Family planning is a collective responsibility, says Kagame
President Paul Kagame yesterday called on the world community to collectively promote family planning, adding his voice to a global chorus calling for provision of modern contraceptives to 120 million girls and women in developing countries who have no access to family planning.
The President was delivering a keynote speech at the London Summit on Family Planning, which was attended by several Heads of State and leading international family planning advocates and actors, as the international community marked the World Population Day.
The summit, organised by the British Government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, aimed at mobilising political and financial commitment to ease access to family planning for the needy.
“This is clearly linked to the situation where hundreds of thousands of women worldwide are not adequately empowered to determine the size of their families in the way it should be,” said President Kagame in reference to the objectives of the summit.
He said that, with three years left to meet the Millennium Development Goals – especially goals 4 and 5 that seek to improve maternal and infant health – more remains to be done “and so we need to seize this opportunity and strongly recommit ourselves.
“…This is a responsibility that families and government cannot avoid or delegate. In this effort, however, it is important to forge partnerships to find innovative ways to address such challenges.
“In Rwanda, we have one such partnership with the Government of the UK, through DFID, and the Nike Foundation. The Girl Hub Project’s 12 plus programme aims to educate young girls before the age of puberty on reproductive health as it applies to them. It empowers them with broad life skills that they need to make wise informed choices as they go through life,” said the President.
Kagame recognised the role being played by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in promoting a market-based approach to the issue of family planning.
Also present at the summit were Presidents Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda and Tanzania’s Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, and Burkina Faso First Lady, Chantal Compaore.
In Rwanda, the contraceptive prevalence rate has increased over 10-fold in less than a decade – from only 4 per cent of married women of reproductive age using modern contraceptive methods in the year 2000, to 45 per cent in 2010, according to the 2010 Demographic and Health Survey.
This, and other efforts, cut Rwanda’s total fertility rate to 4.6 per cent in 2010, down from 6.4 per cent in 2005, Kagame told the summit.
The President presented Rwanda’s commitments to ensure universal access to family planning methods, including availing family planning services in each of the country’s 14, 841 administrative villages to be delivered by 45,000 community health workers; expanding existing information dissemination programmes about family planning to the general public; and increasing awareness of the various choices available.
“Scaling up family planning is a collective responsibility. While the policies and programmes are national, the concern must be universal.
“Rwanda considers it a basic right to be able to properly manage one’s own family size, and we are pleased at this opportunity for us all to join our efforts, carry out a collective messaging campaign and mobilise resources to this effect, for the benefit of our people,” he added.
Today, in sub-Saharan Africa alone, only 17 per cent of women use contraceptives – the lowest level in the world, according to the U.S-based Guttmacher Institute
With less access to contraceptives, women and girls have little chance of spacing births, and the more times a woman becomes pregnant, the greater the risk to her health and the health of her unborn children, experts say.
In sub-Saharan Africa, women face a one-in-16 chance of dying in childbirth, as opposed to a one-in-4,000 chance in industrialised countries, according to the United Nations children’s agency, UNICEF.
Speaking at the London Family Planning Summit, UK Prime Minister David Cameron said: “Women should be able to decide freely and for themselves whether, when and how many children they have. It is absolutely fundamental to any hope to tackling poverty in our world.”
“Healthy empowered women mean healthy strong families mean healthy strong children mean healthy strong countries. It is as simple and straightforward as that,” he observed.
Cameron announced that UK’s financial commitments towards family planning services will increase from £90 million each year to £180 million – more than £1.4 billion in total.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni told the gathering that his country plans to increase funds allocated to family planning from US$3 million to US$5 million.
“Family planning should be out of informed choices not manipulation, Uganda is committed to improving its services.”
Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, welcomed commitments made by several countries in saving women and girls.
“When I travel and talk to women around the world they tell me that access to contraceptives can often be the difference between life and death. Today is about listening to their voices, about meeting their aspirations, and giving them the power to create a better life for themselves and their families,” she said.
The summit raised the resources to deliver contraceptives to an additional 120 million women, which is estimated to cost US$4.3 billion.
More than 20 developing countries made bold commitments to address policy, financing and delivery barriers to women accessing contraceptive information, services and supplies.
Donors made new financial commitments to support these plans amounting to $2.6 billion – exceeding the summit’s financial goal.
UK International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, challenged participants to move beyond the talk and begin to “walk the walk.”
Access to safe, effective methods of contraception is considered one of the most cost-effective investments a country can make in its future, delegates said.
Studies show that every US$1 invested in family planning services yields up to US$6 in savings on health, housing, water, and other public services.
Contraceptive use also leads to more education and greater opportunities for girls, helping to end the cycle of poverty for them and their families.
Contact email: edwin.musoni[at]newtimes.co.rw