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Understanding Laws to Prevent Unsafe Abortion: CSOs Need to Increase Community Awareness

Rwanda’s Civil Society Organizations working on Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) have been urged to increase awareness and conduct adequate advocacy campaigns to inform the community about safe abortion.

Unsafe abortion is defined as a procedure for terminating an unwanted pregnancy either by persons lacking the necessary skills or in an environment lacking minimal medical standards or both.

The call was made by Stakeholders in health sector of Rwanda this month in Kigali during an extra-ordinary training of CSOs working on SRHR with the aim to strengthen their network in order to build a strong voice.

The training was organized By Ihorere Munyarwanda Organization (IMRO) in collaboration with its partner organizations under the same coalition namely: Rwanda NGOs Forum on AIDS and Health Promotion, Health Development Initiative (HDI) and Great Lakes Initiatives for Human Rights Development (GLIHD).

Dr Anicet Nzabonimpa, Senior Expert in Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights urged trained CSOs to first of all understand the SRHR national legal framework while raising awareness to the community.

Dr Anicet Nzabonimpa, Senior Expert in Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights.

“Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights are the fundamental Human Rights, for the CSOs to perform their awareness and advocacy activities at a higher level, they need to understand the existing laws to be able to explain better what they understand.” Nzabonimpa said.

Izere Mugeni Vedastine, SRHR Coordinator at GLIHD is one of the trained members of CSOs, she applauded the government for all that have been done in the protection and promotion of human rights in Rwanda including health rights.

Even though, some challenges persist; lack of knowledge on SRHR information and services, mind-set of some Rwandans who get explained about the laws and ignore to abide by them due to the culture and faith.

Izere Mugeni Vedastine, SRHR Coordinator at GLIHD.

She said that unsafe abortion is still an issue not only in Rwanda but, worldwide, giving an example of teenage pregnancy that is on the rise.

“When we assess the situation on the field and meet different beneficiaries, they do not have information on SRHR especially young people and some of those who know them use them differently due to the interests they have behind, as a result young adolescent girls become pregnant unwillingly and most of them end up putting their lives at a high risk by carrying out unsafe abortion.” Mugeni noted.

She said that they will manage to get fruitful results once they increase efforts in teaching the law and sharing the information to all the categories of the community including parents, children, youth, as well as teachers, child care givers and faith based organizations in collaboration with other CSOs working in this health sector.

Pursuant to the new constitutional provisions, women including girls below 18 years have a right to terminate a pregnancy before it is 22 weeks old, under certain conditions including: in case the pregnant person is a child, rape cases, incest or in case of forced marriage as well as where the pregnancy is a risk to the health of the woman or the fetus.

Rose Umutesi, Executive Director of Younger Women Mentors Network (YAWMNet) said that lack of information on SRHR among the adolescents will end when CSOs link up efforts.

Rose Umutesi, Executive Director of Younger Women Mentors Network (YAWMNet).

Adolescents do not have information on their body functioning; the culture is also still limiting parents to tell children about sexual and reproductive health, the digitization of information is also spreading myths and facts on social media, and youth rely on it because no one else has taught them in this regard, poverty also accelerates youth to live a life beyond their financial capacity, the combination of these issues hinders the progress.” she said.

IMRO Trains Journalists on SRHR reporting

Local Media practitioners have gained knowledge on Sexual Reproductive Health Rights legal framework in order to deliver harmonized messages on safe abortion.

The training that was prepared by Ihorere Munyarwanda Organization (IMRO)Rwanda in collaboration with Health Development Initiative (HDI), Rwanda NGOForum on Aids and Health Promotion and the Great Lakes Initiative for Human Rights and Development (GLIHD) has on its first session gathered 15 journalists from different media houses with the aim to deliver harmonized messages on safe abortion.

The two-day training started on May 17, 2021 and was concluded on May 18, 2021, having over 30 journalists trained in two sessions to comply with Covid-19 prevention measures.

Aimable Mwananawe, IMRO National Coordinator mentioned that this training will increase awareness of media professionals on the current legal framework on access to safe abortion and family planning status in Rwanda.

Aimable Mwananawe, IMRO National Coordinator/ Photo by Elias.H

“We wanted to further capacity of different institutions and we started to train Civil society organizations on Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) and now is the round of media, journalists are the important workforce to Rwandan society to quickly spread the information to the entire community so, we decided to equip them with the knowledge on SRHR on both technical and legal frameworks on safe abortion so that they are enabled to report accurate and evidence-based information.” Mwananawe noted.

