Translating sustainable development goals to address poor reproductive health
: exploring the role of civil society organisations

  • Laura Sirabella

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Worldwide many people, particularly women, do not have access to reproductive health services, and this is caused both by inadequate and restrictive legal frameworks in some countries, especially regarding access to safe abortion, and by other barriers that impede the achievement of reproductive justice. Reproductive health rights are recognised as integral to successful sustainable development and are included in the Agenda 2030. The role of civil society has been proved as crucial to promote sustainable changes in society.

This research is studying the situation in Uganda, where, despite enormous improvements in reproductive health indicators in the last years, there are still several significant barriers and unsafe abortions represent a particular public health problem.

This project sets out to explore the role of Ugandan non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in improving reproductive health and how this is impacted by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The objectives of the study are to:
- Explore the role of NGOs in translating the SDGs targeted at reproductive health into local action;
- Explore the role of NGOs in advocating for the promotion of reproductive justice; and
- Elaborate the contribution of NGOs in bringing changes aimed at improving reproductive health.

The methodology takes the form of an in-depth qualitative case study. The study focuses on two Ugandan NGOs that work on reproductive health and rights. Data collection comprised two main methods: document analysis and 21 online semi-structured interviews. Data were analysed with thematic analysis.

This research contributes to the body of knowledge on the role of local NGOs in addressing reproductive health issues and translating ideas into policies and interventions. This study shows how collective work is necessary to bring about changes in a community and how it is possible to translate and adapt international norms and commitments to local contexts.

On a theoretical level, this study applies the concept of capabilities, particularly collective capabilities, on the reproductive health field. It employs a recent model, the 3C-Model (Ibrahim, 2017), and contributes to its testing in analysing grass roots-led change.

The findings indicates that local NGOs play a vital role to address community issues and concerns, to assess the specific needs and to deliver the necessary information and referral. This is even more crucial when working on topics such as reproductive health and abortion, which are often considered sensitive and controversial in certain communities.
Date of AwardJun 2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorFiona Bloomer (Supervisor), Jennifer Hamilton (Supervisor) & Claire Pierson (Supervisor)


  • Reproductive rights
  • Abortion rights
  • Reproductive justice
  • Capability approach
  • Collective capabilities
  • 3C-model
  • NGOs
  • Uganda

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