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Our Bodies Ourselves Global Initiative & Our Bodies Ourselves Global Network: Frequently Asked Questions

Interested in working with the Our Bodies Ourselves Global Initiative? Here are FAQs specific to the process:

What is the Our Bodies Ourselves Global Initiative and the Our Bodies Ourselves Global Network?

The Our Bodies Ourselves Global Initiative (also called the OBOS Global Initiative or OBOGI) brings evidence-based, culturally appropriate information on health, sexuality and reproduction to women, girls and men all over the world.

OBOGI does this by collaborating with women’s organizations that request permission and technical support as they translate and adapt Our Bodies, Ourselves for public education and political action in their country. These organizations are partners in the Our Bodies Ourselves Global Network.

Through their projects and outreach, our Global Network partners reach millions 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 policymakers – to improve health services and health outcomes for women and girls in the community.

OBOGI 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. This resulted in translations of the book in Italy, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Sweden, Netherlands and Spain, followed by others in Russia, Egypt, South Africa, China, Japan and Israel.

Our Bodies, Ourselves founding co-author Norma Swenson led the global outreach – working on early editions in Europe, exploring new opportunities in Latin America, Asia and Africa, and championing a program dedicated to the organization’s growing network and vision.

Who does the Our Bodies Ourselves Global Initiative work with?

Our Bodies Ourselves has come a long way from a Boston-based collective talking around a kitchen table. More than four decades later, the organization is a thriving global presence with partners at the table – alongside other powerbrokers – in countries such as Albania, Armenia, Bulgaria, India, Israel, Moldova, Nepal, Nigeria, Poland, Russia, Senegal, Serbia, South Korea, Tanzania, Turkey, and Vietnam, as well as in South Asian and Persian communities in the United States.

Our Global Network partners are grassroots and institutional women’s organizations, all of whom support, promote and work within a framework of women’s human rights, and employ women in key staff and leadership positions. Each has identified Our Bodies, Ourselves as the resource that can change its community; OBOS does not target groups or solicit involvement. 

After completing an exhaustive vetting process, and upon project approval, Global Network partners work on transforming the book into a culturally meaningful tool for local action. They are deeply engaged in their communities and have an intimate understanding of the context in which they live, including community needs and the social, political and religious forces that affect the lives of local women and girls.

They also have local buy-in, with allies that span grassroots and institutional stakeholders. This makes them the experts, uniquely positioned to design, develop, deliver and use their content for individual and social change.

Here are some examples:

  • Nigeria: Women for Empowerment, Development and Gender Reform shared information adapted from Our Bodies, Ourselves into Yoruba and Pidgin English with 1.5 million people using local canoe systems and village-wide 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.

  • 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.”

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

Why do women’s organizations choose to develop resources based on Our Bodies, Ourselves?

Our Bodies Ourselves Global Network partners would respond to this question in different ways. You can read the prefaces from completed resources for more on their rationale and motivation.

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 is the Our Bodies Ourselves Global Network relevant to global human rights activism?

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

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, access to resources, and 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 Our Bodies Ourselves 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. 

Our Bodies Ourselves Global Initiative staff works closely with each Global Network partner to identify effective solutions and facilitate a network-wide exchange of ideas, skills and resources. This partnership model, which combines our 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 efficiently and empathetically to the growing health needs and human rights violations of women and girls around the world.

How many resources based on Our Bodies, Ourselves are available, and in what languages and formats?

As of May 2013, Our Bodies, Ourselves has been published in 29 languages around the world, with new materials in Farsi and Vietnamese underway. View a list of completed and ongoing projects.

Our Bodies Ourselves Global Network partners develop resources in print, digital, and socially interactive formats. For example, in Nepal, the Women’s Rehabilitation Center developed booklets and content for community radio; Women for Empowerment, Development and Gender Reform in Nigeria created posters and content for village-based peer education; Women and Their Bodies in Israel released Arabic and Hebrew books and a multilingual health information website; Women’s Health in St Petersburg in Russia published an e-book; and Mavi Kalem in Turkey launched an interactive urban-based campaign.

