Jean Christophe Rusatira
Position: Co-Director, Research & Development
Organization: INTERNATIONAL YOUTH ALLIANCE ON FAMILY PLANNING
Jean Christophe Rusatira served as a general practitioner in Muhima District Hospital, a public center of excellence in maternal and child Health that serves over 236,000 people in Rwanda. In addition to his medical training, he has six years’ of experience in community-centered projects for sustainable solutions in the areas of malnutrition, sexual and reproductive health rights education and services, policy advocacy and family planning. He is the founder of Healthy People Rwanda, a Rwandan-registered youth-led NGO focused on health education, especially including sexual and reproductive health education. He is the Co-Director of Research and Development for the International Youth Alliance for Family Planning (IYAFP) and has just begun the MPH program at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
“Dr Chris is an esteemed family planning strategist, youth-leader, advocate and educator. As a medical doctor, IYAFP founding member and MPH student of John Hopkins has proven an imperative change in the advocacy, research and development of FP.“
Describe your contributions to and achievements in family planning.
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.
What sparked your passion for family planning?
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.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your family planning efforts, and what have you done to overcome it?
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.
What is your (country/region/city)’s biggest challenge in family planning, and how can it be addressed?
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.
What do you want to accomplish in the next 5 years?
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.