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“IMRO, CSOs played a remarkable contribution to our citizens’ welfare” Mayor Jacqueline

The mayor of Muhanga District, Jacqueline Kayitare, valued activities carried out by Ihorere Munyarwanda Organization, with other 30 Civil Societies Organizations (CSOs), on law and human rights education and awareness, within 3 years operating in Muhanga District.

She made the remarks while addressing participants who attended CSOs, JLROs project evaluation as it is at phase out.According to the Mayor of Muhanga, CSOs role is irreversible in people’s well being mainly, IMRO, through JLRO’s  have increased our citizen’s awareness on legal and human rights, which are the basic engine to any society’s adequate progress.

“As the this project is phasing out, CSOs have tremendously contributed in law awareness, as public officials, we are also mandated to educate our citizens their rights but we have a limited time compared to CSOs working in law sector, they have enough time and people feel comfortable towards them” she noted, urging some public officials who conceal violence-related issues for the fear of being judged as under performers, to stop such misconducts.”

 

 

Mayor Jacqueline Kayitare Muhanga District

Domestic Violence, teen pregnancies are among the most cases that were identified during different citizens’ outreach carried out by IMRO and MAJ, jointly.

During this meeting, it was revealed that some Rwandan parents are still reluctant to report criminals, mainly on teen pregnancies issues, due to cultural background reasons and poor mindset, which negatively impact the victim and her baby.

Nyirahabimana Jeannette, a beneficiary who participated in IMRO’s campaigns on law awareness and human rights recognizes the support and pledges to be the referral to her neighbors on various human rights understanding.

“ Before participating and attending various campaigns on law awareness I had different attitude  regarding my rights, for instance, when it comes to reporting criminals, my initial alternative was to conceal information, fearing to ignite irritation  amongst my family members, but after deeply being educated and explained how this could negatively impact my society, I have changed for once for all” She testified.”

 

One of participants contributing during the session in Muhanga District

IMRO, CSOs have recommended Muhanga District officials and other partners to increase cross- collaboration and decrease the level of mistrust and stereotypes towards CSOs, where some public officials consider CSO’s as gain-seekers rather that a partner whose main mandate is the citizen’s welfare, as it is for public institutions.

Charlotte Mukandungutse, IMRO advocacy Manager said “We appreciate partnership the support of Muhanga District throughout three years we have operated here, but there are some hindrances to achieve our citizens development on law awareness, mistrust between CSOs and Public sector, we are optimistic, this mindset will be eradicated” She recommended

 

Mukandungutse Charlotte, IMRO Advocacy and Policy Advisor

The project also is being implemented in other 10  districts across the country.

How CSOs played a vital role in mitigating justice and human rights issues in Muhanga District

Ihorere Munyarwanda Organization (IMRO) in partnership with CSOs has played a vital role in mobilizing and educating citizens on legal and human rights process in Muhanga District.

According to public officials in Muhanga District, it could not be an easy task of influencing public policy processes, decision-making, enforcing social justice and human rights if Civil Societies Organizations (CSOs) had not contributed in it.

During a phase out JRLOS joint meeting of Muhanga Ditrict and Civil Society Officials, the role of CSOs was recognized at the highest acknowledgment.

Uwineza Chantal, Director of Administration and good governance  of Muhanga District said “The role of  CSOs in educating and influencing our citizens on legal and human rights process during the implementation of JRLOs project is unique. We have conducted many citizens’ outreach together and the reaction of the people towards CSOs was positive”

She gave an example of issues and concerns that were raised in prisons and villages as well as schools and CSOs intervened by enlightening those concerns which significantly contributed to the awareness of the concerned people on their basic legal and human rights.

Uwineza also revealed that, JRLOs was a great opportunity for citizens, after being trained and educated on their basic legal and human rights, to approach their leaders and legal staff comfortably than before, when they were used to seeing security agents and  feel fearful, which could result in hiding their legal and human rights concerns.

Charlotte  Mukandungutse, IMRO advocacy manager pledged to increase CSOs joint collaboration with public entities to mitigate the issues that hinder citizens’ development.

She said “CSOs will continue to carry out evidence-based advocacy by increasing CSOs collaboration through joint initiatives, for the sake of wellbeing of the citizens”

She recommended the decrease of mistrust among CSOs with public sector to improve collaboration in policy and law making.

CSOs have a mandate of representing people, engage them in the entire process of public policies and influence changes since early 1990s.

Apart from Muhanga , the project was also implemented in Ruhango, Nyanza, Rwamagana, Rubavu, Rusizi, Gasabo, Nyarugenge, Rulindo, Kamonyi and Huye, respectively.

