Are children born with 20 20 vision

Implementing children's rights in Rwanda

Rwanda at a glance

Rwanda is a small country in East Africa bordering the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to the west, Tanzania to the east, Uganda to the north and Burundi to the south. Rwanda has the highest population density in Africa with a young, mostly rural population estimated at 12.3 million. The political, social and economic context of Rwanda is profoundly shaped by the civil war in the early 1990s and the genocide of 1994. Nonetheless, Rwanda has made significant progress towards economic prosperity and human development over the past two decades.
With a view to realizing the Vision 2020 development plan, Rwanda has implemented two five-year strategies for economic development and poverty reduction (EDPRS I & EDPRS II). Political stability, strong governance, fiscal and administrative decentralization and zero tolerance for corruption are some of the key factors that have contributed to the country's economic growth. Notwithstanding these achievements, Rwanda continues to face several developmental challenges that affect child protection. These include chronic malnutrition (stunting), early childhood development, infant mortality, high quality education, and violence prevention in children.


The status of children's rights

Children represent a large percentage of the population of Rwanda. 42.9% of the population are between 0-14 years old and the median age is 18.8 years. In addition, children make up 83.5% of the rural population in Rwanda and often live in precarious situations.
Children in rural areas often have limited access to basic needs, such as access to health care, education and protection.
The very young population of Rwanda is a result of the terrible genocide that took place in 1994, in which around 1 million people were killed in just 4 weeks. The negative consequences of the massacre and the simultaneous current developmental challenges continue to affect the children of Rwanda in many ways. Law N.54, passed in 2011, has children's rights in Rwanda. already made significant progress. The passage of this law included the creation of the National Commission on Children; a government organization dedicated to promoting children's rights. It is clear that promoting children's rights is a government priority as it is also enshrined in the constitution and protected by law. Despite everything, children and young people cannot make extensive use of their rights due to gaps and inconsistencies in the implementation and enforcement of children's rights laws and guidelines. Given the percentage of children and the growing number of births in Rwanda each year, it is necessary that the rights of these infants and children in general be protected.


Index of implementation of children's rights:


Child-friendly social security

Social security is essential to prevent and reduce poverty in children and families, to address injustices and to implement children's rights. In addition, it is necessary that social security programs respond to child endangerment by optimizing positive effects for children and minimizing potential negative consequences. The children of Rwanda are often exposed to vulnerabilities which are exacerbated by a number of risk factors and which have a significant impact on their wellbeing and the ability to promote and implement children's rights. Child-friendly social protection offers the opportunity to tackle chronic poverty, social exclusion and shocks that can have irreversible effects on children. The government in Rwanda is trying to adapt the “Vision Umurenge Social Protection” (VUP) program to include options for child-friendly social protection with the aim of responding to child poverty and child risk. Even so, many children and families face barriers to accessing basic social services. It is therefore important that guidelines, ordinances and legislation effectively take into account the point of view of children, young people and their carers in order to fulfill children's rights.


Meeting children's needs

The right to health

A child's right to health is at risk from the earliest age in Rwanda. Even before birth, this right is impaired by the high rate of infant mortality. This approaches the rate of 30 deaths per 1,000 births. The neonatal mortality rate reaches 20 deaths per 1,000 births and thus makes it difficult to access the essential right to survive until birth. This mortality rate is often due to neonatal diseases, which represent 29% of deaths in medical facilities. Despite the growing number of medical facilities across the country, children face numerous health problems, such as malaria, which is the cause of 6% of all deaths in hospitals, or HIV, which has a rate of 3%. The full enjoyment of the right to health is a serious concern for the children of Rwanda.


The right to education

The education system in Rwanda is considered to be one of the most progressive in Africa. It includes free and compulsory access to the primary and lower secondary education system (up to 9th grade).
Almost 100% of Rwanda's children start primary school and 73% of those aged 15 and over are considered literate. Even so, the attendance rate in secondary school remains considerably low, representing only 23% of children. In addition, 77% of children attend secondary school at an inappropriate age. Access to education is existential in a developing country like Rwanda. Admission to school not only enables the escape or prevention of child labor, but also develops the knowledge and skills of children that contribute to society and its development.


The right to identity and nationality

91% of Rwanda's children are born in medical institutions. Only 50% of these are entered in the civil status register and thus have access to a birth certificate. As a result, three quarters of those who remain are not registered and therefore run the risk of not being protected by the government. Birth registration is a fundamental right that provides the child with a name, ancestry, a nationality and an age. It also represents proof of identity and a sign of existence in the eyes of society. It also provides the child with automatic government protection from human trafficking and forced labor.


