MEDSAR DAY 2024 and Scientific Conference

Published by Medical Students' Association of Rwanda on


1. Introduction


The MEDSAR Day & Scientific Conference 2024, organized by the Medical Students’ Association of Rwanda (MEDSAR), was a landmark event focused on addressing critical issues in adolescent sexual and reproductive health rights (ASRHR). Held on 1st June 2024 at Lemigo Hotel, the conference aimed to bring together a diverse group of stakeholders, including healthcare professionals, researchers, policymakers, advocates, and medical students, to engage in meaningful discussions and share insights on improving ASRHR in Rwanda. The event provided a platform for exchanging knowledge, showcasing research, and fostering collaboration among participants from various sectors.


The theme for this year’s conference was “End Teenage Pregnancy: Exploring the Gaps in Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights.” This theme was chosen to highlight the urgent need to address the high rates of teenage pregnancy in Rwanda and to explore the underlying gaps in ASRHR that contribute to this issue. The conference aimed to shed light on the multifaceted challenges faced by adolescents in accessing sexual and reproductive health services and to identify effective strategies for addressing these gaps.


The conference had several primary objectives:

  • Enhance Knowledge and Awareness: To increase awareness and understanding of the complexities surrounding ASRHR and teenage pregnancy among participants.
  • Facilitate Knowledge Exchange: To provide a platform for stakeholders to share best practices, research findings, and innovative approaches to improving ASRHR.
  • Foster Collaborations: To encourage partnerships and collaborations among healthcare providers, researchers, policymakers, and medical students to develop and implement effective strategies for reducing teenage pregnancies and improving ASRHR outcomes.
  • Empower Medical Students: To equip medical students with the knowledge, skills, and networks necessary to take active roles in promoting ASRHR and addressing teenage pregnancy in their communities.
  • To showcase the Adolescent and Youth Health Strategic Plan for MEDSAR (2024-2030)

2. Pre-Conference Activities

 Community Health Camp: “Kanguka Umenye”

The “Kanguka Umenye” outreach program was a cornerstone of the pre-conference activities, targeting the Kayonza, Burera, and Kirehe districts from 29th April 2024 to 16th may 2024. This program focused on addressing the health education needs of adolescents and communities, providing essential services such as sexual and reproductive health (SRH) education, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) screening, and mental health awareness.


·        Increase Knowledge and Awareness: To educate adolescents and community members about various health issues, including SRH, NCDs, and mental health.

·        Provide Medical Services: To offer free medical screenings and services to underserved communities, improving their access to healthcare.

·        Empower Youth: To encourage young people to speak out against gender-based violence (GBV) and to break the silence surrounding contraceptive use and mental health issues.

·        Reduce Stigma: To address and reduce the stigma and discrimination associated with contraceptive use and mental health challenges, promoting a more inclusive and supportive community environment.


Capacity Building Workshop: “MEDSAR CB-Camp 2nd Edition”

The “MEDSAR CB-Camp 2nd Edition” workshop was held on 17th – 18th may 2024 at the University of Rwanda-Huye Campus. It was designed to build the capacity of medical students, equipping them with the skills and knowledge necessary to address healthcare challenges, particularly in the realm of ASRHR. These workshops provided training on leadership, advocacy, and practical healthcare skills.


·        Enhance Leadership Skills: To develop the leadership abilities of medical students, preparing them to take on significant roles in healthcare promotion and advocacy.

·        Provide Practical Knowledge: To equip students with practical knowledge and skills to address healthcare challenges effectively.


·        Strengthen Networks: To foster collaborative networks and mentorship opportunities among medical students, healthcare providers, and researchers, promoting a sense of community and shared purpose in addressing ASRHR issues.



The conference began with welcoming remarks from Emmanuel Bizimana, the President of MEDSAR. Emmanuel expressed heartfelt gratitude to all guests, participants, and partners for their support and presence at the conference. He highlighted the significance of the event in promoting MEDSAR’s mission of empowering medical students and improving healthcare standards in Rwanda. Emmanuel also emphasized the importance of the conference theme, noting the critical need to address teenage pregnancy and enhance ASRHR in Rwanda.

