The New Times (Kigali)

10 November 2012

Rwanda: Grooming Harmonious Families

A survey commissioned by the government shows that at least 247,000 families countrywide are embroiled in different types of conflicts that risk breaking them up and leaving children with adverse long term effects.

The Prime Minister, Dr. Pierre Damien Habumuremyi announced the findings, on Thursday, during the closing of the national month-long Family Campaign, in Burera district, Northern Province.

According to the findings, Eastern Province has the highest number of families embroiled in conflicts. Alcohol abuse and fights over wealth are among the highest cause of conflict. Illicit alcohol commonly known as Kanyanga is common in the Eastern province and is believed to be smuggled in from neighbouring Uganda.

The Southern and Western provinces follow in that order, while the Northern Province and Kigali City recorded the least number of family conflicts.

The survey, which aimed at highlighting the current situation of families, also assessed performance contracts (Imihigo) at the family level.

These are targets set by each family to achieve specific goals including education, medical insurance and nutritional habits of family members, within a given period of time.

An assessment is then conducted by local leaders to verify if targets were met after the set timeframe elapses. According to the findings, out of over two million families, 146,625 families did not sign the performance contracts.

The survey also identified that over 210,000 families are vulnerable and need support. On the community medical insurance commonly known as Mutuelle de Santé, only 35.2 percent of the families have so far paid for this year's cover, whose subscription started in August.

The Premier urged local leaders to encourage more families to join the health insurance scheme whose membership for last year over 90 per cent.

The findings also indicate that over 151,000 families are cohabiting; over 383,000 have no vegetable gardens while 3,800 children are poorly fed.

Habumuremyi called on the public and families in particular to work towards restoring and maintaining peace, love and care in their respective families.

"If we still have families which are in conflicts, then we need to work together to bring this to an end so as to have peaceful families," Habumuremyi said.

The findings indicate that family conflicts are the main causes of separation or divorce while murder is the highest form of domestic violence.

There are no official figures on the murder or family breakdown. But the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion says there are signs that these conflicts mainly result from sharing of wealth.

The Premier reminded parents that challenges which affect families have a direct impact on their children.

Marriage counsellors say disagreements are sure to happen in marriage, but the conflict should be limited to the current matter instead of bringing up past mistakes.

On the other hand, the Church advises couples to consider the marriage a life-long commitment, just as 'Christ is eternally committed to the Church.'

Fororide Mukamana, 43, of Kinoni sector in Burera district, who has been married for the last ten years, testified that she endured the drunken and irresponsible behaviour of her husband for the sake of the marriage, until he changed after being counselled by area local and church leaders.

"Agree to always listen to each other's feelings, even if you disagree with them [feelings]; you can always find ways of resolving misunderstandings," counselled Mukamana, speaking to The New Times.

"We now live peacefully after being counselled," she said, stressing the importance of understanding each other.

The annual campaign that started last year aims at building strong families by encouraging parents to fulfil their respective responsibilities as well as respecting family values. Various activities in line with programme have been going on across the country.

During the launch of this year's campaign, Habumuremyi asked stakeholders to identify challenges families face. He also urged families to embrace government programmes especially those in line with family promotion.

The Mayor of Burera district, Samuel Sembagari, appreciated the commitment residents demonstrated in engaging in activities conducted during the campaign.

He said that among others, the period saw 1,005 partners in the district formalise their marriages with more in the process.

During Thursday's event, 15 vulnerable families received cows as way of empowering them to fight poverty. The campaign was held under the theme, "Promote Rwandan cultural values to strengthen families."

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