The Roshan Institute at the University of Maryland, one of our newest partners, is developing online content in Farsi, while the Institute for Social Development Studies in Vietnam is building health toolkits for providers across the country.

Format mostly depends on local needs. While OBOGI staff helps to identify the best format for each community, Global Network 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, such as young women who may prefer information in a digital format, and women and girls who are unable to read.

How do I obtain a copy(s) of a foreign language resource based on Our Bodies, Ourselves?

OBOS does not have the capacity to sell or distribute resources developed by its Global Network partners. Please contact the groups directly for Information on how to obtain copies.  

If you have any trouble, please contact the Our Bodies Ourselves Global Initiative staff for assistance. Occasionally – and depending on availability – we may be able to send you a copy from our limited collection.

Are excerpts from foreign language resources available online?

Yes. As part of OBOS’s effort to increase access to culturally appropriate health content, excerpts from resources developed by our Global Network partners are available in the following languages: Albanian, Arabic, Hebrew, Polish, Nepali and French (for French-speaking Africa). The complete Bangla booklet and the Russian e-book are available for download, at no cost.

Check back for additional languages, including Turkish and Kiswahili, in 2013-2014.

How can I support the Our Bodies Ourselves 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 resources is an ongoing challenge. We welcome your support and share our sincere thanks on behalf of the Our Bodies Ourselves Global Network.         

Please see below for more information on working with a specific adaptation project.

Who can I contact for more information about the Our Bodies Ourselves Global Initiative?

Contact OBOGI staff for additional information: 

OBOS Operations Manager, Anne Sweeney, is also available to answer questions: [email protected] 

Though we try to respond to emails promptly, we appreciate your patience in the event of a delay.

Who can coordinate an adaptation project?

Our Bodies Ourselves is frequently approached by individuals and organizations interested in developing resources based on Our Bodies, Ourselves. It is our policy that organizations – specifically women’s organizations – take on project coordination. Here are some reasons why:

  • To transfer publication rights to a legally established non-profit entity.
  • To ensure reliable infrastructure for project implementation, management and coordination.
  • To expand the diversity of voices represented in the content.
  • To guarantee editorial control and transparency, and a central location to resolve content decisions.
  • To build organizational capacity and leadership – an important OBOGI objective.
  • To capitalize on existing local, regional and global networks, and build others for maximum impact.
  • To plan and effectively implement distribution and outreach.
  • To transfer funds, when possible, through our sub-granting initiative.

How can individuals help with a particular adaptation project?

While OBOS values the interest and enthusiasm of individuals, for the reasons mentioned above – and based on experience – individuals are not encouraged to take on project coordination.

Individuals can get involved by contributing to ongoing projects, either financially or otherwise. Though the nature of this involvement will be determined by the particular needs of Global Network partners, it can include translating content, writing/adapting/reading chapters, contributing narratives and graphics, editing or peer reviewing content, networking, or assisting with distribution and publicity.

In the past, some individuals have also partnered with women’s organizations willing to fulfill legal obligations on their behalf. Others have established their own organizations. The latter two options are not always practical and require, among other things, legal organizational status and considerable resources. We invite individuals to contact us if they would like to explore these or other ideas.                       

What is the criteria for a coordinating group?

Our Bodies Ourselves Global Network partners are grassroots and institutional women’s organizations that support, promote and work within a framework of women’s human rights and reproductive justice; identify Our Bodies, Ourselves as a resource for their community; coordinate its adaptation and transformation into a culturally meaningful tool for action; and employ women in key staff and leadership positions.

All coordinating groups must have the experience and organizational capacity to undertake a project, and must complete a multi-step application process. Permission to use Our Bodies, Ourselves, and the support that comes with it, will be granted only upon approval.  

My organization is ready to move forward. What is the process?

Contacting Our Bodies Ourselves Global Initiative staff by email is the first step. Please provide a brief outline of your plans and why your organization might be equipped to take on project coordination. Be brief, as we will follow up with appropriate next steps, including an application, the length of which varies depending on the amount of Our Bodies, Ourselves content an applicant organization plans to use – 20 pages, 100 pages or the whole book.

