Terms of Reference: Research on the Situation of Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (ASRHR) in the African Context

VSO International
Please note: this opportunity closing date has passed and may not be available any more.
Opportunity closing date: 
Friday, 8 May, 2015

1. Introduction to VSO

VSO is the world’s leading independent international development organisation that works through volunteers to fight poverty in developing countries. VSO’s high impact approach involves bringing people together to share skills, build capabilities, promote international understanding and action, and change lives to make the world a fairer place.

Since 1958 VSO has worked to combat poverty in over 90 countries.  We work within a framework of development themes which include:

  • Education
  • Gender
  • Health / HIV and AIDS
  • Participation and governance
  • Secure livelihoods
  • Volunteering for development

We bring people together to share knowledge, experience and ideas from which emerges increased knowledge, capacity and innovation. We work with a wide range of volunteers which, include short term, long term, international volunteers, national volunteers, youth volunteers, community and e-volunteers who we support to use their skills and cultural understanding to make an impact in the countries that we work. We also create specific opportunities for young people and those with origins in developing nations but who now live elsewhere in the world (‘diaspora’ communities), linking them to their country of heritage.  To date we have worked with more than 40,000 VSO volunteers of 94 nationalities.

Partnership development is the foundation of our programme delivery.  Our approach is built on knowledge exchange between volunteers and our partner organisations which range from grassroots organisations to governments. In response to our partners’ needs, VSO recruits volunteers globally and nationally to work in programmes and projects towards achieving agreed outcomes. Volunteers may be deployed on short-term assignments or as long term advisers.

2. Background to the research

Adolescence is a special stage in any person’s life, representing a period of transformation from childhood to adulthood. Due to the major biological and psychosocial transformations associated with this age group, adolescents are significantly exposed to risky behaviours, with high consequences on the individual’s immediate and long term health and socio-economic lives.

It is estimated that 2.6 million young people aged from 15–24 years old were living with HIV in 2012 in Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA). Common adolescent sexual and reproductive health (ASRH) challenges in the region are evidenced by a high adolescent fertility rate (104 births/1000 girls aged 15-19), low contraceptive prevalence (29% among youth aged 15-24) and high HIV prevalence.[1] Adolescents (especially girls/ young women) are disproportionately affected by harmful traditional practices such as early or forced marriage, the belief that having sex with a virgin can cure or prevent HIV, female genital cutting (in some societies) and various other practices. Young women are especially vulnerable to various forms of gender based violence.

VSO’s work in adolescent sexual and reproductive health across Africa continues to address gaps and weaknesses across the supply of and demand for ASRH services, addressing issues in policy, legislation, planning, financing, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. Due to the complex nature of ASRHR challenges, VSO believes that a multi-level approach is needed, which focuses on the biological, social, economic and policy dimensions of HIV, gender and reproductive health for adolescents.

VSO’s strongest track record in ASRHR is with our Regional Health and AIDS Initiative for Southern Africa (RHAISA). RHAISA’s G.E.N.D.E.R. project seeks to improve the sexual and reproductive health, as well as the economic opportunities and skills, of women and girls across six countries in southern Africa (Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Lesotho and Swaziland).[2] There is also significant interest from other programmes in VSO’s Africa portfolio to undertake ASRHR work, including in Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and Sierra Leone.

In the light of this, VSO is proposing to explore opportunities to develop an Africa-wide ASRHR programme framework, bringing together health programme managers, support team members from across a wide cross section of functional expertise in VSO, serving and returned VSO volunteers, as well as external technical experts and partners to develop a cost effective, high impact approach that can be scaled up. VSO will seek to contribute further towards improving the quality and accessibility (supply) of, as well as demand for ASRHR services in all the countries involved in the programme and – ultimately – supporting healthy and productive adolescents to be leaders for change. By developing an Africa-wide approach, VSO will also support ongoing shared learning and ASRHR best practice across Africa and beyond.   

3.  Scope of the research

The primary focus for this commission is to undertake research on the situation of adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights in the African context (targeting the countries in VSO’s portfolio that are looking to scale up work in ASRHR). VSO has recruited a volunteer researcher to consolidate the substantial information RHAISA has already gathered on ASRHR for southern Africa. The report generated by this volunteer on the context of ASRHR in southern Africa and RHAISA’s response will inform and be incorporated into this larger proposed research.
This research will more thoroughly undertake situational analysis in the other focus countries: Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and Sierra Leone, in order to identify common issues, but also any country-specific challenges faced by adolescents to realising their sexual and reproductive health and rights.
 The research has six key strands (focusing on Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and Sierra Leone, unless indicated as regional/ global focus):

  • Identification of existing global, regional and national policies and guidelines around provision of adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights programming
  • Overview  of key challenges faced by adolescents in terms of their sexual and reproductive health and rights in the focus countries
  • Review of literature on ASRHR  strategies and best practices across Africa, including from UNESCO, UNICEF, UNFPA, government bodies and civil society actors
  • Analysis of evidence of existing civil society’s/ other key stakeholders’ best practice in ASRHR in the focus countries (also  incorporating the volunteer report generated on VSO RHAISA’s work in southern Africa)
  • Interviews on ASRHR with other strategic partners and key stakeholders, including UNICEF, International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), Marie Stopes International (MSI) and potentially UNESCO/UNFPA (dependent  on consultant’s home base)
  • Recommendations to VSO about how to operationalise best practice and standard operating procedures based on the learning generated by the research

The research findings will be used to inform the development of our strategic approach in ASRHR and will be shared in draft form with key stakeholders at VSO by Friday, 5 June 2015, with a final draft to be complete by Friday, 26 June 2015.

