Breaking the shame. Towards improving SRHR education for adolescents and youth in Bangladesh

Popular title: Breaking the Shame: Towards Improving Adolescent SRHR education in Bangladesh

Coordinator of the project: Dr Els Rommes, Assistant professor gender and diversity studies and pedagogy, Radboud Social and Cultural Research, Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands
Consortium partners:

  • Dr Sabina Faiz Rashid, professor and dean, James P. Grant School of Public Health, BRAC University, Bangladesh;
  • Anna Minj, director of BRAC Community Empowerment Programme (CEP), Integrated Development Programme (IDP) and Gender Justice and Diversity (GJD) Programme, Bangladesh;
  • Moonmoon Gulshan, national program coordinator of United for Body Rights program, Bangladesh

Summary of progress

Stakeholders in the field of adolescent SRHR education in Bangladesh have voiced concerns about the actual effect of their efforts. Despite tackling various topics of sexuality in educational programs, young people remain ill-informed on practical issues and experience emotional difficulties in handling intimate relationships. Taking these concerns seriously, this project aims at providing a better understanding of youth’ lived realities and needs with regard to sexuality. Through probing different meanings of ‘shame’ for boys and girls, the researchers investigate how sexual cultures are shaped among different groups of adolescents. Moreover, specific challenges and barriers faced by teachers when educating on SRHR issues will be identified. Both stakeholders and adolescents are asked to share their experiences with existing sexuality education tools in Bangladesh in order to investigate which approaches and practices require improvement. The data gathered in this project combined with insights from international literature on SRHR tools will enable the research team to develop new or refined tools for sexuality education and to make suggestions to local government institutes and policy makers as to how more effective SRHR programs can be realised.


Organisations who run comprehensive sexual education programmes for young people in Bangladesh experience a gap between their aims and the actual effect of their efforts. They express a need for more insight in young people's varied understandings of sexuality and for better tools to both elicit such understandings as well as to improve young people's interactional competence in issues concerning sexuality, including sexual harassment, early marriage, divergent sexualities, rights and health. Moreover, a theoretical reflection is needed on what programmatic aims of SRHR education, e.g. 'sexual interactive competence', mean in the cultural context of Bangladesh where youngster's realities are heavily influenced by religious or other cultural norms and in social relations with peers, parents, and teachers, besides potential partners.

We therefore ask how we can break the shame and silences around young people's sexuality to better understand their needs and to increase their relational competence. This project will critically reflect on theoretical concepts dominant in sexual education programmes by confronting them with data gathered qualitatively, and partly checked quantitatively, on the lived reality of young people, their needs, experiences and wishes in the sexual and relational domain. Further, it will develop and test different tools of elicitation to better obtain an emic view of young people on various sexual issues and to identify factors that may hinder or promote competence building. It will also develop and test new or refined tools of competence building, going beyond acquisition of knowledge on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).


Scientific article

Publications for the general public

  • J. Ronjan Talukdar(2016): Presentation of preliminary research findingds JPG School of Public Health
  • W.P. Meerstadt(2016): Symposium: Dealing with shame and normativity in sex education
  • F Alam Bhuiyan(2017): Breaking the Shame midterm youth workshops 1 and 2
  • F.A. Bhuiyan(2017): Creating a Space for Shame-Free Sex Ed


Project number

W 08.560.003

Main applicant

Prof. dr. W.H.M. Jansen

Affiliated with


Team members

B. Barua MA, T. Biswas, S. Camellia, M.B. Kauserey MA, Drs. C. Krops, Drs. C. Krops, Drs. W. Meerstadt, S. Rana MA, Dr. S.F. Rashid, Dr. E.W.M. Rommes, Dr. A. Roodsaz MSc, J.R. Talukdar


01/09/2015 to 09/09/2018