On Sunday 24th, during a virtual open conversation with the youth about Sexual Reproductive and Health (SRH) themed “Breaking the ice on youth sexual and reproductive health education”, the vice chairperson of Rwanda We Want Organization, Nelly Umulisa Rurangwa underscored the need of SRH conversations in addressing the gaps in SRHR.
Organized by RWW in partnership with Intrahealth International-Ingobyi activity sponsored by USAID, the webinar was part of the ongoing TUBIVUGEHO project which aims at raising awareness and urgency among the youth about SRH. It was a safe space for the youth to openly discuss sexual reproductive health and to try to break the ice and debunk myths around the subject. It was conducted in an open and friendly environment in which each and every one of the participants felt free to share his/her thoughts, questions, recommendations and even experience related to SRH.
After showing the consequences of lack of credible information about SRH among the youth; some being the high numbers of teen pregnancies (3258 girls between 15-19 years old) Ms. Nelly said: “we believe that the first step to fight SRH related problems is starting a conversation about it.”
The consequences, she explained, are mostly caused by the uneasiness young people experience in holding SRH conversations with adults as the topic has been a taboo in Rwandan society. “They therefore choose to rely on the information provided by their friends who may also not be credible sources.”
One of speakers, Cindy Ngarambe whose research concentrated on sexuality in developing countries, corroborated Rurangwa’s call for more SRH conversations adding that it is even preferable for parents to initiate the conversation before their children’s puberty.
Speak up and bring forward the abusers
As far as teenage pregnancies are concerned, complications during pregnancy and childbirth are among the leading causes of death of adolescent girls worldwide. According to Cindy Ngarambe, it has also been evidenced that those young girls are impregnated by men who are much older than them thus the need for them to learn to speak up.
“It is imperative that we encourage our young girls to speak up and bring forward their abusers”, said Ngarambe adding that the Rwandan society on the other hand needs to play its part.
As a society, she noted, we also need to seriously hold accountable these abusers instead of covering them up and stigmatizing our young girls.
According to the vice president of The Medical Students’ Association of Rwanda (MedSAR), Didier Nsanzimfura, gender norms and masculine ideals that impede SRH in order to abolish gender inequality as well as deliver improved SRHR for everyone.
“Gender inequality can impact women’s (and men’s) SRH choices and decisions. As such, understanding gender and gender norms, and how they can influence access to SRH services, including family planning, is a crucial step in any intervention to involve men in SRH”, said Nsanzimfura presenting about positive masculinity.
He added that young boys should be taught to express their masculinity in a positive way through care, love and respect, for “Achieving this is good for them and good for women and girls too and it will help tip the balance in favor of collectively addressing SRH issues among the youth.”
Where parents don’t have enough information about SRH, or the teachers can’t provide much information about SRH, the youth were urged to be valiant and visit the youth corners available at every health center where they can get advice and more information about SRH.
That was also emphasized on by Dr. Colyse Nduwimana, a medical doctor and a passionate advocate for sexual education and youth friendly services, urging the youth to seek more SRH information from youth corners or SRH professionals before engaging into sexual activities while presenting about STIs and contraceptives.
After defining safe sex as sexual activities with precautions of protecting themselves from STIs and HIV/AIDS, she taught the participants about different methods of contraception such as barrier methods (condoms), emergency contraception, hormonal contraception (pills, injections), long-acting reversible contraception – the implant or intrauterine device IUD,permanent contraception, and common STIs include: Siphilis, Trichomoniasis, HIV, human papillomavirus (HPV) all of whose detailed information is available at health centers in youth corners.
According to Rwanda Demographic health Survey (RDHS 2020), 3258 girls between 15-19 years of age were impregnated and this is due mostly to lack of information about SRH.
Worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation, every year 12 million girls between 15-19 years of age and 750,000 below 15 years of age give birth in the developing world. And 10 million among the above-mentioned are unintended pregnancies.