Empowerment is "The sustained ability of individuals and organizations to freely, knowledgeably and autonomously decide how best to serve their strategic self-interest and the interest of their societies in an effort to improve their quality of life."
Central to this project is the firm belief that not only must clients and communities have the capacity to make informed FP/RH decisions but they must also be empowered to do so. This project will work with men, women, youth and their communities to provide an environment where they can empower themselves.
Key Empowerment Areas for CATALYST:
For women, "Gender" is not just another word. It illuminates the socio-cultural roles that men and women play (mother/father, husband/wife, etc.) and the relations that arise out of these socially constructed roles. These roles, and the differing power imbued in them, affect the access and control that men and women have over resources and opportunities, including those needed to achieve and maintain good reproductive health.
Worldwide, women are more likely than men to experience "... poverty and economic dependence, ...violence, negative attitudes... racial and other forms of discrimination, limited power (over their sexual and reproductive lives) and lack of influence in decision-making... [that] adversely impact their health (Beijing Platform of Action, para. 92)." Physical access to sexual and reproductive health services (SRH) in the absence of the power and control to make the decision to access those services renders their quality or mode of delivery irrelevant and unattainable.
DHS data from 24 countries show the impact of gender on women's ability to act on unmet birth spacing or limiting needs. This data suggests that for 80% of the women in the study, contextual, predominantly gender issues--not physical access--were the main reasons for not using family planning. (Source: Hantamalala and Charles F. Westoff, "Highlights of Preferred Birth Intervals in Sub-Saharan Africa.") For programmatic efforts to be empowering for women, they must provide broadened, linked services that take into account the social, political, psychological, economic and sexual dimensions of women's health and well being--in other words, her enabling environment.
Men's participation activities within this project will seek to promote women's equality in RH decision-making; to increase men's support of women's sexual and reproductive health and of children's well-being; and to meet the reproductive and sexual needs of men.
Men have distinct reproductive health needs of their own and play an important role in the health of women and children, often serving as gatekeepers to women's access to reproductive health services. Men need to have their perspectives incorporated into program design, to feel welcome at clinics, to have a wider range of information and services available to them and to be portrayed positively. The challenge is to meet men's needs to be involved without disempowering women.
Strategically and deliberately investing in the well-being of young people can result in powerful positive individual and social behavior change. This is especially true with regard to reproductive health issues, such as delaying the age of sexual initiation and increasing condom and contraceptive use. Effective programs must be driven by the vision and perceptions of youth and increasingly adopt an assets-based approach to youth development instead of a problem-focused one.
Research shows that for development and individual behavior change to be sustainable, it must be supported by an enabling environment not just at home, but within the broader community as well. For that to happen, there must be community ownership of the enabling environment--through deliberate, participatory processes that involve local institutions, local leaders, community groups and members of the community. Communities can be empowered to create an enabling environment for positive change--including reproductive health--in the analysis of local health concerns and in the design, implementation and evaluation of community-based programs.