Parenting and reproductive health: Why the church has a role to play

13th August 2023, 7th edition of the Young Leaders Prayer Breakfast. A panel discussion focusing on effective parenting in today’s world. Panelists: Hon. Clarisse Imaniriho, a Member of Parliament, Irene Mizero, the President of Mizero Care Organisation, and Jacqueline Umurerwa, Headmistress of Groupe Scolaire Camp Kanombe. Photo by Moses

The number of teenage mothers is on the increase despite strategies in place to address the issue.

The latest data released by the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion shows that cases of teenage pregnancies increased by 23 per cent from 19,701 in 2020 to 23,000 in 2021.

Dialogues to tackle the issue have been held engaging government and non-government entities. Members of Parliament proposed a bill allowing teens aged 15 years to have access to contraceptives, a move that raised mixed reactions mainly among faith-based organisations.

To consider the issues that could be causing teenage pregnancies, factors such as a lack of positive and responsible parenting arise, whereby some parents still consider discussing reproductive health a taboo. As a consequence, they are unwilling to have an honest conversation with their children as they grow older.

On 13 August 2023, Rwanda Leaders Fellowship hosted the 7th edition of the Young Leaders Prayer Breakfast, an annual gathering that brought together over 300 young leaders from the public, private, and faith sectors as well as universities and youth organizations.

A panel discussion focusing on effective parenting in today’s world was among the activities featured at the event, which was held under the theme, “Young leaders and parenting today.”

On the panel, which was made up of Hon. Clarisse Imaniriho, a Member of Parliament, Irene Mizero, the President of Mizero Care Organisation, and Jacqueline Umurerwa, Headmistress of Groupe Scolaire Camp Kanombe, the subject of effective parenting was openly discussed.

According to Umurerwa, parenting is not something that can be delegated and once that happens, most of the time it is delegated to the less qualified. 

She said: “A child raised by both parents in most cases grows with positive values and character. The role of a parent in parenting is irreplaceable. Whatever educators can do is possible only if parents or guardians are supportive to the children.”

Umurerwa believes effective parenting assures the safety of children.

“Children are gifts from God; we need to take care of them if we want to build a better future for the country. Prepare your child early to help them become the person you wish them to be,” she added, urging parents to train and engage their children in domestic activities.

Imaniriho, a mother of one, noted that effective parenting requires time management and commitment.

“Parents need to make smart decisions, especially regarding the social activities organised by friends or colleagues. Parenting is effective when both parents are engaged to complement one another. Young parents should do more research on positive parenting,” she said.

Imaniriho advised parents to equip house helpers with parenting packages as well as treat them positively.

Mizero urged parents to be role models for their children.

“Our living style inspires our children in one way or the other. Parents need to be role models for their children in order to leave a good legacy for them,” he added.

Dative Mukamusonera, a wife to Pastor Denis Bideri of Assemblies of God in Kayonza District, posed a question to church leaders about the role of the church in reducing teenage pregnancies.

She said that teaching about reproductive health in the church is still considered as strange or something that contradicts the Holy Scripture. Yet, in our churches, there are teenagers who are victims of unwanted pregnancies.

“Isn’t it?” she asked the participants.

She went on to wonder, “Dear fellow servants, is that a sin? What do you think about the issue discussing it is still regarded as taboo, and unfortunately our children are being corrupted.”

Mukamusonera shared her own church’s experience whereby she often holds interactive sessions with teenagers and youth in general about reproductive health, witnessing that the approach is bearing fruits.