Rwanda’s population is expected to double in the next twenty years unless the fertility rate is controlled.
A demographic health survey reveals that the average fertility rate has dropped to 5.5 children per woman from 6.1 children in 2005.
However, this growth rate is still a burden on the country’s resources and if unchecked, could have other negative consequences.
The government is fighting tooth and nail to maintain the population growth in as far as vision 2020 is concerned.
The average number of children per family in Rwanda is five. Despite the efforts by the government to combat rapid population growth through sensitization on the importance of applying modern family planning methods, advising parents not to have more than three children, the message is yet to hit home.
However, much as the huddles still seem many, one can say that some progress is being registered, albeit very minimal.
When one talks about family planning, one should always bear in mind the role of religion in society. Many religious denominations are not very supportive to family planning.
In the case of modern family planning methods, some religious sectors like the Born again Christians, perceive it differently where you find some taking it as a something that is contrary to Christian living.
Rose Uwineza, one such Christian in Muhima, says that she sees taking contraceptives as not Godly.
“The contraceptives are not natural; using them is as if you are aborting. It’s all the same and above all it’s contrary to God’s will for human beings.”
Emmanuel Rutayisire, a pastor at Bethesda Holy Church says that a Christian does not necessarily have to take contraceptives. “You see, good Christian families can control themselves from producing many children by each husband and wife deciding on the number of children they can cater for.”
However, he says sometimes the number of children one should have depends on God’s will.
Rose Gasana, a borne again Christian is contrary to her fellow Christians. “Christians should have an open mind to innovative techniques such as family planning methods and take advantage of them to enhance their livelihood,” she says.
She adds that many Christians say that God said human beings should fill the earth. She however says that what God had in mind was for parents to fill the earth with offspring they can be responsible for; not just giving birth to children you cannot cater for, yet it’s an obligation.
Gasana points out that an alternative to family planning for married Christian couples are periodical sexual abstinence. She however points out that this may deny someone their God-given conjugal rights.
Gasana continues that family planning when practiced within the right setting of a marriage has no adverse effects.
If there are any, they cannot be compared to the irresponsibility of bringing to the world a child who will not access basic needs leave alone education and good health.
“Personal capacity has to conform to the country’s economic situation,” the Minister of Health, Richard Sezibera said last year at press conference.
Sezibera’s remarks are related to what the bible says in I Timothy 5:8 (if any does not provide for his immediate family is worse than unbeliever).
According to this verse, a Christian must have a family that is proportional to his ability, and in this, may help the country to have resources that are proportional to its population.
One cannot give birth to 10 children just because he has the means to provide for them since those children will use the country’s infrastructure which is reliant on the country’s resources,” the Minister noted.
The medical fraternity maintains that the population growth has to be 0 percent, meaning that the number of deaths has to be equivalent to the number of births.
However, in a bid to promote the use of modern methods of family planning, government has been distributing free contraceptives to women of childbearing age and it has somehow paid off.
The religious sector also has a big and important role to play in Family planning. However, there has been no serious effort on their part to increase the family planning awareness among their congregations.
The reluctance by some of the religious groups to educate their followers on the importance of family planning is a derailment in the government’s efforts to promote this important practice amongst Rwandans.