). Empowerment: Moving towards a common conceptual framing and measurement [White paper].

RE Definitions

Components of Agency

  • Choice: ability to individually make and influence decisions that affect one’s life.
  • Voice: capacity to actively articulate and assert one’s interests, opinions and desires in discussions that are relevant to one’s life.
  • Power: a sense of self-worth and rights to challenge their situation, whether acting individually or collectively.

Levels of Agency

  • Individual agency: ability to define reproductive desires, develop plans and execute them.
  • Immediate relational agency: ability to exercise choice and voice in interactions with most immediate environment such as peers, family members and partners.
  • Distant relational agency: ability to exert voice, choice and power with actors outside of immediate relationships such as healthcare providers, religious and political leaders and institutions and international development community.

Expressions of Empowerment

  • Sexual and reproductive health (SRH) decision-makingengaging in the process with real influence on the outcome.
  • SRH leadership: taking lead in challenging power and expanding choice.
  • SRH collective action: collectively taking action to improve status, increase voice and challenge power to a degree that is impossible through individual action alone.

All definitions are paraphrased from Empowerment: Moving towards a common conceptual framing and measurement.