4. Tasks

The research has 2 key elements.

  1. The first of these is to undertake desk based research which may also include discussions by telephone or other means with identified key informants into existing policies, guidelines, strategies and best practices on ASRHR.

Specifically this will require:

  • Agreeing the final focus of the research with VSO including the key questions to be addressed
  • Incorporating VSO RHAISA’s volunteer report on the contextual analysis/ lessons learnt on ASRH programming for the countries in southern Africa.
  • Identifying and analysing   existing international/ regional guidelines, recommended standard operating procedures, national policies and any best practices in ASRHR that exist in the Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and Sierra Leone
  • Producing a report that highlights the regional/ national contexts and existing best practices, identifies gaps in ASRHR service provision and demand for services and makes recommendations to VSO about the efficacy and appropriateness of an Africa-wide programme framework  

            2. This work will be complemented by key interviews with identified strategic partners and stakeholders.

Specifically this will require: 

  • Interviews with IPPF regional office representatives in Nairobi, Kenya
  • Interviews with MSI in Nairobi, Kenya
  • Interviews with UNICEF regional office representatives in Nairobi, Kenya
  • Interviews with UNESCO and UNFPA regional offices (or desk research, dependent on consultant’s home base)

5. Timing and deliverables

25 days have been allocated to deliver the research
The following milestones have been agreed for the study:



Start Date

End Date

Number of days


Applicants to submit expressions of interest

29April 2015

8 May 2015

17 (including weekends; all other timeframes are business days only)


Initial discussion with the consultant, VSO’s Regional Director for Southern Africa, VSO’s RHAISA Director and VSO’s Global Adviser for Health and HIV and AIDS & M&E adviser to agree and finalise the key questions to be asked and to identify potential research informants


11 May  2015



Draft inception report/research protocol and design data collection tools and methodology  and share with VSO team

13 May 2015

19 May 2015



Data collection

22 May 2015

4 June 2015



Partner and stakeholder visits (e.g. trip to Nairobi)





DELIVERABLE 1: Data analysis and report writing and first draft report submitted

6  June 2015

11  June 2015



Feedback from VSO team

12 June 2015

18 June 2015



DELIVERABLE 2: Submit Final report after incorporation of comments from VSO team

19 June 2015

20 June 2015



DELIVERABLE 3: Dissemination of the report to key stakeholders

From  25 June 2015



DELIVERABLE 4: A presentation of the research findings to be delivered to a VSO programme planning meeting

July 2015 (specific date EveTBC)


6. Reporting and accountability

The researcher will formally report to Bongai Mundeta (RHAISA Director) and Clive Ingleby (VSO’s Global Adviser for Health and HIV and AIDS) who will be jointly responsible for overall management of the research project.
Regular updates on progress will be provided to other key stakeholders, including VSO’s Regional Director for Southern Africa and VSO programme managers from all participating countries.
7. Consultation Team Costs
A budget indicating the Consultant/Organisation’s daily rate, field travel, data collection, analysis and other expenses should be annexed to the research proposal. VSO will cover travel and other costs agreed between both parties as necessary for the completion of this research.
8. Payment schedule
i) 25% of total amount to be paid at signing of contract.
ii) 25% of the total payment will be paid upon submission of first draft
iii) Rest of payment, that is, 50% paid upon submission of the final report after incorporating comments from VSO team

9. Insurance requirements

Contractors are required to have in place professional indemnity insurance cover for £1,000,000 and public liability insurance cover for £1,000,000.

10. Application procedure

All firms and qualified candidates must provide the following;

1) Cover letter (Maximum 1 page)
2) Technical proposal which include:
     i) Brief explanation about the consultant with particular emphasis on previous experience in this kind of work
     ii) Understanding of TOR and the task to be accomplished
      iii) Proposed methodology
      iv) Draft implementation plan and CVs in electronic format
How to Apply:

If you’re interested in applying for this role, please go to: http://vso.force.com/jobopportunities to download the job description and read more details about the position and the skills and experience we’re looking for. To submit your application, click on ‘Apply now’ and complete all relevant fields on the online application form.
Closing date: 8th May, 2015

VSO is an equal opportunity employer, values inclusion and seeks to have a diverse workforce.
We welcome applicants from all sections of the community.
Only short-listed candidates will be contacted and invited for interviews.

[1] Young people today, Time to Act now: Why adolescents and young people need comprehensive sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services in Eastern and Southern Africa, UNESCO in partnership with UNAIDS, UNFPA, UNICEF and WHO. 2013.

[2] G.E.N.D.E.R. – Gender Empowerment and Development to Enhance Rights

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