Photo by Pathfinder India

As early as the 1930s, Pathfinder’s founder began investing in contraception initiatives in India. Here, in 1966, mothers and children attend a family planning information session. A poster on the wall reads “a small family is a happy family.”

Photo by Simon de Trey White

Today, Pathfinder’s work in India focuses on advancing the reproductive health and rights of underserved and vulnerable populations, particularly young people.

Photo by Karl Grobl

“Adolescents are generally considered hard to reach and difficult to persuade to adopt healthy practices,” said Rema Nanda, Pathfinder’s Country Representative in India. “Pathfinder’s programs provide strong evidence that…

Photo by Karl Grobl

“When adolescents are provided with information about their sexual and reproductive health, they often make life altering decisions—about marriage, planning a family, and staying in school —that help them live healthy, productive lives.”

Photo by Simon de Trey White

The same courage and perseverance exists in many of the people Pathfinder serves across India, be it an expectant mother, making plans for a hospital delivery, or a sex worker, educating her peers about HIV prevention.

Pathfinder India is committed to accelerating and amplifying programs that support the right to sexual and reproductive healthcare and safe motherhood for all.

Why Pathfinder Works in India

In recent years, India has experienced unprecedented economic growth and now ranks as the world's fourth largest economy. Across India, women and girls of all ages are in urgent need of quality health services. Adolescents-a critical, growing segment of the population-continue to go without reproductive health information and services. Of a total population of 1.21 billion, adolescents (ages 10-19 years) constitute 20 percent, and investments in their health, education and employment will shape the country's future for decades to come. Young girls are especially at risk due to early marriage and early first pregnancy. Without knowledge of or access to family planning education and care, an early first pregnancy often results in another pregnancy shortly thereafter—starting a cycle of reproduction that can adversely affect the health of the mother, the survival and development of their children, the economic well-being of their families and broader communities.

Pathfinder has a long history in India, from projects testing contraceptive methods in 1953 to integrating family planning into existing social welfare programs in the early 1970s. In 1999, a grant from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation supported the first large-scale intervention to address the sexual and reproductive health of adolescents and young adults in Delhi slums, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan. Since then, Pathfinder's work has expanded to large projects addressing reproductive health and family planning in the states of Bihar and Rajasthan; maternal and newborn health projects in Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Bihar and Odisha; and HIV and AIDS work in Maharashtra. Pathfinder's strategy in India focuses on supporting the reproductive health and rights of underserved and vulnerable populations. Pathfinder supports the Government of India and its partners to increase demand for family planning, reproductive health, and maternal health services, while equipping and empowering health care providers and communities to better address adolescent health, maternal child health, unsafe abortion, and HIV and AIDS.

Forty-seven percent of women in India ages 20-24 were married before they turned 18. (PRB)

Evidence for Decision-Making

A key aspect of Pathfinder's approach to systems' strengthening is collecting evidence that enables public, private, and community partners to make informed health-related decisions. Some illustrative data from Pathfinder's work in India include:

  • In PRACHAR intervention areas, 15.9 percent of young couples without children are now using a contraceptive method, as compared to 3.3 percent at the beginning of the project. In addition, between July 2010 to Sept 2011, close to 80,000 unmarried girls and boys aged 15-19 years attended training that aimed at increasing their knowledge of reproductive and sexual health issues, increasing their self-efficacy and negotiation skills, and motivating them to resist early marriage and childbirth.
  • In the RAKSHA project, more than 1,100 health care workers were trained on the prevention and treatment of postpartum hemorrhage, one of the leading causes of maternal death in India.
  • The MUKTA project has enabled more than 200,000 clinic consultations with at-risk populations, and approximately 33,000 members of at-risk populations have received HIV counseling and testing.

Building Capacity, Strengthening Systems

As part of its Integrated Community and Health Systems Strengthening framework, Pathfinder fosters partnerships among government sectors (e.g., health, education, and youth), the private sector, and civil society to facilitate a coordinated response to reproductive health needs. To ensure scalable, sustainable programs, Pathfinder builds government and local capacity to plan, implement, and monitor and evaluate projects. Pathfinder's partnerships with state governments and community groups foster project expansion and sustainability by:

  • Training government health officials in project and supply-chain management
  • Training government front-line health workers and providers to deliver quality services
  • Providing technical assistance that allows health professionals to apply their acquired knowledge and skills
  • Generating demand for services and foster local ownership
  • Investing in monitoring and data collection tools to generate evidence for accountable planning, and for advocacy to address constraints governing India's public health system
  • Advocating for sexual and reproductive rights at relevant forums and with government officials to increase efficiency and effectiveness of interventions

In undertaking these partnerships, Pathfinder encourages collective action. Together, individuals and organizations can negotiate changes in rights and norms, as well as improvements in services-changes that can promote health-seeking behaviors and ensure that people, particularly marginalized groups, have rights and access to lead a healthy sexual and reproductive life.


Your gift of $25 or $50 can help improve sexual and reproductive healthcare in India by supporting our work with public, private, and community partners to make informed health-related decisions.

Our Projects


ANANYA: Shaping Demand and Practice in Bihar for Uptake of Priority Behaviors

Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Behavior Change Maternal & Newborn Health Advocacy Contraception & Family Planning

ANANYA aims to empower women to make informed decisions about maternal and neonatal health.

MUKTA: Targeted Interventions for Groups at Risk

Systems Strengthening Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Gender Behavior Change Advocacy HIV & AIDS Contraception & Family Planning

This project serves over 25,000 female sex workers and men who have sex with men in the Indian state of Maharashtra, helping reduce their risks and vulnerabilities towards sexually transmitted infections and HIV.

Related Publications

August 2014

Research and Evaluation Working Paper Series

The purpose of the Working Paper Series is to disseminate work in progress by Pathfinder International staff on critical issues of population, reproductive health, and development.

December 2013

The Way We Live: Advancing Health & Rights Through Integration

In a year of remarkable achievement, including Pathfinder’s landmark victory at the US Supreme Court and our return to Bangladesh with a $53.8 million project, what was most exciting? The answer—integration—is the theme of Pathfinder’s 2013 Annual Report.

May 2013

PRAGYA: Multisectoral, Gendered Approach to Improve Family Planning and Sexual and Reproductive Health for Young People

PRAGYA, meaning "insight" in Sanskrit, is a mixed methods study commissioned by USAID and conducted by Pathfinder India to improve understanding of the effects of Phases I and II of the PRACHAR project.

January 2013

PRACHAR: Advancing Young People’s Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in India

This technical brief summarizes the evolution of PRACHAR, describes the intervention model and key evaluation results that informed each phase, and highlights next steps for dissemination and advocacy based on 11 years of project learning.

Related News

Delivering quality maternal health services in rural India, the role of the private sector

World Health Partners and Pathfinder International are partnering, using a social franchising approach, to leverage rural human resources in order to extend maternal health coverage.

Initiative Launched to Bring Down Maternal Mortality Rate in India

MSD for Mothers launched a new initiative to reduce maternal mortality rates in India this week, naming Pathfinder International as one of three nonprofit partners that will implement project activities.
Notwithstanding India's "rapid" economic growth, higher infant and maternal mortality rates are "robbing" Indian women and girls of their chances to make a contribution, National Commission for Women chief Mamata Sharma said today.
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