Families must be put at the forefront of the fight against teenage pregnancies, officials have said.
The call was made yesterday at a meeting organised by the Imbuto Foundation and its stakeholders to share lessons from a pilot project it carried out in Rubavu District.
The project reached out to 175 First Time Young Mothers (FTYMs) aged between 10 and 19 years and their children.
Participants at the meeting in Kigali yesterday. Courtesy.
The pilot project has been implemented since April 2017 by rolling out package interventions, including psycho-social support group counselling to the young mothers.
It has also introduced parent adolescent communication forum sessions to restore the relationship between FTYMs and their parents; and community-based outreach campaigns to increase awareness and fight against social discrimination.
It comes at a time when the Rwanda Demographic Health Survey (RDHS) 2014-2015 shows that a large number of young people (including those still enrolled in school) are already engaging in sexual relationships that put them at risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections, unintended pregnancies, among others.
The project was implemented in collaboration with United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
According to the survey, by the age of 19, one in five or 20.8 per cent Rwandan girls, are first time mothers.
Teenage pregnancy rate increased from 6.1 per cent in 2010 to 7.3 per cent in 2015, according to official data.
Geraldine Umutesi, the Deputy Director General of Imbuto Foundation, said that their findings call for giving children enough information about sexual reproductive health, with parents being at the forefront of the effort.
"The first key institution towards fighting teenage pregnancies is the family," she said.
"It is the family that has to know how the child has slept, how the have woken up and how the spent the day. Sometimes we think it is local government institutions that have to be the main fighters against teenage pregnancies, and we forget the family."
Umutesi also emphasised the need to pay attention to the teens that have already been impregnated and those that impregnated them for counselling.
"One of the things this programme has been doing is to help change perceptions among people, as well as help them to know the services designed to prevent, or respond to early pregnancies," she said.
Claudine Kanyamanza, the Executive Secretary of the National Council for Children, echoed similar sentiments about the responsibility of the family in fighting teenage pregnancies.
For her, the main cause of the problem is poor upbringing of children.
"There are challenges in the upbringing of our children. Our families have not provided enough value in the way they bring up children," she said.
You find that children don't have enough information they need as they grow up, she added.
"We need to work together, come back to family values, and take time as parents to give good upbringing to our children. This should even go further to communities, and schools where children study from. We also need to critically look at the friends that our children have, because bad friends will not teach anything good to them."
Mark Bryan Schreiner, the representative of UNFPA, said that there project that has been piloted in Rubavu will be scaled up to different parts of the country, starting with Western Province this year.