Recent trainings give health workers new tools to bring family planning services to their communities.

Community health workers at a family planning training in Rwanda.

By Celia Reddick

Giggling ran through the classroom. It was an odd scene in rural Rwanda. Mothers and their infant babies, well-dressed older men, and young women in veils stared at the plastic models of penises in front of them. One by one, each of them practiced putting condoms onto the donated props, part of a recent training collaboration between PIH’s Rwanda-based Community Health and Training Departments.

This training on family planning dovetails with the Rwandan Ministry of Health (MOH)’s priorities. The MOH is taking an active approach to family planning, encouraging all women of childbearing age to consider contraceptive methods. In addition, the MOH is working to make contraceptives available at rural health centers, and through community health workers serving their communities throughout Rwanda.


PIH training manuals were used at the community health worker training.


Participants at a family planning training demonstrate the proper way to put on a condom.

These efforts address a growing issue in Rwanda. The small country in eastern Africa is home to an estimated 11 million people, and is the most densely populated country on the continent. Nearly 50 percent of Rwanda’s population is under the age of 14, and the average Rwandan family has as many as five children, putting a strain on already limited resources.

In the past few months, many community health workers have received MOH trainings on modern family planning methods, learning how to give contraceptive injections and how to discuss various contraceptive pills with women. In collaboration with PIH’s Community Health Department in Rwanda, PIH’s training team organized its training to align with the MOH’s work.

At a recent PIH training held at Ruramira Primary School in southern Kayonza, facilitators guided participants through a lively discussion of human rights and family planning.“Family Planning is connected to human rights, because it is the right of a child to have access to education and health care,” said one community health worker, adding that large families make realization of this right impossible. “Family Planning is a woman’s human right, because having many children can be very dangerous to her health. She and her husband must understand this,” added a facilitator.

After learning how to demonstrate the proper way to put on a condom (using the plastic props), the participants requested their own supplies so they could hold similar demonstration sessions in their communities.

These family planning trainings are just one part of PIH’s larger effort to improve the quality of community-level services. In the coming month, community health worker supervisors will use observation checklists (developed in partnership with PIH’s Rwanda-based Monitoring and Evaluation Department) to assess the impact of these trainings on community health worker home visits. And in the past two months, community health workers have received PIH-developed trainings in Reproductive Health (focusing on the health of a pregnant woman and her fetus), Nutrition, and PMTCT (Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV). High-quality participatory learning activities in support of MOH national initiatives have the potential to transform community-based health interventions. With training and support from PIH, hundreds of community health workers are now better-equipped to lead the charge.


Celia Reddick serves as the Curriculum and Training Specialist for Partners In Health in Rwanda.