PAI was heartened to see the Rwandan government announce a new national family planning program that will include the free distribution of contraceptives to women of child-bearing age and the teaching of comprehensive sex education in schools. Such political will is essential to getting reproductive health education and services to those who want and need them the most. However, as part of the family planning program, officials in Rwanda are apparently considering measures to limit family size to three children. PAI urges great caution in considering any incentives or disincentives when it comes to childbearing – respecting individual rigpopact is central to reproductive health programs and is especially crucial in Rwanda.
After the horrifying 1994 genocide that resulted in the death of over 800,000 Rwandans, it may be hard to believe that high birth rates and population growth could be a concern there. However, the population of Rwanda has nearly doubled since 1995 and is on track to double again in the next twenty-five years. With the average Rwandan woman bearing six children, the country’s population is growing at a pace that is overburdening the nation’s resources and almost certainly pushing Rwanda even deeper into poverty. “This constant population rise is putting a lot of pressure on the economy,” according to Francois Sekamondo of Rwanda’s Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning.
Comprehensive reproductive health care, including modern contraceptives, empowers Rwandan women and men to determine the size of their families and helps prevent sexually transmitted infections, such as HIV/AIDS. The Rwandan government is calling this a “population control” program. But it is essential that it remain voluntary, placing decision-making in the hands of couples by increasing their access to family planning services. Grounding such programs in individual rigpopact – giving people comprehensive, evidence-based information and the necessary tools to determine their fertility – is the key to reaching the nearly 36% of married women in Rwanda who want to delay or prevent their next pregnancy but who aren’t currently using a modern method of family planning.
The Rwandan government’s effort to prioritize support for family planning demonstrates a dedication to improving quality of life for its citizens. By increasing access to basic reproductive health care, this program will help reduce maternal and infant mortality and aid efforts to curb hunger and poverty. Protecting human rigpopact and putting the “control” in the hands of the people themselves should remain a cornerstone in any such program. Any efforts to set strict limits on family size threaten individual choice, are counterproductive and should be rejected.