In a bid to end unintended pregnancies and death resulting from unsafe abortion, university girls’ leaders have been trained on use of contraceptives and other family planning methods.
The Wednesday training held in Kigali attracted 20 girls’ leaders from 20 universities. It was organised by the Health Initiative Development and Girls Leaders Forum under the theme ‘Stand up for women and girls, their bodies, their choices’.
Health Initiative Development is an organisation that educates the youth on sexual and reproductive health in Rwanda.
According to Dr Aflodis Kagaba, the executive director of the organisation, myths still abound about pregnancies and use of contraception, especially among young girls, which results into unwanted pregnancies.
He said there is a need to increase awareness on how young girls can avoid such temptations.
“You are key players and agents of change. Therefore, go back and tell the clubs you lead and other associations how to handle these issues since you have influence over your fellow students,” he said.
Aaron M Clevis, a lawyer based in Kigali, urged the trainees to be open-minded and to seek information regarding women’s rights and sexual reproductive health.
He emphasised that some girls are usually raped, sexually harassed and violated in the workplace, home or elsewhere because they don’t know their rights and ways of getting redress.
Clevis called on the group to read Maputo Protocol that was ratified by Rwanda, which advances the rights of women, children and those living with disabilities.
He also noted that it is the right of women to decide with their husbands how many children to produce.
Anonciata Nyirakarehe, a nurse and cunselor with Health Development Initiative, urged girls’ leaders to advocate for use of family planning among their colleagues, saying it would protect them from sexual-related dangers, such as HIV/AIDS.
She urged them to stick to the good traditional cultural values which promote abstinence.
“When we were young, sex before marriage was an abomination. However, since culture is dynamic, you should use contraceptives whenever abstinence fails,” she said.
Nyirakarehe also told them to change the mindset that having a big number of children is a privilege or an indication of power in society.
“Parents in the past had land to bequeath to their children, but you now have to make sure you produce children you are sure you will raise. Your future husbands shouldn’t have the last word on the number of children to produce; rather, mutual consent of both partners is necessary,” he said.
Joy Ishimwe Kankindi, the president of the Girls Leaders Forum at University of Central Africa-Masoro campus, noted that parents need break the traditional ‘yoke of silence’ and talk to their children on matters pertaining to reproductive health.
“Personally, when I go back, I will make sure that I explain to my fellow students the advantages of abstaining and use of contraceptives,” she said.
According to Isange Health Centre report of 2014 on gender-based violence, 60 per cent of unsafe abortions are among women in their mid 20s while only 48 per cent of currently married women in Rwanda use contraceptives.
The report also indicated that only 9 per cent of the 84 women that were raped sought court redress.