Another major event is opening tomorrow at the Kigali Convention Centre when over 3,700 delegates take part in the fifth edition of the International Conference on Family Planning.
Rwanda had for many years been struggling with bringing its explosive population growth under control but with little success. Then, between 2000 and 2015, the efforts invested began to pay off. A Rwandan woman who gave birth to an average of 5.8 children, saw the numbers descend to 4.2.
Traditional Rwandans, especially in rural areas, believed in large families, they saw it as an investment for the future. There were more chances of survival in a society that was prone to disease and social upheavals if one had many children.
And in any case, that was more manpower for the farm. That was a much-skewed logic and source of numerous domestic conflicts. As years went by, there was little to inherit as plots of land continued to reduce as it was passed down the male lineage – women were out of the equation
Contraceptives were shunned and in case they were reluctantly accepted, only the woman took part in the exercise. More than a decade ago, only 4 per cent used modern contraceptive methods, today the figure is around 48 per cent.
The remaining urgent challenge is taking birth control and sexual education to the youth. Today the most pressing issue is the rise in unwanted teen pregnancies. We should not bury our heads in the sand; many youths today are sexually active and are not inhibited by conservative upbringing or what used to be regarded as social taboos.
In order to tackle teen pregnancies, drastic measures need to be taken even if it means going against traditional customs. Today’s youth are aeons away from their elders in terms of emerging trends and a fast-changing world.
Adults need to pull up their socks to keep up with the youthful adventurous youth to prevent them from unwanted harm.