The right to non-discrimination

The laws of Rwanda guarantee all citizens equal treatment and protection from discrimination. Despite the great strides the country has made towards equality among ethnic minorities, some inequalities remain.
One example is the Batwa community, who make up 1% of the population of Rwanda. This community continues to have difficulties accessing (services) benefits that have a direct impact on their right to health and education. As a result, they have higher infant mortality rates, more illnesses and malnutrition, and thus a shorter average life expectancy. Additionally, they are directly affected by the growth of the country's agricultural sector, which has resulted in the loss of access to their ancestral lands without compensation. As a result, the community is viewed as one that lives in great need and under extreme poverty and social exclusion.

The LGBTQ + is also a community that is a target for discrimination. Although Rwanda is one of the few countries in Africa that has not criminalized homosexuality, the social context strongly stigmatizes people from this community. The stigma often leads to great difficulties in accessing and enjoying their rights.


Risk factors → Country-specific challenges


Poverty, malnutrition and access to water

Adequate nutrition and access to water are critical to a child's health as they have a direct impact on growth and cognitive development. Malnutrition in the mother can have negative effects on the baby in the womb, which can continue into adulthood and into future generations. Malnutrition or malnutrition continues to be responsible for a high number of deaths in Rwanda. They also affect learning outcomes and productivity. Poverty is a major cause of malnutrition in Rwanda. 38.2% of the population live in poverty, 16% of them in extreme poverty. The result is that 38% of children under the age of 5 are underdeveloped. 49% of them belong to the poorest fifth. In addition to malnutrition, children in Rwanda often have difficulty accessing water. Although many improvements have been made in this area, problems with the availability and quality of water persist, especially in rural areas. Access to purified water is markedly unequal across the country, with the poorest of the population being the first to be affected. It is believed that approximately 74% of the population of Rwanda living in the poorest fifth compared to 34% of the wealthiest fifth do not have access to clean water. This inequality has a direct impact on children's health. As access to adequate hygiene is minimized, the likelihood of disease transmission increases.

In the context of post-war and forced labor / human trafficking

One of the main characteristics of the population of Rwanda is the low average age. People under the age of 15 represent more than half of the total population in which 52% are 19 years and younger. This is one of the direct consequences of the 1994 genocide. This dark chapter in Rwanda's history had dire consequences for the children. More than 10% of 0 to 17 year olds are orphans. As a result, many children were left behind as heads of the family and were forced to give up their education for work to take care of the rest of the family.

Rwanda has also become an important source, transit and / or destination country for people exposed to forced labor or sex trafficking in recent years. Children are banned from education and they are thrown into the spiral of organized crime. Girls in Rwanda are forced to do domestic work, ill-treated and dismissed by their employer at the moment of pregnancy. Because of stigma and shame, they have no choice but to be sex trafficked. Similar situations encounter young Rwandans who are subjected to forced labor in the domestic, agricultural or industrial sectors.
The government needs to make even more proactive efforts to find, prosecute and convict human traffickers. This must go hand in hand with the offer of long-term care facilities for victims.


Teenage pregnancies, stigma, and access to registration

There are many challenges with registering children in Ruanada that are a real problem for the country. In fact, according to the government, an unregistered child is viewed as a nonexistent child. A birth certificate gives the child the most basic rights, such as bearing a name, parentage and nationality, and age. It also enables school enrollment, applications for a driver's license and other official papers, such as a passport or ID card, when the child grows up. Registration also enables the child to receive adequate protection from the state, for example in the event of child trafficking or forced labor. Knowing the child's age is essential for further law enforcement. Official evidence of a child's existence before the authorities gives the child access to government programs such as Inkongoro y’Umwana, which specializes in providing free food to children in poor households.

Nonetheless, registration in Rwanda remains significantly inadequate. In 2016, 17,500 children were born to teenagers and the majority of these were not registered by the state. The root of this problem is that most teenage pregnancies result from sexual abuse and therefore cannot meet the requirements of the husband's presence at the initial prenatal exam. In addition, most underage mothers do not have their own ID at the time of registration. The legal requirement for receiving an identity card is a minimum age of 16 years. As a result, the mothers register their newborn on the parents' behalf or not at all.

The requirement of the father's presence during medical visits and especially during registration is a major reason for the lack of registrations. Single mothers are often stigmatized and fearful of having to take responsibility for not having a father who has been recognized by the strict process.

Finally, access to registration facilities played an important role in the low registration rates. However, the Rwandan government recently changed its policy to allow healthcare facilities to go through the full process. 91% of children in Rwanda are born in health facilities, which is why the possibility of registration in hospitals is important as it saves parents from having to travel to local administrations. As a further result of this new law, parents can face penalties for failing to register their child within 15 days of birth.


Culture and history of Rwanda

Ethnic discrimination in Rwanda is rooted in certain historical and cultural factors that influence modern politics in the country. In fact, as a result of the 1994 genocide, the constitution of Rwanda was changed to discard ethnic classifications. This political and legal change was carried out with the aim of eliminating all forms of division and discrimination and promoting national unity. Nonetheless, the non-recognition of minorities has a direct impact on the free and unrestricted enjoyment of those individual rights and ignores their specific needs.