Why does the reproductive health of young people matter?
Today, approximately 3 billion people worldwide-half the world's population-are less than 25 years old. This means the largest number of youth
Young people-even those who are married-remain underserved when it comes to having access to reproductive health information and services. Health providers are often ill-equipped to handle the special reproductive health needs of youth, and young people frequently feel uncomfortable or lack the independence to seek out information about the myriad of issues related to their reproductive health. Cultural traditions and sensitivities are also barriers to providing information and services to adolescents because of beliefs that such information will lead to promiscuity. Many societies have longstanding traditions about what is expected and permitted regarding sexual activity and reproduction among the young people, and about how sexual information and values are communicated to them.
The CATALYST Approach to Adolescent Reproductive Health
Although a time of risk, as indicated by the statistics above, adolescence is also a time of tremendous opportunity and promise. CATALYST envisions a world where youth are seen as assets and resources and are encouraged to develop their full potential as educated, informed, healthy, responsible, active and valued citizens in their communities. Accordingly, CATALYST's approach is grounded in rights and development that emphasize an investment in strengthening young people's assets.
CATALYST takes a rights-based approach to working with and for young people. This includes giving information and education on sexuality and sexual health issues, providing youth-friendly services that ensure confidentiality and choice and ensuring that young people play a meaningful and active part in realizing their sexual and reproductive rights. A rights-based approach places young people at the center of their own health and well-being as key actors rather than passive recipients.
CATALYST's approach is based on the idea that adolescent well-being is most effectively achieved by strengthening young peoples' capabilities, enlarging access to opportunities and providing them with safe and supportive environments. Given the above, development is both an outcome (e.g. a measurable process of adolescent maturation) and an intervention strategy (e.g. putting into place those Components of social development, such as educational, financial and/or human resources that maximize risk-protective factors and promote youth development).
CATALYST merges the two approaches to achieve the best of both worlds. This includes collecting and documenting innovative models, which increase the access of young people to the best possible reproductive health services. CATALYST will assist in scaling up activities and strategies that improve the accessibility of quality reproductive health services for young people. CATALYST will also support local organizations to increase youth involvement in decision-making capacities in both policy development and program implementation.
CATALYST is currently supporting research and services for adolescents in Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Bangladesh and Egypt.