On 28 November at 6 PM, a “Root Fellowship” discussion on the topic “Family Planning and its impact on the number of street children” took place at Root House / Terra Caffé in Kacyiru. Following the International Conference on Family Planning that took place in Kigali from 11 to 16 November this year, we invited the gynaecologist Dr Magnifique Irakoze, an expert on family planning, to introduce the topic. He explained that “Family Planning intends to determine the number and spacing of one's children through birth control”.
Furthermore, he has already established the connection to the issue of street children in Rwanda: Family planning is not only supposed to help parents better understand how to use contraception in order to decrease the number of children, but also to figure out how many children can actually be affordable for them without running the risk that they would mainly spend their days on street.
During the following discussion, the awareness emerged that, indeed, especially poorer people give birth to a lot of children, even despite their better knowledge regarding contraception. One participant shared the example that some parents might be thinking that they have enough potatoes to feed every single one of their ten children, but have a lack of consciousness about most of the other crucial issues connected to giving birth to a lot of children.
In this context, Dr Magnifique Irakoze elucidated that medical doctors nowadays find themselves dealing with “economical and educational issues in addition to healthcare because they are substantially connected to it”. Their role is changing from giving just medical advice to offering general empowerment concerning different areas of life.
However, there are still too many girls within the young generation who don’t even have the aforementioned knowledge about birth control due to the Rwandan law that people under 18 years are not allowed to have access to family planning without their parents’ consent.
Since tradition, culture and religion keep plenty of families from speaking openly with each other about youth having sexual intercourse, some girls are not well-informed and in the case that they become pregnant they end up hiding it as long as possible. According to Dr Magnifique Irakoze, many of those girls finally even struggle to survive “because there is no legal abortion and they come to the hospitals only after they have tried to do an unprofessional abortion themselves”.
The conversation led to the understanding that various changes will need to be implemented – especially when it comes to early education about family planning. All in all, our organisation expects those steps of family planning that we have already taken by including it in both our Umwali and Ingimbi Program as well as in consulting the children’s parents to have a positive impact on the number of street children in the future.