Daphrose Kabanyana, 40 years, and her husband Valens Ntakirutimana, 47 years, are married and live in Rwamagana District.
Neither of them knew what they were getting into when they ignorantly had seven children with almost no birth spacing and also took on the responsibility to adopt a relative’s daughter.
“As you can see, most of them are girls so we kept on trying in search for another baby boy since we only had two boys,” Kabanyana narrates.
According to her, raising their children, Paul, Eric, Diana, Yvonne, Alice, Rachelle and Harriet at their tender ages was the toughest job ever because it limited Kabanyana’s participation in contributing to the household’s income generation.
“Before one child would even start walking, I would be carrying another pregnancy. It was terrible because the children would normally fall sick at the same time. When I was pregnant with our last born, I visited Rwamagana District Hospital and was advised to consider family planning.”
“The doctor said that if I continued to have one child after another, I could get complications or even die. That got me so worried and got me thinking.”
“I decided on using injectables which, for a whole three months, prevent someone from becoming pregnant. It allowed time for my kids to grow as I became stronger and started helping my husband to cultivate the fields. Today everything has changed because I now run a small business that sells ubushera (local brew),” the smiling Kabanyana said.
Her family depends on farming and the sorghum that grows at the farm is what Kabanyana uses to make the local brew. She now has enough time to sell some vegetables like tomatoes, groundnuts and foodstuffs like small fish.
After she took the decision to use family planning, Ntakirutimana’s family has also taken the initiative to spread the good news to other families in their community.
“We are also community health workers and as of today, over 30 women are using contraceptives. We were ignorant to have so many children and our goal is to ensure that no one else gets into our situation,” Ntakirutimana said.
Dr. Avite Mutaganzwa, the Chief of Staff at Rwamagana District Hospital says that despite the benefits of family planning, only 27 percent of the district’s population uses family planning.
The Ministry of Health together with partners like the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) have engaged in intensive trainings of health workers, constant supply of the family planning commodities and capacity building in a bid to advance this cause.
In Kiziguro Sector in Rwamagana District, the nearest catholic hospital does not agree with the modern contraceptive methods. Donat Murego, a nurse who is in charge of a family planning centre that was introduced by the Ministry of Health to meet this need said, the centre came as an answered prayer to residents.
When The New Times spoke to Deogratias Habiyaremye, 37 years, and his wife Beatrice Nahimana, 35 years, about why they had visited the centre, Nahimana said that they had regularly come to acquire contraceptives.
“Before this centre was established we used to walk for longer distances to acquire these services. We are Catholics but we do not believe that we should have so many children that we will not be able to raise, simply because the pope says so,” Habiyaremye said.
“The pope may say it is not right to use contraceptives but, he is a rich man and we are not!” Nahimana said.
Some of the contraceptive methods offered at the centre include, pills, implants, injectables and other methods like condoms. Murego also expressed that several men are beginning to pick interest in vasectomy.
Residents highlighted that although family planning has great benefits, most people still have misconceptions that using these methods could cause cancer or could result into delivery of mentally disturbed children.
“Other people also have a misconception that for women it may cause continuous bleeding,” Murego said.
According to Dr. Fidele Ngabo, an official in charge of Maternal and Child Health in the Ministry of Health, the population growth rate is at 2.9 percent which implies that in the next 20 years, the country’s population could have doubled.
Ngabo adds that major challenges to expanding family planning countrywide include integration of family planning into other services, introduction of youth-friendly services, reaching out to men and facilitating long-acting and permanent methods.
Officials emphasize that registered success is mainly attributed to the strong political commitment right from the highest level to the grassroots, availability of health insurance as well as the logistic system which ensures contraceptive security.