The intersecting barriers to accessing abortion in Rwanda.

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This entry is part of SPECTRA’s project #HERStory, you can find the original source here. You can also check out other stories that highlight structural barriers to SRHR services here.

SPECTRA is a young feminist organization  based  in  Rwanda committed to contributing to the realization of sexual and reproductive justice of young women and girls.Together with our community we are working on different projects related to SRJ, one of them being #HerStory. One of the objectives of the HERStory project is to identify and respond to structural and systemic barriers to the realization of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) by women and girls as a way to call policy makers to address and remove these barriers. 

In May 2020 the SPECTRA team learned about the case of Uwera, an  18  year-old young woman from the Muhanga  district,   who  was   raped   by   an   older   man from her neighborhood. The man threatened  her  life  if  she  reported  the case. Uwera resulted pregnant from the rape and wanted to access abortion services. Under Rwandan  laws,  she  is indeed  eligible  to  get a safe  abortion.  She  was approved  for  the  service  but  all  available  health  facilities  close  to her home turned out to be faith-based and as such, were unwilling to provide the service. Uwera was later referred to Kigali city for the service. It was not possible for her nor her family to afford the transport and the related travel costs to get to Kigali and they were also unable to  afford the cost   of   a   community   health   insurance (Mituelle) to enable her to get subsidized medical services.

SPECTRA was able to support, and paid all costs for the service, transport and other incidentals for her and her sister who accompanied her while at the hospital in Kigali. After the service, Uwera said that she had been devastated about the rape but she was even more concerned about the pregnancy. She feels much better now and is relieved to know that she has a chance  to  have  the  future  that  she  hopes  for. Uwera  was  in primary six before schools were closed because of COVID-19 but she is thinking of going to vocational school now.There  remains  structural  and  systemic  barriers  to  access  SRHR services including limited capacity to afford health insurance, costs of  other  out-of-pocket  expenses  not  covered  by  the public  health package  and  increasing religious  barriers  in  the  health  system  especially  to access safe and legal abortion. SPECTRA is committed to support young  women  facing  such  difficulties  through  an  SRHR  fund launched in February 2020 and continuously calling for policy makers to address these barriers.