USAID’s E-Bulletin Features Family Planning in Rwanda: How a Taboo Topic Became Priority Number One

This month USAID’s Repositioning in Action E-Bulletin summarizes the IntraHealth-commissioned report Family Planning in Rwanda: How a Taboo Topic Became Priority Number One. The report documents Rwanda’s success story in family planning and practices that contributed to dramatic changes in the use of modern contraception: Rwandan contraceptive use rose from only 4% in 2000, to 10% in 2005, and to a dramatic 27% by early 2008.

Since January 2008, IntraHealth has led a Hewlett Foundation-funded initiative to support the solidification of Rwanda’s political commitment to population and family planning. A key outcome of the Hewlett Initiative was the documentation of Rwanda’s promising practices in family planning through the publication of Family Planning in Rwanda: How a Taboo Topic Became Priority Number One (June 2008, Julie Solo). The report describes what has been done to improve family planning in Rwanda, keys to success, challenges, lessons learned and remaining gaps. Specifically, the report notes “the tremendous social and cultural barriers” that family planning advocates have faced—including recovery from the 1994 genocide, a pronatalist culture and religious opposition to family planning—and points out that it is in this very context that “President [Paul] Kagame has declared family planning a national priority.”

The report describes how the government came to see family planning as essential to poverty reduction and overall development as well as improved health, and quotes Dr. Claude Sekabaraga of Rwanda’s Ministry of Health saying “the quick extension of family planning services [was] due to good governance, empowering women’s decision-making and education . . . and performance-based programs supported by very strong partnerships with development partners.”

The Hewlett Foundation grant built on significant support from USAID and other donors for family planning and reproductive health in Rwanda. The grant enabled IntraHealth to build on its USAID-funded work that supported family planning service delivery in 23 of the country’s 30 districts to support a variety of government officials, including parliamentarians and district mayors, to become better informed family planning champions.