Rwanda: Why Younger Gakenke Couples Are Embracing Family Planning

Félicien Mpabadashima will forever live with the burden of having a big number of children as he is financially strained.

The 66-year-old man has 14 children despite his limited financial capacity.

Mpabadashima resides in Sereri suburb of Kivuruga Sector, that lies 10 kilometres from Gakenke District Headquarters.

Felicien Mpabadashima, 66, has14 children and has struggled to fend for them.

His children are all alive; the eldest is now 45 years old while the last-born is six.

The old man still lives with 10 of his children while the others have since started their own families and live in the same community as their father.

His first wife died in 1991 and at the time they had eight children. He later married another wife, with whom they have six children.

Speaking to The New Times from his home, Mpabadashima - a subsistence farmer - narrated the difficulties he faces daily as a consequence of having many children whom he doesn't satisfy with the basic needs.

"Besides those who have started their own lives, seven among the children lead a deplorable life because I never gave them a foundation on which to build a decent life," he said.

Mpabadashima regrets the fact he never opted for family planning, saying that it is only now when he notices the kind of lives his children leads that he regrets that decision.

"I look with envy what other parents have done for their children and I deeply regret; If I had had at least three children, I would have been able to bequeath to the a decent life," he said.

Mbabadashima's testimony is quite different from many younger parents in Gakenke District who attribute the progress they have made towards better livelihood to the fact that they had children they could provide for.

The contraceptive prevalence rate for married women in Gakenke District currently stands at 69.6 per cent while 158 men opted for a vasectomy, according to district officials.

Louise Nyirahategekimana, 32, and mother of two is now using a five-year implant to control births.

She noted that embracing family planning has significantly contributed to better wellbeing for them and the children.

"After examining our economic status and the vision we had for our family, my husband and I agreed to have no more than three children. This has been a major catalyst to our development as a family," she said.

Nyirahategekimana's husband, Emmanuel Habumugisha, echoed his wife's sentiments adding that having controlled births has brought food security within their family.

"Besides having sufficient food to eat at home, we always have surplus for the market, something you can't do if you have many children," he pointed out.

Chose vasectomy

François Niyomugabo, 45, and father of four from Nemba sector opted for vasectomy. He called on fellow men to take an active role in birth control so as to foster their families' development.

"In 2015, together with my wife, we agreed on relieving her from the short time birth control methods she had been using for years. I had my vasectomy and all is well with our family," he said.

"I know most men are reluctant to engage in family planning. I would like to use this opportunity to demystify the fallacies that have been associated with vasectomy including one that a man loses sexual drive, which is far from the truth," he said.

The vice Mayor for Economic Development in Gakenke District, Aimé François Niyonsenga, reiterated the importance of family planning to the development of the country, promoting the rights of children and women as well as improving cohesion within families.

"Both men and women should embrace family planning because it impacts the country's economic growth," he said in an interview.

He noted that the district uses community health workers, the parents' forum locally known as 'Umugoroba w'Ababyeyi' and other community gatherings to sensitise residents on birth control.

Recent figures from the National Institute of Statistics showed that the population could easily double in the next 10 years due to high fertility rates.

Only 36 per cent of women who are sexually active currently are estimated to use contraceptives.

Studies show that the fertility rate for Rwandan women is at 4.5 children. This, they say, needs to come down to about 2.5 so that the economy can grow steadily.

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