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Passages Project

Enabling young women and men to live gender-equitable lives free of violence, coerced sex, and unintended pregnancy is a critical global challenge. 

Early pregnancy and child marriage are a reality for millions of young women worldwide, curtailing educational and vocational opportunities, leading to poor reproductive health and contributing to the intergenerational cycle of poverty. A focus on individual change is important but insufficient to meet this challenge. Young people’s ability to forge healthy relationships is influenced by social norms enforced by their peers, families and communities.

Social norms shape behaviors related to sexual debut, intimate partner and sexual violence and early marriage, as well as access to education and the services and information they need to protect their health. Research has shown that investing in social norm change at the community (rather than individual) level, while ensuring supportive policies and access to good quality services, can bring about significant improvements in sexual and reproductive health.

Passages aims to address a broad range of social norms, at scale, to achieve sustained improvements in family planning and reproductive health. This research project is building the evidence base and contributing to the capacity of the global community to strengthen normative environments that support reproductive health, especially among very young adolescents, newly married youth, and first-time parents. Passages capitalizes on these formative life course transitions to test and scale up interventions that promote collective change and foster an enabling environment for healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies and family planning.


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© Population Services International / Photo by: Benjamin Schilling

Learning Agenda

Passages is applying implementation science principles to explain what makes interventions effective and sustainable at scale in real world contexts. Passages addresses socially complex issues such as gender inequality, stigma and violence related to family planning and healthy timing and spacing while focusing on scalability, considering cost, complexity, and adaptability.

Passages bridges the gap between science and effective policy and practice through activities in three work streams.


Passages is establishing an evidence base on scalable social norm change by assessing both pilot and replicated interventions. Passages uses a realist evaluation approach to answer the question, “What works, for whom, in what respects, to what extent, in what contexts, and how?”


Passages is assessing and providing technical assistance and catalytic support for scaling social norm change interventions. Passages provides technical assistance in:  scalability assessments, collaborative design of systems-based scale-up approaches, developing and implementing monitoring, evaluation and learning processes and scale-up documentation, and using realist evaluation approaches. Passages also conducts activities to build local capacity in scale-up practice.

Global leadership

Applying promising practices, Passages will advance knowledge and increase utilization of evidence.

Project Snapshot


Duration 2015-2020

Status Active

Partners FHI 360 , Johns Hopkins GEAS , PSI , Save the Children , Tearfund

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