Improving adolescents’ access to sexual and reproductive health services in Rwanda

Blog arrow-right 29 February 2024
Author: Wemos

Meeting Emmanuel YOBOKA at the Society for Family Health

The sun is shining happily, when our taxi arrives at a high building surrounded by the lush trees that are so common in the green city of Kigali. At the top it reads ‘Society for Family Health’. We get out of the car and are kindly welcomed by Dr Emmanuel YOBOKA, RMNCAH Specialist, at Society for Family Health. We are in Rwanda for the Make Way annual reflection meetings and take this opportunity to meet Emmanuel. Since June 2023, Society for Family Health is a technical partner of Wemos in the Make Way programme, supporting the work in Rwanda on health systems strengthening.

The Society for Family Health office in Kigali.

Enhancing the health and well-being of Rwandan communities 

Emmanuel takes us through the fresh office spaces, introducing us to some colleagues, and leading us to a meeting room where we sit down to discuss and learn more about the vital work of Society for Family Health. It is a pioneering organization dedicated to enhancing the health and well-being of Rwandan communities. Their focus includes family planning & reproductive health, maternal, newborn & child health, health systems strengthening and primary health care. They have established and manage over 200 health posts, in collaboration with more than 90 health centres.


Dr Emmanuel YOBOKA, at Society for Family Health.

Collaboration in the Make Way programme

One of the key pieces of work that Society for Family Health is working on within Make Way, is a study on access to sexual and reproductive health services for adolescents in the country. It aims to identify factors that enable and hinder access, with the purpose of finding opportunities for improvement. Emmanuel explains: “For this study, we will look at a broad spectrum, from policy to implementation, experiences of adolescents and the capacity of health workers. The insights we gain will guide our efforts in advocacy.” 

Since Emmanuel has previously worked at the Rwandan Ministry of Health, he knows his way around. And he is still part of various working groups on topics such as sexual and reproductive health, maternal health and adolescent health. “We will share the results of our study with these relevant groups and also give a presentation to the Ministry of Health.” Emmanuel is confident that there will be space to discuss the outcomes and recommendations with the Ministry.

Society for Family Health is an active member of the Make Way country coordinating group in Rwanda. By linking and exchanging knowledge, the organizations in this group strengthen each other and their impact on the sexual and reproductive health and rights of marginalized groups in the country.


The Rwandan health system 

When talking about the health system in Rwanda, Emmanuel starts on a positive note: “The health system is evolving very well. If you look at access for people with disabilities, you can see many improvements. Most health clinics were built in a time when specific needs were not taken into account. But change is underway; more and more ramps are being placed. And new buildings are much better suited with persons with disabilities, for example, windows that are lower for all people to be able to receive services. In the health posts that Society for Family Health sets up, accessibility requirements are part of the design from the start”. 

“An issue that we do face”, Emmanuel continues, “is a shortage of health workers. People are being trained, but retention is a challenge. The health workers don’t leave the country, but they do leave the sector. The government should do more training, onboarding, and retaining.”


Leaving no one behind 

Example of the material that Society for Family Health uses in their adolescent sexual and reproductive health programmes.

Make Way focuses on applying an intersectional lens to lobby and advocacy for sexual and reproductive health and rights. Emmanuel understands the importance of this way of approaching issues. But he also says: “This is not new. What is new, is the word. There are different marginalized groups, like school dropouts, people living in extreme poverty, people with HIV, etc. and these things can overlap. We have always considered their different needs and worked in a cross-cutting manner.” 

We have really enjoyed getting to know the team at Society for Family Health. We take some pictures and make our way back outside, leaving Emmanuel to continue his work to empower Rwandans to improve their health. We are happy that Make Way is part of his work and are convinced it will contribute to improving access to sexual and reproductive health and rights for marginalized groups in Rwanda. 



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