BUGESERA — As Rwanda wrestles with sensitizing the country to modern family-planning methods and devices, the very people the government has turned to the most, school teachers, are too scared to change themselves.
Emanuel, a 30-year old teacher, pleaded in vain with his wife to use contraceptives when having sex.
“After constant haggling with my wife about a suitable family planning method we could use, I was given the option of either abstaining from sex or adopt interrupted sex mechanism.
Being unable to abstain in marriage, I grudgingly accepted to have interruption of my sexual excitement” Emanuel says. Emanuel’s wife, Clare also a teacher is one of many women who dread the use of contraceptives in family planning.
The Ministry of Health set up a programme where every sector administrative level has at least two health advisors.
The initiative aims at enlightening rural residents about health issues including hygiene, nutrition, disease prevention and care and popularising the family planning campaign among others. However, mystery and misconception still surround the use of family planning.
A number of women and men say they fear using condoms. accusing them to be “made for prostitutes,” or may slip off during sexual intercourse. Most of all, though, it’s about pleasure. “How do you enjoy a sweet while in its wrapper?” one asked sheepishly.
Marie Gorette, 27, has never been sensitized about family planning by the sector health advisers in the district and is still one of the villagers to whom family-planning methods are a mystery.
“We hear one can conceive even while using pills, and this is a sure way of producing a deformed child” Gorette says.
Fred Mulindahasi Rafiki, president of an association of community health advisers in the district also acknowledged that they encounter rumors about biases towards family planning methods while carrying out their work.
Theophile Ndabereye, in charge of Mayange health center, also agrees that myth and misconception still surround the use of contraceptives. He however says efforts are made to sensitize each visiting patient about family planning and those ready to join are educated on the various options available.
Especially for breast feeding mothers, he said, special contraceptives that will not affect breast feeding are recommended for them.
Director of Nyamata hospital Dr Dariya Mukamusoni said the mystery of contraceptives use among sections of the population is partly attributed to religious factors.
“Health centers run by religious people [sisters] do not encourage [contraceptive] use but use of natural methods of family planning,” Mukamusoni says.
The natural method involves the use of moon beads with varying colors which help women tell when they are in safe or unsafe days. If one played unprotected sex during the unsafe days then could become pregnant.
Gorette acknowledged the use of beads with her husband, and she said it needed particular attention not to miscalculate the menstrual cycle.
According to statistics from the 10 health centers in the district, family-planning use stood at 11.1 per cent since the beginning of the year.
The doctor explained that application of certain family planning methods [described as modern] had previously been reserved for Nyamata hospital where there trained personnel but other health practitioners at the various health centers in the district have recently been trained to facilitate their usage.
This, she said,would break the mystery surrounding certain planning methods.