Jean Christophe RUSATIRA
For eight years now, I have been part of a good range of organizations working in sexual and reproductive health and family planning. From 2011 to 2013, as project leader of the Rwanda Health Education project of the Medical Students association of Rwanda, I coordinated efforts that led to family planning education sessions to 7600 females, 4670 men and 12400 young people in the southern and kigali city provinces of Rwanda. Further, as founder of the Healthy People Rwanda, a locally registered organization, we have been reaching 2400 young adolescents and adults in high schools with sexual and reproductive health education and commodities. We are expending our services to high risk females mainly sex workers, street women,teenage mothers and female houseworkers.
My interest in family planning has been sparked by the increasing number of street kids in the southern province. This led me to start the Abandoned Youth Empowerment Project in which I regularly organized visits to street kids. As we got to learn their stories, we realized most of them were born from non educated Teenagers. As we made efforts to reach these teenage mothers, we realized that once one had the first kid, she was more prone to have a second one or even a third one.
The biggest challenge I have faced in family planning has been strategically reaching people in most need. Interventions that we made tended to focus on easily accessible areas and once we tried to reach more rural areas, we were always challenged with not only financial abilities but also adapting programs to those non-educated families, basically developing community centered programs and measuring their impact. As we tried to reach more young people, religion has been the biggest challenge.
Overall, the biggest challenge in Rwanda is quality family planning services to young people. Despite the big number of young people in Rwanda, 65% of the whole population, young people still can not easily access family planning commodities. No specific channel for young people and the number of unwanted pregnancies continues to increase and poverty worsens. Better investment need to be made not only to increasing access but also this is a good opportunity to realize the demographic dividend.
I have a plan to have a working online clinic for young people to get evidence based education on best practices for family planning and will connect this online platform to local public channels to orient young people on how to get access to family planning commodities. Further, it is crucial to maintain the balance between new technologies and locally applicable channels since rural people in most need do not use technology. I will initiate community family planning providers for this purpose.