As the Rwandan parliament begins deliberations on the Rwandan Reproductive Health Bill I like many wonder about its necessity. It’s six years since it was introduced in parliament. I do not want to delve into the details, in fact this is not an analysis of the bill. It’s a quest to look at why this bill was proposed and if there are alternative ways of dealing with the problems the reproductive health bill will address. Access to family planning does not improve socio-economic development. Such an assumption rests on the belief that one needs to slow down population growth in order to develop. This could not be further from the truth. To achieve development you:
- Ensure that there is good governance.
- Ensure that tax collected should be used to improve things for the populace.
- Ensure that as the population grows, the public resources should be used to ensure that public amenities can cater for the growth. The number of hospitals should be adequate. The means of transport should be able to cater for the increasing population.
- Invest in quality education and ensure you have the resources to put innovation and creativity into good use. You get the best brains in your nations to help you chart your way to development.
Secondly, lack of access to family planning services does not result in maternal deaths. Lack of access to basic health care causes women to die when women to die when giving birth. There simply may not be enough or proximate health care services to cater for a population. According to the World Bank, Rwanda has a nurse/midwife ratio 0.4 for every 1,000 people. Should access to family planning be increased or should the government ensure that midwives are within reach and accessible for all? Increased access to contraceptives will not reduce the need to seek abortion by preventing unplanned pregnancies nor will it reduce the number of women who die when procuring an abortion. Much so, contraception is not 100% effective and women who use it still end up having abortions. Additionally, some contraceptives are abortifacient. Thirdly, contraception and family planning do not prevent anyone from getting STDs or from heartache. The best way to help young women is not to help them have casual sex whenever they want to; they are not made for such kinds of relationships, women get attached to people. One has to think of their emotional well-being too. The best way to have a planned pregnancy is to get married not to use contraception out-of-wedlock. More important is the fact that children are not burdens; the government should be obligated to help such girls as they continue with their education. Pregnancy is not a disease nor is it fatal. One need not mention the harmful side effects that go with most contraceptives. The use of Natural Family Planning for women needs to be emphasized for it is a method that respects life and is in the best interests of the well-being of the woman. Finally, while some say that an increasing population is putting pressure on natural resources in Rwanda we should remember that resources were made for man not man for the resources. Even then, proper governance ensures that resources are used responsibly and in the best way possible. A good job has been done of taking care of the environment. A population density of 416 people per square kilometer should be seen as a good thing for development if the government invests in the education of its people and makes entrepreneurship easy for its people.
Regional Integration to Deal with Land Pressure
Most important, we must get to the root of the problem instead of treating the symptoms. While Rwanda might be a small nation in terms of land mass, we cannot choose to punish its people. It’s about time Africa dealt with the problem of the colonial state and the balkanization of Africa. The artificial borders we have do not help us but rather divide us and make it easier for Africa to be exploited. People continue to fight land over because of land distribution systems that do not serve them. While we have vast acres of land uninhabited, others are locked in a tiny land masses and cannot spread their wings. No one chose to be born in any country. We cannot let artificial borders determine that certain people have the right to have the number of children they want while others don’t. These are man-made problems that can be solved. This kind of reminds me of the overcrowded native reserves we had during the colonial days whereby movement was inhibited and then now we have these countries that divide people of the same community e.g. you have the Maasai in Tanzania and in Kenya. You can also find the Luo in Uganda, Kenya as well as Tanzania to mention but a few. Human communities continue to evolve and that involves movement over time. Now that the reality of the East African Federation is coming to bear, the East African people should be able to settle anywhere in East Africa. That pretty much solves the problem doesn’t it? The population density of the East African federation would be 70 people /km². That would deal with the “overpopulation problem” wouldn’t it? There would be more than enough for everyone. Yes, let’s get rid of all the labels we have been given and remember that we are all African and above all, human. See: Increase in population growth forces revival of family planning bill