The application process helps us get to know potential Global Network partners and understand their goals, capabilities, and plans. It is also designed to encourage groups to think through preliminary details and make certain decisions that will ultimately give their adaptation project and health materials a sound base.

What if publication rights are no longer available in a specific language?

Transformations of Our Bodies, Ourselves are already available in many languages. In the event publication rights are not available in a requested language(s), Our Bodies Ourselves Global Initiative staff can facilitate an introduction to the Global Network partner developing health materials in that language(s).

Even though you will not drive and coordinate the project, this will give you an opportunity to become involved in some capacity. Alternatively, if and when publication rights in your requested language(s) become available, you will be contacted to assess your interest in a possible partnership with OBOS.

What are the responsibilities of a coordinating group?

The responsibilities of each Global Network partner carry through the project from beginning to end. Here is a brief list of what may be required:

  • Complete the application process and sign agreements/contracts.
  • Fundraise and strategize publishing, promotion, distribution and outreach.
  • Select, coordinate and work with a team on content development, narratives and graphics.
  • Peer review content, make editorial decisions, and identify a publisher or elect to self-publish.
  • Provide periodic reports to OBOGI staff.
  • Publicize, distribute and strategize on ways to bring the adapted materials to the community.
  • Complete the annual feedback process, and if possible, undertake outreach and evaluation.

All Global Network partners work closely with OBOGI staff, receiving extensive technical assistance and access to expertise and resources on project coordination, implementation and outreach.

What questions do we need to consider as we get started?

As you begin considering a resource based on Our Bodies, Ourselves for your community, please prioritize a discussion on the intended audience, and preferred format and scope of your materials.

While any decisions made at this juncture can be reviewed down the road, comprehensive preliminary discussions are critical to planning, fundraising and networking. It will also help OBOGI staff determine how best to assist you through the application process and the project’s early stages. Points to consider include: 

Audience: The group(s) whose needs will be addressed and who you intend to reach with your resource. 

Format: The physical form in which health materials will be made available. Examples include books, e-books, booklets, posters, as well as content for radio, websites, community campaigns and workshops.

Scope: Translates – loosely – to the amount of Our Bodies, Ourselves content used and can range from 20 pages to 100 pages or the whole book. Each has its own application process and legal obligations.

The format and scope depend largely on local needs and available resources. While each Global Network partner has the best understanding of how much content is useful locally – and in what form – OBOGI staff provide vital guidance on setting goals that are realistic and meaningful to the community.

Global Network partners also have access to helpful decision making tools and contact with other Network partners to learn from their experiences.

Is it possible to translate/adapt excerpts or specific topics in Our Bodies, Ourselves?

Absolutely. Using excerpts from Our Bodies, Ourselves, rather than the whole book, is especially viable for organizations that have limited resources and/or are considering alternatives to long print formats. It allows groups to focus on the most important issues and get information out quickly and efficiently.

Moreover, it does not demand the organizational capacity needed to adapt and move content from the entire book into the community. OBOS encourages its Global Network partners to begin thinking about scope and format early, so they can develop a suitable – and successful – implementation and outreach plan.

What kind of support can we expect from the Our Bodies Ourselves Global Initiative?

OBOS leverages four decades of experience in women’s health publishing and advocacy to provide its Global Network partners with ongoing technical assistance as they develop materials based on Our Bodies, Ourselves, strategize and implement distribution and outreach, and (when possible) organize for social and political change. 

While support often depends on the needs of particular projects, it generally includes:

  • Guidance on planning, start-up, and governance.
  • Input on content development, peer review, production, publishing, outreach and evaluation.
  • Customized tools, including guidelines that synthesize the expertise of our Global Network partners to provide methodical guidance in planning, production, publishing and outreach; and outcome measurement and website development/management kits.
  • Individual contacts and networks in all fields of women’s health, human rights and publishing.
  • Content resources, including free print copies of Our Bodies, Ourselves chapters in electronic format, and expanded website content.
  • Membership and collaborative opportunities in the Our Bodies Ourselves Global Network.
  • Assistance with fundraising and grants management.

Last Updated: April 2013






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