Rapid population growth has several economic consequences. It requires heavier investment in education, health, and transport just to maintain the smooth flow of these services in any community.
Population growth makes the working population have a higher burden of dependency to support the economy, hence making both individual and national savings more difficult.
Although population growth is not the only problem dividing rich and poor countries, it is one important variable that has widened the gap in growth per capita income between developed and developing nations.
Birth control is an advocate means to prevent personal and social pressures that result from rapid population growth.
Rwanda’s population, which is made up of many agricultural farmers has quadrupled over the last 50 years to over 10million people.
And if the fertility rates are not slowed, the population will increase beyond manageable limits. Increase of the population without expansion of resources is a burden to every living thing.
Among the obstacles that limit women’s use of hormonal contraceptives such as birth control pills and hormone implants are the lack of knowledge, access problems and the fear of suffering from side effect.
Many young Rwandan women are reluctant to use modern contraceptive methods because they perceive them as intended for married women. They fear that health clinic staff would treat them poorly or not help them in a matter that they perceive as sensitive.
While some young women have an easier time accessing condoms, many see them as methods for preventing sexually transmitted infection rather than a contraceptive—they associate condoms with disease and promiscuity.
Another setback to population control is that many women rely on traditional birth control methods such as charms and herbs.
There is a good percentage of women in developing countries who consider abortion to be the only option in the case of unintended pregnancies, yet it’s a methodology that is more dangerous than using birth control pills.
Lack of knowledge and access may be the easiest problems to address. Efforts must be applied to the whole Rwandan community to help address negative perceptions towards contraceptive use and to encourage older women as well as younger women to consider using modern methods of birth control.
These interventions need to be youth friendly to help young women build the life skills that they need to take control of their reproductive health.
Reproductive rights rest on the recognition of the basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly on the number, spacing and timing of their children.
This implies that they need to have the information and means to do so, and the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health.
Controlling over reproduction is a basic need and a basic right for all women. It is linked to a woman’s health and social status, as well as the powerful social structures of religion, state control and private profits people make.
It is from this perspective that poor families need to understand reproductive health in order to take a step towards controlling their reproductive potential.
Women know that childbearing is a social, not a purely personal phenomenon.There is a need to understand clearly that increase in population trends can easily exert considerable pressure on resources with in a period of time.
We cannot forget to mention that in the past, social and cultural norms of our country used to prevent women from accessing reproductive healthcare and thus severely limiting their reproductive choices.
Traditional norms surrounding the behavior of women such as gender inequality, limited socioeconomic standing, low literacy rates, early marriage during adolescence, and high fertility limits women’s ability to act in their own interest and compromise access to reproductive healthcare and family planning services.
Longstanding gender norms that have been put in place by the Rwandan government greatly influence healthcare policy and investments to ultimately increase access to information and services.
In many developing countries, men control decisions regarding sexual relations, contraception, and HIV prevention. However, the reproductive health needs of men may not necessarily correspond with the needs of women.
Lack of gender sensitive reproductive health policies adversely affects access to information and services for women. Policy actions such as legislation, enforcement provisions, institutional arrangements, and dedicated resources can strengthen women’s rights, limit traditional harmful practices, improve women’s opportunities to stay in school and participate in the workforce.
Currently, the Government of Rwanda has set up policies that include the development and enforcement of gender positive policies governing the minimum age at marriage (21 years), legal age of consent, marital property, and physical integrity.
Improvements in reproductive health have economic consequences at the individual, family, and household levels. Reproductive health increases the human capital of women who directly contribute to socio-economic development. Indirectly, reproductive health increases the human capital of children by keeping their mothers alive.
Women with access to family planning information and methods as well as social services such as education and healthcare can control their reproductive outcomes and typically give birth to fewer children.
Fewer births in turn slow population growth which relieves pressure on natural resources and overstretched public services. Safe, effective, and affordable reproductive health care provides women with the opportunity to enjoy both non-reproductive and reproductive roles in society, thereby contributing directly to socioeconomic development through increased income.
Rwanda through various policies that affect women directly has taken the path towards achieving economic prosperity as a priority in its Vision 2020 target where gender balance plays a vital role.
The author is a medical doctor working at Rwamagana District Hospital, Eastern Province.