Imbuto Foundation has launched a sensitisation drive that aims at encouraging adolescents and parents to hold open talks on sexual and reproductive health.
The drive, organised by the Foundation together with various community-based organisations at the district level hopes to improving Parent-Adolescent communication, through a series of open debate forums themed “Imbuto Zitoshye”.
Imbuto Foundation is an initiative by First Lady, Jeannette Kagame, which aims at, among others, equipping young persons, especially teenagers, with skills and knowledge that will keep them safe as they grow up.
The sensitisation drive also aims at promoting HIV prevention among youth aged between 15 to 24 in 12 districts.
Speaking at the launch, the Minister of Education, Pierre Damien Habumuremyi said that parents hold a prime responsibility in ensuring the health and safety of their children.
He noted that a 2010 random survey indicated that 612 cases of pregnancy were reported in secondary schools.
“It is not usual that officials meet to talk about their families, thanks to the First Lady for her initiative; this is an opportunity for all parents to re-focus and think about the health of their children,” the Minister said, during the forum that was attended by both parents and their children.
He emphasized that it is important that men equally participate in such forums and campaigns.
The Minister went on to share last year’s statistics on pregnancy in schools.
The Eastern Province topped the table with the highest number with 177 cases.
The Northern Province followed with 141 cases, Southern Province, 130, Western Province, 110, while Kigali City recorded 56 cases.
“This situation is extremely alarming and this is a result of parents not talking to their children about sex. There are also cases of sexual harassment, rape and defilement that we all need to stand up against,” Minister Habumuremyi said.
He added that; “we need to break the traditional barriers and start telling our children about their body changes.”
The Minister emphasised that parents are fully responsible for what happens to their children, adding that the Ministry of Education is pondering distributing condoms in schools as a protective measure.
During the forum, the Deputy Director General of Rwanda Biomedical Centre, Dr Anita Asiimwe, gave a lecture about the status of HIV/Aids among youth aged between 15 and 24.
“You have to put parents to task, ask them about everything related to sex. You need to take a lead in ensuring that you have a bright future,” Dr. Asiimwe told the youth.
She added that two national level surveys carried out in 2005 and 2006 indicated that the first sexual relations occur relatively early among teenagers.
“One study shows that 15 percent male and 5 percent females aged between 15 and 19 had sexual relations before the age of 15. The other study indicated that 13 percent of girls aged between 15 and 24, and 24 percent of males in the same age brackets are sexually active,” Dr. Asiimwe said.
She added that parents should that they have provided adequate knowledge to their children.
“Like right to life, sexual right is a fundamental human right, parents therefore have a big role in providing an appropriate and safe sexual environment while bringing up their children,” she said.
The Mayor of Kigali City, Fidele Ndayisaba encouraged the youth to abstain from sex before marriage.
“Somehow, a person loses value if they are engaged in premature sexual affairs. There are also many risks including unwanted pregnancies, getting infected with HIV and other sexually transmitted infections,” the Mayor said.
Several youth who attended the first session of the forums gave testimonies of how they have been victims of lack of communication with their parents.
A girl born with HIV said that she got to know about her status a year after her parents died and the news traumatised her for a period of time, to the extent that she spent two weeks in coma.
With the help of her aunt, she regained hope, studied and gave birth. She now has a three-year old baby who is not infected with HIV.
Patrick Habineza, 22, a third year student at Kigali Institute of Education, lost his parents to HIV/Aids in 2004. Since then he has been taking care of his two young sisters, one of them was born with HIV/AIDS.
“We never got the opportunity to talk about sexual and reproductive health with our parents; that is why I took the initiative to always talk to my sisters and ensure that I give them what our parents were supposed to give us,” he said.
Imbuto Foundation forums will take place in three consecutive series that will end on October 2, 2011.