6 challenges hampering family planning uptake

Although Rwanda has registered an 11 percent improvement in the uptake of family planning methods between 2015 and 2020, a number of challenges continue to hamper its plans to ensure that the services are available to everyone who needs them and in a timely manner.

Commenting on the occasion to mark the World Contraception Day, Rwanda Biomedical Center (RBC)’s officer in charge of reproductive health, Joel Serucaca, said that the increment in the uptake of family planning programs had increased from 53 percent in 2014/2015 to 64 percent in 2019/2020.

However, he explained that this number includes those who also use natural methods like exclusive breast feeding and counting safe days.

He reminded that the country’s target is to raise the number of those using modern and reliable contraceptive methods from 48 percent to 60 percent between 2018 and 2024.

RBC says that by 2019/2020, at least 14 percent had unmet family planning needs.

So what challenges continue to hamper the uptake of these services?

1- Mindset issues

Serucaca said that the views held by some people around using modern family methods triggered by cultural beliefs and poverty continue to be a challenge.

Serucaca told The New Times that there were still a number of people who believe that they can have as many children as they can because they will be cared for by the government.

“Ignorance coupled with poverty means that the thought process of some of these people requires lots of resources in terms of time and information to change their mindset. We continue to work on that but it will definitely take some time,” he said.

2- Lack of enough facilities providing these services

Serucaca also explained that there is still a challenge of human resource where health facility staff are overwhelmed and in the process prioritise what they consider more urgent issues than family planning. In the end, this also affects the quality of service provided.

He also pointed out that health posts that were stationed near faith-based hospitals are understaffed meaning that the services could be available at least once a week, discouraging those who have to make long journeys seeking them.

“The majority of the hospitals in the country are faith-based. This means that they do not offer modern methods of family planning which they say are contrary to their beliefs. However, even the health posts that we put near such hospitals to cater for those services are also understaffed,” he said.

3- Challenges in accessing medication

The Reproductive Health Programme Analyst at UNFPA Marie Claire Iryanyawera says that for family planning services to work well, there must be timely and sufficient supply of the medication and equipment required.

However, she reminded that there was a prior challenge in importing such, which was worsened by the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We have previously and continue to face challenges where we run out of stock of some medication and equipment like the contraceptive implant commonly known as Implanon NXT that is more than 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy and can last for up to 3 years,” she said.

However, she reminded that new stock will be coming in this October but called for stakeholders to begin thinking about alternatives including finding home-grown solutions to produce such products locally. 

4- Insufficient data

Iryanyawera also raised the issue of insufficient data which she said can be an impediment to timely planning and budgeting.

She called on service providers in health facilities and those who provide reports on the distribution of medication to these facilities to put emphasis on using the systems in place so that accurate numbers that will inform decisions are available.

“Data is very crucial. It gives us the picture of what needs are there and how they can be met. If it is medication or equipment, we want to be sure that there is enough in stock so that we are not facing a challenge in demand that we cannot meet,” he said.

5- Challenges within the law

The National Coordinator of IMRO-Ihorere Munyarwanda Organisation Aimable Mwananawe said that there were still some challenges within the laws on access to contraception services where young adults below the age of 18 are required to be accompanied by a parent/guardian to access the services.

IMRO-Ihorere is a local Non-Governmental Organization working on Human Rights, HIV/AIDS Prevention Program, Health Promotion and Poverty Alleviation.

He said that this provision means that more young people who are sexually active continue to shy away from using these services.

In 2018, while responding to questions raised by the Senate on teenage pregnancies and prohibitive laws, the Prime Minister Eduoard Ngirente said that the Government is cognisant of the limits that the current law puts on teenagers, some of which he said could be blamed for the surge in the number of teenage pregnancies in the country.

At the time, he said that the Government is reviewing a law that will see teenagers get easier access to family planning methods.

“Yes young adults below 18 are required to go with their parents to access contraceptives yet these are the most vulnerable when it comes to unwanted pregnancies. I would like to tell you that we are changing that because we found it inconveniencing,” he said.

He also informed the senators that, besides the recognised loopholes, a number of youths had petitioned several institutions pushing for the change.

Ngirente also acknowledged that it did not make sense to ask teachers to educate young adults about reproductive health and safe sex methods when the methods are inaccessible.

6- Misinformation

Speaking on behalf of the Rwanda Interfaith Council on Health (RIC), Sheikh Suleiman Mbarushimana said that there is still need to combat misconceptions among the congregants across all religious denominations.

“We have three categories of believers. Those who believe in family planning, those who have potential to believe in it and those who still believe that using these methods is equivalent to terminating pregnancies.” he said.

To fix this, he called for information manuals that connect what the religious books say to the value and significance of planned parenthood.

Networking Grant Semester 2 report 2

Networking Grant Semester 2 report 2

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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