OBOS Global Initiative

Our Bodies Ourselves has a thriving global presence with active partners around the world. Learn more about how OBOS and its Global Network partners are improving the lives of women and girls, via the development of publications and other materials based on “Our Bodies, Ourselves.”


What does the Our Bodies Ourselves Global Initiative (OBOGI) do?

The Our Bodies Ourselves Global Initiative (OBOGI) delivers evidence-based, culturally appropriate information on health, sexuality and reproduction to girls and women all over the world. Learn more about the step-by-step process.

OBOGI collaborates with women’s organizations that request permission and technical support to translate and adapt “Our Bodies, Ourselves” for public education and political action in their country. Most of these adaptations are published in book form. Some groups produce online content and mobile apps, while others convert health content into posters and other formats that can be shared easily in public spaces.

Through their publications and outreach, OBOS’s Global Network partners reach millions of people with information on sexual and reproductive health and human rights, as well as the skills to translate this information into action. They also engage powerbrokers — from men and family matriarchs, to religious leaders and government policymakers — to improve health services and health outcomes.

Program History

When “Our Bodies, Ourselves” became a bestseller in the United States in the 1970s, publishers and women’s organizations in Europe sought to use it as a resource for their countries, resulting in eight different translations in European countries. Translation projects later followed in Russia, Egypt, South Africa, China, Japan and Israel.

Norma Swenson, one of OBOS’s founders, led the global outreach working on early editions in Europe. She explored new opportunities in Latin America, Asia and Africa, championing a program dedicated to the organization’s growing network and vision.

In 2001, with projects underway in Thailand, China, and Senegal, and transitional leadership provided by Jennifer Yanco, OBOS created the Global Translation/Adaptation Program. In 2010, the name was changed to Our Bodies Ourselves Global Initiative.

How does OBOS form partnerships with groups interested in adapting “Our Bodies, Ourselves”?

The Our Bodies Ourselves Global Initiative works with grassroots and institutional women’s organizations that have identified “Our Bodies, Ourselves” as a key resource for improving lives and have decided to adapt it for their own communities.

It’s important to note that OBOS does not solicit involvement. Organizations that are interested in an adaptation project reach out to OBOS and take part in a comprehensive application process.

OBOS works with organizations that have an intimate understanding of local and regional needs as well as the social, political and religious forces that affect the lives of local women and girls. They also have local buy-in, with allies that include grassroots and institutional stakeholders. This makes them the experts — uniquely positioned to design, develop and use the content for individual and social change.

Upon receiving project approval, groups work on transforming the book into a meaningful tool for local action. While OBOGI staff helps to identify the best format for each community, new partners are generally discouraged from developing full-length print books. This is because books can be costly and cumbersome to produce and distribute. They are also less appealing to certain audiences; in some areas, young women may prefer information in a digital format; in others, the majority of girls and women may be unable to read.

Additional assistance from OBOGI may include help with identifying grant funding and promotional assistance.

Here are some examples of Global Network partners in action:

Nigeria: Women for Empowerment, Development and Gender Reform shared information adapted from “Our Bodies, Ourselves” into Yoruba and Pidgin English, using local canoe systems and village-wide peer-to-peer education.

Nepal: Women’s Rehabilitation Center worked with local allies to ensure reproductive rights remains constitutionally guaranteed, after securing these rights in the interim constitution.

Serbia: Women’s Health Promotion Center designed an intervention model for health providers across the nation to screen and respond to the needs of domestic violence survivors.

Israel: Women and Their Bodies built bridges between Arab and Jewish women who collaborated on Arabic and Hebrew adaptations of “Our Bodies, Ourselves.”

Turkey: Mavi Kalem reached more than 12,000 young women via campaigns that use a statement of women’s rights principles and a badge with the slogan My Body is Mine.

Why do women’s groups around the world use “Our Bodies, Ourselves” as the basis for developing health resources?

Each member of the Global Network would offer a different response to this question. The project pages include some of the key issues affecting women’s health and well-being in countries where work has been completed or is underway. Some of the completed publications included prefaces that have been translated into English — these may provide more specific information about what sparked the group’s interest in adapting “Our Bodies, Ourselves.”

