Giving Compass' Take:
- The Universal Access Project highlights the work of young people in Rwanda educating others about family planning and advocating for reproductive rights.
- What role can donors take on in supporting grassroots family planning efforts? Where are you prepared to begin supporting such efforts?
- Read more about improving family planning and reproductive health.
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Many of her classmates dropped out of school when they got pregnant. But Irene chose a different path. From workshops on sexual education, to launching her own organization, she now helps other young Rwandan women facing tough sexual health decisions. When we #UniteforHealth we ensure women have information and services they need to make the right choices for their families.
Irene’s story could take place anywhere in the world. Like many children — girls and boys alike — when she was young, she wanted to know more about the facts of life. “I grew up in Rwanda in a family of seven children,” she says. “When I was young, I was so curious to know more about family planning and sexual education, but I did not have any source to get information.”
Her parents, like many, rarely talked about sex. For them it went against the culture of their community and village; for lots of other parents all over the world, it’s just plain hard to do.
At school Irene saw some of her classmates drop out when they got pregnant. She saw the impact it had on their lives, and she decided she wanted a different path for herself. Irene started attending workshops and reading books about sexual and reproductive health and rights, including family planning.
From there, she started volunteering at a local organization, Rwanda Youth Clubs for Peace, which helps educate young people about their rights. She still volunteers there now.
“As a young person, it was not easy in the beginning because some people did not understand how a young girl can say something important about family planning,” she remembers.
Irene is one of many young people around the world advocating in their communities for comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights for all. There’s a huge demand for their voices and their work. An estimated 20 million young women want to prevent pregnancy but are not using a modern form of contraception.
COVID-19 is making access to contraceptives even more challenging for many, and it’s been estimated that reduced access to contraceptives during a six-month lockdown could lead to up to 7 million unintended pregnancies.
The evidence is clear: When women are able to plan their pregnancies, their families are happier and healthier. If we all want to recover better from the pandemic, it’s essential to make sure women have access to family planning education and services, so they can make the right choices for their families.
Read the full article about family planning in Rwanda from the Universal Access Project at United Nations Foundation.