There is a close link between education and SRHR. Education helps young people avoid unwanted pregnancies and reduce child marriage. At the same time, child marriage and/or unwanted pregnancy is a key cause of early school dropout. Ensuring that sexual rights are fulfilled also enables the most vulnerable to complete their education. School enrolment, Comprehensive Sexuality Education CSE and adolescent friendly exual and eproductive health services are essential in diminishing SRHR related barriers for education.

Adolescent pregnancies

A third of school dropouts are caused by a unwanted pregnancies. Poverty and lack of information go a long way to explaining the high incidence of teenage pregnancy, often leading to unprotected, forced and or promiscuous sex. Lack of sexual health services, such as access to contraception, abortion services and adolescent-friendly services, is also a cause of teenage pregnancy.

Students may be expelled from school because of pregnancy due to school rules or otherwise prevented from attending school because of pregnancy. Many countries have laws that guarantee the right to return to school after pregnancy, but legislation in some countries prevents pregnant girls from returning to school. Some do not return because of stigma.

We must ensure that young people have access to:

  • Education. It reduces the risk of teenage pregnancy or ending up with a dangerous abortion. Those who go to school are better able to protect themselves.
  • Comprehensive sex education.  It helps young people to protect themselves and make them more likely to initiate sexual activity later, when they are ready. Young people who have received comprehensive sex education are more likely to use contraception, so they are more likely to avoid unwanted pregnancy and STIs.
  • Sexual health services. Most young people want to avoid unintended pregnancy but need sexual health services to do so. Sexual health services include access to contraception and contraceptive counselling, abortion services and post-abortion care. Youth-friendly services are available, accessible, affordable (free of charge) and of high quality, i.e. designed to meet the needs of young people. Service providers must be pro-youth and never judgmental.

Child marriages

Child marriage is a major barrier to girls’ education and a key reason for dropping out of school.
Reasons for child marriage lies in gender inequality and the belief that girls and women are inferior. It is exacerbated by poverty, lack of education, harmful social norms and practices, and insecurity. Child marriage leads to school dropouts, as a child forced into marriage is expected to drop out of school while ‘preparing’ for marriage. Child marriage is a flagrant violation of sexual rights.

We must ensure that young people have access to:

  • Education. We know that the longer girls are in school, the lower the risk of being forced into marriage. Each year of schooling in secondary school reduces the risk of child marriage by 5%.
  • Comprehensive sex education. Child marriage is caused by inequality, among other things. Comprehensive sex education increases equality. Comprehensive sexuality education contributes to the development of responsible and open-minded attitudes and to building just societies. It also helps to break down societal norms and stereotypes about sex.
  • Sexual health services. Negative attitudes towards young people’s sexuality lead to a cycle of not providing young people with the sexual health services and advice they need, leading to risky behaviour when information and services are not available.


Menstruation poses a risk of dropping out of school if menstrual health issues are not addressed at school. The school must have facilities where menstrual hygiene and health can be taken care of. Lack of privacy, fear of stigma and increased harassment during menstruation cause many to stay at home during menstruation. Many people cannot afford on menstrual hygiene products or they are unreliable. According to a UNESCO report, one in ten girls in sub-Saharan Africa skips school during their menstrual cycle. Some estimates put this at up to 20% of school days in a school year. Painful menstruation and endometriosis are underdiagnosed everywhere and may be a reason for dropping out of school.

We must ensure that young people have access to:

  • Menstrual Hygiene Management MHM. It includes adequate information about menstruation and how to prepare for it. It also includes the appropriate facilities, such as private sanitation, menstrual pads and washing facilities, to manage menstruation.
  • Comprehensive sexuality education. CSE should include content on menstruation. Menstrual issues should cover heavy menstrual bleeding, menstrual pain, endometriosis, and other specific topics related to menstruation so that those who are suffering from menstruation can receive treatment. Education can help to dispel the stigma and shame associated with menstruation. Menstruation should be taught to all genders.
  • Sexual health services. Services include at least the provision of menstrual hygiene products and treatment for painful and heavy periods.

Read more:

How investing in sexual and reproductive health and rights helps keep girls in school (The UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Health report 2021)

UNFPA on Menstrual Health(2022)

UNFPA on Adolescent Pregnanancy (2022)

UNFPA on Child Marriage (2022)