It is 3pm on a hot afternoon as Sarah Mujawase, a resident of Kacyiru sector in Gasabo district is unwinding business with her last customer for the day.
She is a working mother and her schedule as a hairdresser is a tight one but as a hard working woman, Mujawase manages to pull through.
The mother of two counts herself lucky because if it weren’t for her planned parenthood she and the husband would hardly support their family.
“My husband and I earn very little income but regardless of all that, we manage to take care of our family. We chose to have two kids at the time and only plan to have one more only if our standards of living improve,” she says.
Mujawase and her husband agreed on embracing the use of family planning; this way they are able to have children they can support as well as planning for their future.
For many families, the likes of Mujawase and her husband, the use of family planning has proved to be more than just a tool for child spacing but a means that creates a chance for decent living. Investments in family planning have indeed proved to have long lasting returns according to officials.
It is in this line that the upcoming International Conference on Family Planning 2018 will be held in Kigali on the 12th to the 15th of November this year, under the theme ‘Investing for a Lifetime of Returns.’
Jose “Oying” Rimon, the director of conference co-host Bill &Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health and the Chair of the ICFP International Steering Committee, says access to contraception gives women and girls better control over their futures.
He says that family planning can cut by half the rate of mothers dying, reduce child mortality up to about 30% and, when combined with girls’ education, it is the single biggest mitigator of climate change, generating huge returns on investment.
During the conference, “we will take on challenges; celebrate our successes; and share knowledge and skills while recognizing the high returns to society for every investment in family planning. … Together we shall engage each other on how we can enable more women and men, girls and boys to reap the huge and far-ranging benefits of investing in family planning,” Rimon says.
Dr Diane Gashumba, the Minister of Health, says Rwanda is one of the family planning success stories of recent history where the first 15 years of the 2000s saw great achievements: a dramatic rise in the country’s contraceptive prevalence rate for modern methods between 2000 and 2015, and a drop in total fertility rate from 6.1 in 2000 to 4.2 in 2015.
She also notes that Rwanda has made notable progress in many other areas including the achievement of MDG 4 and 5.
Maternal mortality ratio dropped steadily from 476 per 100,000 live births in 2010 to 210 in 2015. Rimon cites Rwanda’s achievements in improving maternal health and reducing child mortality as key reasons for the country’s selection as conference co-host. The country’s total fertility rate was reduced from 6.1 in 2005 to 4.2 children per woman in 2015. Infant mortality, under-5 mortality and maternal mortality also decreased significantly.
“At this conference, Rwanda hopes to learn more from other countries and experts, and we hope to work in collaboration with other countries to overcome barriers and challenges in family planning programs,” she says.
“I have attended several conferences on family planning, and after all those conferences we took away in our countries many recommendations. The good thing is that in Rwanda and in many other countries those recommendations were put into action,” she adds.
Dr Gashumba commends Rwanda’s leadership, saying that it has been very highly supportive of family planning; “the country has invested in its network of community health workers, run communications campaigns to drive demand and behavior change and provided trainings on long-acting and permanent contraceptive methods.”
The state of family planning services
Statistics from the World Health Organization indicate that contraceptive use has increased in many parts of the world, especially in Asia and Latin America, but continues to be low in sub-Saharan Africa.
Globally, use of modern contraception has risen slightly, from 54% in 1990 to 57.4% in 2015. Regionally, the proportion of women aged 15–49 reporting use of a modern contraceptive method has risen minimally or plateaued between 2008 and 2015. In Africa it went from 23.6% to 28.5%, in Asia it has risen slightly from 60.9% to 61.8%, and in Latin America and the Caribbean it has remained stable at 66.7%.
214 million women of reproductive age in developing countries who want to avoid pregnancy are not using a modern contraceptive method.
According to statistics from the United Nations Population Fund, in 2015, contraceptive use among married women in Eastern and Southern Africa was at 38.6 per cent, and at 17.6 per cent in West and Central Africa.
About the 2018 international Family Planning Conference
The conference will be held at the state-of-the-art Kigali Convention Centre, 12-15 November 2018.
This year’s theme title speaks to the various returns on investment family planning provides, from education and empowerment to economic growth and environmental health.
Underlying many of the conference sessions will be a focus on the ways in which countries can harness the benefits of the demographic dividend to reap these returns on the macro and micro levels, and the Demographic Dividend will be a highlighted track.
Mothers share their experience
Florence Numukobwa a resident of Gahini, Kayonza district is a mother of five. She says her resistance to the use of family planning has brought about effects that will ripple through the rest of her life.
“My children have managed to go to school but it has been tough. Finding school fees for all of them is still a challenge, yet on top of that we have the task of providing them with other basic needs,” she says.
Numukobwa says that the myths that surrounded the use of family planning services stopped her from using them.
“My fellow women used to advise me not to use family planning saying that it could make me infertile. However now that I know the truth, my husband and I are using the services,” she says.
For Julian Kiiza, a resident of Kimisgara and a mother of three, the advantages associated with the use of family planning services are immeasurable.
She believes that parents who plan parenthood are in a better place to cater for their families.
“When you have a particular number of children, you plan for them accordingly. This leaves you with enough resources to plan for the future leading to the development of the household and the country in general,” she adds.
Mujawase’s two sons had an incredible spacing with the first born being seven years older than the last born.
She says this was only possible because of the use of family planning, “My children have never gone hungry or failed to have clothing. With the little money we earn I have managed to give my family a decent living,” she narrates.
She therefore calls onto other parents to embrace family planning because the benefits stretch right back to society in general.