Generally speaking, a worldwide gap in evidence-based, culturally appropriate and non-judgmental information on health, sexuality and reproduction is a primary driver. “Our Bodies, Ourselves” addresses this critical gap by:

  • Using consumer language and a friendly conversational style
  • Incorporating women’s stories and experiences
  • Balancing a critique of the social, cultural and political factors that have an impact on health
  • Emphasizing women as their own health experts and as change agents in their community

These factors, report our partners, make the book accessible to many and different cultures.

Shamita Das Dasgupta, representing the Sanlaap and Manavi collaboration in India, says it best: “‘Our Bodies, Ourselves’ is the preeminent and most comprehensive book on women’s sexuality and health. It lends itself to other languages and cultures. It really has no rival in this field.”

Why are these GLOBAL partnerships relevant to human rights activism?

Members of the OBOS Global Network are a vital link in a global chain of human rights activism and a key ally to agencies and governments that are working on the ground to reach girls, women and men.

Despite significant financial and humanitarian aid, as well as international human rights covenants and watchdogs, women and girls are still marginalized and underserved around the world. While this can be attributed to a host of reasons — including failed political leadership and cultural mores that restrict mobility, limited access to resources, and limited decision making power on matters related to sexual health, marriage, fertility and birth control, education and money — it is widely recognized that securing the health and human rights of women and girls depends on increasing their access to information and services that present real choices.

What are some of the challenges the Global Network partners face?

Some challenges are common; others are specific to particular countries/regions. For example, almost all Global Network partners struggle with raising money. Others also confront challenges such as censorship, pro-natalist government policies, community backlash, armed conflict, and civil and political unrest.

OBOGI staff works closely with all of the Global Network partners to identify effective solutions and to facilitate a network-wide exchange of ideas, skills and resources. This partnership model, which combines OBOS’s collective energies and strengths, is a powerful recipe for success — one that has helped OBOS grow from a small Boston-based organization into a dynamic international network of social change activists.

It is imperative that networks like this continue to receive support, so OBOS can respond to the growing health needs and human rights violations of women and girls around the world.

How can I support the OBOS Global Initiative and the Global Network partners?

If you would like to make a financial contribution, please contact us or donate online.

OBOS deeply appreciates the enthusiasm and generosity of funders. Their donations have given women and girls around the globe access to vital health information and empowerment tools. However, raising funds to complete and develop these much-needed publications is an ongoing challenge. We welcome your support and share our sincere thanks on behalf of the Global Network.

Please read information for potential partners if you are interested in assisting with a specific adaptation project.

Who can I contact for more information about the OBOS Global Initiative?

Please contact OBOS administrative coordinator Jane Case: jane [AT] ourbodiesourselves.org

How many publications based on “Our Bodies, Ourselves” Have Been Developed?

As of fall 2016, “Our Bodies, Ourselves” has been published in 30 languages around the world. The most recent project was completed in 2015: the Institute for Social Development Studies in Vietnam developed health booklets based on “Our Bodies, Ourselves” for providers across the country.

New projects underway: The Roshan Institute for Persian Studies and the Department of Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland are developing online content in Farsi.

Are any publications available online?

As part of OBOS’s efforts to increase access to culturally appropriate health content, links to full publications and/or selected chapters are available on some individual project pages.

Currently, you’ll find chapter excerpts in the following languages: Albanian, Arabic, Hebrew, Polish, Nepali and French (for French-speaking Africa).

The complete Armenian bookBangla booklet and the Russian e-book are available to download for free.

How do I obtain print copies of publications based on “Our Bodies, Ourselves”?

Please contact the OBOS Global Network partners directly for information on how to obtain print copies — contact information is provided on each individual project page. OBOS does not have the capacity to sell or distribute publications developed by its partners.

If you need immediate assistance, please contact OBOGI staff (see above). Occasionally, depending on availability, we may be able to send you a copy from our limited collection.