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Participants appreciate the refresher on SRH organized by IMRO

Ihorere Munyarwanda (IMRO) has organized training gathering almost 30 Civil Societies, working in Reproductive Health to gain refreshment on the rights of Key populations and other vulnerable people affected by SRH stereotypes.

SRH is Sexual Reproductive Health.

Participants who managed to attend three days, they never hesitated to express how fruitful and contributing the training was.

Nyiranzeyimana Joyeuse works Réseau des Femmes Oeuvrant pour le Développement Rural

“I have acquired much in this three-day training. I have learned a lot about LGBT, the status of those who practice transgender, before attending this training I was a bit confused.

I thought gays and lesbians might have mental disorder, thanks to this training, I was able to differentiate them from people who have mental impairments, as it is scientifically proven that they were born with such sexual orientation feeling” She testified adding that the society should welcome them as they are and community should know that they deserve human rights as any other human being.

“In our society, we judge them as people who are out of social and culture norms, others consider them as mentally disturbed people, but I have to tell them to change their mindset towards this Key population group, their sexual orientation is not their choice but it is the attitude and character they were born with” She added

After distinguishing the innate character with artificial one, the society will know how LGBT deserve their rights and how they should be treated fairly.

Legal rights on Sexual Reproductive Health…..

According to Joyeuse “ The training has shed light on safe abortion which is still a big issue in our society. I was able to get clear explanation of five stages of permissible safe abortion.

“I really did not know there is sexual reproductive health law” She said

About a hot topic on whether Rwandan government should allow LGBT people to legally marry, Joyeuse said “ I think it would take some time to legalize this issue. There would be some cultural perspectives, let us first of understand these people and legalize their marital rights after”

She recommends that this refreshment should be   organized frequently because it hugely contributes to their knowledge. For many occasions people are abused, violated, discriminated against and remain silent due to ignorance of laws that can defend them.

Munyeshuri Jean Donald, representative and chairman of COPORWA organization that advocates for “Abasigajwe inyuma n’amateka” marginalized people  widely known as “Batwa”

“There is a group of people, we usually exclude such as sex workers, LGBT people as well as people with disabilities. I have learnt that there are Sexual Reproductive Health laws that defend the mentioned people and that they have the human rights as any other person in the country” He said

“But we still have a long journey to walk. We request the government to increase the awareness of those laws within the community, many people are not aware of sexual reproductive health law yet it was enacted since 2016, mainly for abasigajwe inyuma n’amateka community, who are left a bit behind compared to other Rwandan communities” He added

He went on saying that “You may find like three or five family members of this community  living in the same house, this increase the child birth rate and incestuous acts which should be avoided once they get enough knowledge on Sexual Reproductive Health laws and rights, including condom usage and safe abortion”

Bananawe Aimable, IMRO Coordinator appreciated the participants contribution throughout three days of training and pledged to continue working with them and following up on how they are putting into practice the acquired knowledge in their respective Organizations.

“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.