International Women's Reproductive Health

Goal: To ensure reproductive rights and stabilize population growth in sub-Saharan Africa.

Since its earliest days, the Hewlett Foundation has been committed to enabling women to control whether and when to have children–not only to reduce the social and environmental costs of rapid population growth, but to promote their own autonomy and well-being. For nearly five decades, the Foundation has made grants to expand access to quality family planning and improve the quality of essential reproductive health services, as well as to support organizations that advocate for better policies and conduct vital research to inform those policies. Our international women’s reproductive health portfolio pursues these goals through three strategies:

First, we seek to ensure that no woman has an unwanted pregnancy. While we support this aim worldwide, we pay special attention to in East Africa and Francophone West Africa, where progress in family planning and contraceptive use has been particularly slow or has stalled. The Foundation’s grantees are working to increase government funding for health and remove barriers to essential reproductive health services. We also support organizations that test new ways to provide family planning services. This includes applying what has come to be known as “human-centered design,” which focuses on the needs of the clients and on insights from behavioral economics. And we work with still other organizations and funders, such as the Ouagadougou Partnership for family planning in Francophone West Africa, that support the provision of services by both public and private entities. Finally, we make grants to civil society organizations working to hold governments and providers accountable for their family planning commitments.

A second strategy seeks to ensure that no woman dies from an unsafe abortion. The simple fact, for better or worse, is that a woman who needs to terminate a pregnancy will try to do so whether or not it is legal. In countries with restrictive abortion laws, women with unwanted pregnancies too often put their lives into the hands of unsafe abortion providers. We therefore support organizations working for reforms that make abortions legal for women who need them. In countries where the legal framework already permits abortion, we support organizations working to improve the quality of clinical services so women who choose to terminate a pregnancy can do so safely.

Our third strategy works to connect improvements in family planning and reproductive health services to broader development goals. We do this by supporting policy research that examines the consequences of demographic factors, and particularly fertility, on social, economic, and environmental wellbeing at the household, community, and national levels. Our goal is to use this research to help the policy community understand the implications of rapid population growth and to include demographic variables in making policy decisions.



An estimated 40 million abortions take place every year in the developing world, most of which are unsafe. Reducing the number of unsafe abortions is essential for improving public health. And it's the basic right of every woman to decide whether and when to have a child—without having to put her health or life at risk. This video was created by the Guttmacher Institute, a leading research and policy organization on sexual and reproductive health.



Right now, 222 million women — more than the populations of Germany, Spain, France, Belgium, and The Netherlands combined — want to space or have no more children are not using modern contraceptives. If we gave these women what they wanted, we could have saved more than 1 million lives last year. This video was created by Population Action International, an organization which uses research and advocacy to improve global access to family planning and reproductive health care.