Population Day: Change in mindset behind major gains in family planning

As nations yesterday marked the World Population Day, it was observed that Rwandans have increasingly embraced family planning after realising its implication on the economy.
Mothers with their babies at a health centre during a past vaccination event. More Rwandans have increasingly embraced family planning according to research. File.
Mothers with their babies at a health centre during a past vaccination event. More Rwandans have increasingly embraced family planning according to research. File.

As nations yesterday marked the World Population Day, it was observed that Rwandans have increasingly embraced family planning after realising its implication on the economy.

Senator Gallican Niyongana, a member of Rwanda Parliamentary Network Forum on Population and Development, in an interview with The New Times yesterday said that given the cost of community health insurance – Mutuelle de santé – (between Rwf 3,000 and Rwf7,000 per head per year), many families have increasingly been compelled to agree on the number of children they can afford to look after.

“The mindset of people across the country has significantly changed in favour of family planning,” he said.

The government, community Health Workers (CHWs) and non-governmental organisations are some of the actors behind this change of mindset.

 A study by the World Economic Forum, published in May shows that over a half of married women in Rwanda are using contraceptives.

The target is to have at least 70 per cent of Rwandan married women on contraceptives by 2020.

Liberata Nyiransabimana, a mother of three (12, 11 and 1 year),   has become an activist of family planning among her peers.

The hawker, from, Gitega Sector, Nyarugenge District whose family was until recently struggling to put food on the table, told this paper last week that she understood the implication of having unplanned children on the family’s income after having her second child. Her husband was at the time a bus conductor.

“I found it ridiculous to keep producing children I cannot provide for,” she said.

Ten years ago, she decided to visit the nearest health centre for family planning advice. The health centre provided her with contraceptives and advised her to visit the centre on a regular basis for check-up.  

It took Nyiransabimana and her husband almost a decade to have a third child – in June last year – after her husband had become a driver and her business had expanded.

“We are not complaining anymore,” said the 34-year-old, adding that they now earn at least Rwf200,000 per month.

 Family planning, among other things, has led to a decrease in fertility rate.

According to figures from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, the fertility rate among Rwandan women now stands at an average of 4.6 children, down from 6.5 in 2000, the sharpest decline to be recorded in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Ideal number of children

According to Senator Niyongana, the country can never have a limit on the number of children per woman because it would be infringing on people’s rights.

In other words, no legal framework would be put in place to limit births as was the case in China’s One Child policy.

Still, the World Economic Forum suggests that for Rwanda to balance its economy with population growth, the fertility rate should reduce further to 2.1 children by 2050.

But that will need the country’s GDP per capita to raise from the current $644 to about $3,500 by that time.  

However, this can only be  achieved if some opinion leaders change their mindset.

“Why should you limit the opportunity that God gave us to produce? For us, we believe that the process should be natural and those methods should only apply when there has been a threat on the mother’s health,” said Viateur Ruzibiza, a public relations officer at Pentecostal Church of Rwanda.

Rwanda this year marked the  World Population Day under the theme; “Access to sexual reproductive health information and services, a smart investment in young people”.

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