Family Planning is an essential health and social tool

In most of our societies, there is a rise in the population rate without expansion of land. This in most cases results into population pressure for example in 30 years to come, the population of Rwanda might rise three times higher and on 26,000 square kilometers of land. If the fertility rates are not checked, the population will increase beyond manageable limits.
Dr. Joseph Kamugisha
Dr. Joseph Kamugisha

In most of our societies, there is a rise in the population rate without expansion of land. This in most cases results into population pressure for example in 30 years to come, the population of Rwanda might rise three times higher and on 26,000 square kilometers of land. If the fertility rates are not checked, the population will increase beyond manageable limits.

Increase of the population without expansion of resources is a burden to every living thing. It is important therefore to keep family planning issues at the forefront for local, national, regional, and international health and development discussions, initiatives, and programmes.

Awareness about declining resources for family planning initiatives, programmes, and services has increased in the last few years with new initiatives for repositioning family planning and contraceptive security observed in many developed countries and regions.

Lack of information about problems and side effects of the family planning methods are among the obstacles that limits women’s use of hormonal contraceptives such as the birth control pill and hormone implants.

Some of the young women are reluctant to use modern contraceptive methods because they perceive them as intended for only married women.

Some young women seem to have an easier time accessing condoms, though there are others who think that condoms are there to prevent sexually transmitted diseases rather than the contraceptive purpose. They normally associate them with disease and promiscuity.

Also worth mentioning is that many of the women rely on traditional birth control methods such as charms and herbs.

There is a good percentage of women in our developing countries who consider abortion as an option in the case of unintended pregnancy. This methodology is more dangerous than using birth control pills.

Lack of knowledge and access to adequate information on proper reproductive health should be one of the major issues to address by the health authorities in the country.

Efforts must also be subjected to the whole Rwandese community so as to address negative perceptions of contraceptive use and encourage older women as well as younger women to consider using modern methods of birth control especially in rural areas.

Most of these interventions also need to be youth-friendly in that they should help young women build the life skills 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 the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information as well as means to do so. Here the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health shall be attained.

Control of over reproduction is a basic need and a basic right for all women. It is linked to the women’s health and social status, as well as the powerful social structures of religion, state control and private profits that people can make.

Women know that childbearing is a social, not a purely personal phenomenon. We have to understand clearly that increase of the population trends can easily exert considerable pressure on resources with in a period of time.

Traditional norms surrounding the behaviour of women such as gender inequality, limited socio-economic standing, low literacy rates, early marriage during adolescence should be abolished completely.

Longstanding, gender norms that have been put in place by the Rwandan government greatly influence healthcare policy, investments and ultimately increase access to information and services. 

Previously and in many 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 and this prompted need for well elaborated gender sensitive information.

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.

The government of Rwanda set up policies that include development and enforcement of gender positive policy issues such as minimum age at marriage, legal age of consent, marital property, and physical integrity.

Improvements in reproductive health have consequences at the individual, family, and household levels. Reproductive health increases the human capital of women who directly contribute to socioeconomic development. Indirectly, reproductive health increases the human capital of children by keeping their mothers alive.

The writer is a resident oncologist in Jerusalem, Israel

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