He said that the existing advocacy is emphasizing on adolescents so that they grow up knowing the rights and legal provisions on safe abortion.

Emmanuel Mugisha, the Executive Secretary of Rwanda Media Commission (RMC) who participated to this session as a trainer said it is vital to equip journalists with knowledge on the legal framework for them to report on such sensitive SRHR topics.

Emmanuel Mugisha, the Executive Secretary of Rwanda Media Commission (RMC).

“Having media professionals equipped with accurate information on SRHR and the fight against GBV will enable a good flow of information to the public.” Mugisha said.

Mugisha reminds Journalists especially those working on You Tube Channels to abide by professional ethics while reporting on Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights.

One of the objectives of this training is to increase public awareness of women’s need for safe abortion, in order to increase public understanding and support.

The Rwandan law provides that a woman is allowed to terminate a pregnancy of up to 22 weeks under 5 conditions that include the pregnancy being a result of rape, forced marriage, incest, or if the mother or baby are at health risk.

Slightly over a year after Rwanda changed the law on abortion, the number of women seeking to carry out the procedure appears to have increased.

Erphase Karamage, the in charge of Reproductive Health, Maternal and Child Health at Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC) said one of the existing gaps in Sexual Reproductive Health Reporting consists of biased information.

“Journalists need to increase efforts in communicating the law on abortion so that Rwandans get to know its rationale”.

Nooliet Kabanyana, Executive Secretary of Rwanda NGOs Forum on AIDS and Health Promotion urged journalists to be strategic in their daily news reporting by not intruding privacy while informing the community about safe abortion.

Nooliet Kabanyana, Executive Secretary of Rwanda NGOs Forum on AIDS and Health Promotion./Elias.H

“Media help us to fast track awareness and mobilization of existing laws to better inform the community.” She said.

Dr. Anicet Nzabonimpa, health researcher and reproductive health expert warns adolescents to not try unsafe abortion as this can definitely affect or terminate their lives.

Dr. Anicet Nzabonimpa, health researcher and reproductive health expert.

At least 17,849 teenagers were impregnated across the country in 2016, 17,337 teenagers were impregnated in 2017 while 19, 832 teenagers were impregnated in 2018 — and from January to August 2019 alone, 15,656 teenagers were impregnated.

The recent Rwanda Demographic and Health Survey, sixth of its kind, shows that reproductive health education and teen pregnancies are still an issue among the youth.

The survey published by the Rwanda National Institute of Statistics (NISR) found that the rate of teenage pregnancies and births in Rwanda is at 5.2 per cent, having decreased from 7.3 per cent in 2014 to 2015.

Trained Journalists with Officials posing for a group photo./Elias.H

 

 

Muhanga: IMRO, Justice Sector and Muhanga District to further collaboration

Ihorere Munyarwanda Organization (IMRO) Rwanda promised officials of Muhanga District in the Southern Province to increase efforts in their current contribution in helping citizens understand their rights to free justice. The message was delivered on May, 14, 2021 by IMRO National Coordinator, Aimable Mwananawe in Muhanga District during a joint meeting with civil society and the justice sector represented by the in charge of Justice, Reconciliation, Law and Order Sector Strategic Plan (JRLOS) in the district.

The meeting was aiming at evaluating the achievement from partners’ activities and setting the agenda for the way forward in delivering efficient justice.

It also aimed at discussing about the involvement of justice sector CSOs in JRLOS activities, the collaboration among CSOs and their effective engagement with the district priorities.

Speaking amid the event, Aimable Mwananawe, IMRO National Coordinator said that IMRO will continue to collaborate with Muhanga district to ensure that citizens to promote justice from the grassroots level.

IMRO National Coordinator, Aimable Mwananawe

The Vice Mayor in charge of Economic Affairs of Muhanga district Mr. Kayiranga Innocent commended the activities of IMRO and pledged district’s partnership between IMRO and civil society in fostering justice sector.

Participants during focus group discussions about JRLOS working framework and its rationale to their Organizations

It is expected that new justice sector CSOs will be listed with their areas of interventions in JRLOS and laws, policies will be influenced as part of the meeting results.

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