The choice to use contraceptives and decide freely whether and when to have children is regarded as a fundamental reproductive health right and is strongly linked to women’s health.
Yet currently, women in Rwanda continue to have limited choices to exercise their sexual and reproductive rights.
Among the many changes that occurred in the second half of the 20th century, perhaps the most significant and personal for women has been the means to choose whether and when to have children.
This “reproductive revolution”— made possible by the expanded availability of modern contraceptive methods in the past 30 years — has given women options to pursue new roles and activities outside the home. These new roles and activities ultimately contribute to a country’s economic and social development.
Research tells us that women’s ability to plan their families has altered their work experiences, educational prospects, and relationships with their husbands and families.
Currently, there is limited access to female condoms which undermines women’s choices when it comes to reproductive health as many continue to depend on male condoms.
It is important to expand access to female condoms to allow women better protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections as well as meet their fertility preferences to avoid unwanted pregnancies.
The bigger challenge remains addressing the existing socio-cultural barriers and perceived health risks associated with the use of female condoms.
Previous research has shown that the main challenges facing women and preventing them from using the female condom include the social pressure and the fear of side effects and negative consequences of using them.
Perhaps more importantly, health care professionals need to be willing to spend enough time with women to increase their awareness in order to change some of their misperceptions in this regard and ultimately increase their adoption of female condoms.
Every woman should access female condoms at a price they can afford, and use them when needed.
This helps women to have better physical and mental health further contributing to their social and economic empowerment.
Deciding freely whether and when to use a condom should be regarded as a fundamental reproductive health right as it is strongly linked to women’s health and quality of life.
An important dimension for improving the reproductive health and choice of women and girls is the fact that women should be empowered to understand and exercise their rights, voluntarily choosing their family planning methods, free of any coercion or violence.