Rwanda has registered a significant reduction in overall unfulfilled need for contraception, becoming one of only six countries whose unmet need is less than 15 per cent, a new report shows.
The report, released yesterday, was conducted by Family Planning 2020 (FP2020).
The number of states pledging to expand access to voluntary contraception reached 29 after five more developing countries – Benin, DR Congo, Guinea, Mauritania and Myanmar – made commitments.
Rwanda’s progress in increasing access to family planning for women and girls shows that in 2013 there was an increase of 45,000 new family planning users.
The report indicates that in Rwanda the use of modern contraceptives helped to prevent over 213,000 unintended pregnancies and 559 maternal deaths.
This is the second such report highlighting progress made since global leaders committed, in July 2012, to provide 120 million more women and girls around the world with access to family planning information and services.
Telesthore Nambajimana, director of programmes at Rwandese Association for the Promotion of Family Welfare (Arbef), said intensive sensitisation and education programmes on family planning helped to break the barriers that limited women and girls to access contraception.
“Indeed more Rwandan women and girls are accessing contraceptives because of the efforts put in educating and sensitising them about the benefits of family planning. Families are currently making informed choice regarding contraceptive use,” Nambajimana said.
He attributed the increase of contraceptive use to accessibility of health centres and family planning facilities.
“Today, Rwandan women walk to any nearby clinic or health facility and they are counselled and given contraception. For example, we have outreach programmes where we send doctors to geographically inaccessible places,” Nambajimana said.
“We have a mechanism where we inform the local leaders the days when the doctors will visit the communities and the leaders pass on the information to the people. This is done once or twice a week. We also train peer providers that help in distributing the contraceptives to fellow villagers.”
Challenges among users
Nambajimana said although the demand for contraceptives is high, there are still some challenges encountered by the users.
“The main challenge we encounter is dealing with a few women who suffer side effects of contraceptives. Although there are actually a few women that experience the side effects, some women have made it their business to spread rumours which create fear among other women in the villages,” he said.
“It becomes difficult to convince them that they are isolated cases, thus some women tend to become reluctant and are in dilemma about taking contraceptives.”
By investing in family planning, Rwanda is taking steps toward improving the health and wellbeing of girls and women.
The report includes the first set of quantitative results on several core indicators designed to track progress toward the FP2020 goal.
Commitments made to FP2020 by developing country governments and the donor community are translating into real progress, highlighting the importance of mobilising resources and further strengthening the focus on adolescents and girls.
Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said family planning is one of the best investments that can can be used to boost women empowerment, gender equality, sustainable development and create “the future we want.”
“Family planning is not a privilege, but a basic human right. Deciding about pregnancy should be by choice, not by chance. We welcome the contribution of FP2020 to ensure that more women and girls have the information and means to realise this basic human right,” Dr Babatunde said.
UNFPA is the co-chair of FP2020’s Reference Group.
Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) is a global partnership that supports the rights of women and girls to decide, freely and for themselves, whether, when and how many children they want to have.
FP2020 works with governments, civil society, multilateral organisations, donors, the private sector and the research and development community to enable 120 million more women and girls to use contraceptives by 2020.
FP2020 is an outcome of the 2012 London Summit on Family Planning, where more than 20 governments made commitments to address the policy, financing, delivery and socio-cultural barriers to access to contraceptive information, services and supplies.
Donors also pledged an additional $2.6 billion in funding.