Dr. Olive, University of Rwanda Representative

Dr. Olive delivered welcoming remarks on behalf of the University of Rwanda, expressing the institution’s commitment to supporting initiatives that address ASRHR. She emphasized the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration and encouraged participants to actively engage in discussions and activities aimed at improving ASRHR outcomes. Dr. Olive highlighted the university’s ongoing efforts to equip students with the skills and knowledge necessary to tackle healthcare challenges and to support student-led outreach and research programs.

Dr. Brian Chirombo, WHO Country Representative

Dr. Brian Chirombo delivered a compelling keynote address, stressing the urgency of improving ASRHR in Rwanda. He presented alarming statistics on adolescent health challenges, including high rates of teenage pregnancy and limited access to contraceptive services. Dr. Chirombo reaffirmed WHO’s commitment to partnering with local stakeholders to enhance ASRHR services and education in Rwanda. He called for increased investment in ASRHR programs and encouraged medical students to take active roles in promoting adolescent health.

Dr. Joseph Ryarasa, Health Promotion Expert

Dr. Joseph Ryarasa emphasized the critical role of effective communication between healthcare providers and patients in improving ASRHR outcomes. He highlighted the importance of medical students staying updated with the latest knowledge and best practices in healthcare. Dr. Ryarasa also discussed the role of medical students in health promotion through research and community outreach programs, encouraging them to become proactive advocates for adolescent health.

Dr. Olugbemiga Adelakin, UNFPA Rwanda Representative

Dr. Olugbemiga Adelakin focused on the socio-economic impact of teenage pregnancy and the importance of addressing its root causes. He emphasized the need for a multi-sectoral approach and the involvement of boys and men in addressing teenage pregnancy. Dr. Adelakin discussed UNFPA’s support for youth empowerment and innovation, highlighting successful initiatives that have made significant strides in improving ASRHR in Rwanda.

Dr. Rangira Lambert, Country Program Manager for AHF Rwanda

Dr. Rangira Lambert highlighted the interconnectedness of HIV/AIDS and teenage pregnancy, emphasizing that both issues should be addressed together. He outlined the contributions of AHF Rwanda since 2006, including providing health workforce support and distributing over 5 million condoms annually. Dr. Rangira discussed various programs such as scholarships and provision of sanitary pads to girls, and next year’s plans for screening and treatment. He stressed the importance of educating the youth about HIV to stop its spread and praised the collaborative efforts of the government, international organizations, NGOs, and MEDSAR.

Ms. Julia Battle, Chief of Health and Nutrition at UNICEF Rwanda

Ms. Julia Battle focused on the complexity of teenage pregnancy, linking it to broader issues like maternal health and ASRHR. She highlighted the global challenge of achieving gender equality and the impact of violence on adolescent health and rights. Ms. Battle underscored the rising mental health problems among adolescents, exacerbated by COVID-19, with 16% experiencing mental health disorders. She advocated for cross-sectoral coordination and legal reforms regarding contraception access, stressing the importance of addressing gender equality and poverty to improve ASRHR outcomes.

Dr. Menelas, Head of Health Workforce Development at the Ministry of Health: Guest of Honor

Dr. Menelas appreciated the MEDSAR Day event and discussed the structure and 4×4 reform of Rwanda’s health system. He highlighted the significance of inter-professional collaboration and the impact of COVID-19 on ASRHR. Dr. Menelas emphasized the role of young people in health programs and the importance of their engagement for sustainability in the health system. He noted the Ministry’s efforts in improving health infrastructure and services and encouraged continuous collaboration among students, graduates, and other stakeholders to combat ASRHR issues effectively.

The conference featured several panel discussions and plenary sessions, which provided a platform for in-depth discussions on various aspects of ASRHR. Topics covered included:

·        Current Status of Adolescent and Teen Pregnancies: An analysis of the current state of teenage pregnancy in Rwanda, including statistical trends and contributing factors.

·        Advancements in Contraceptive Methods: An exploration of the latest advancements in contraceptive technology and their potential impact on reducing teenage pregnancies.

·        Addressing Barriers to Contraceptive Access: A discussion on the social, cultural, and economic barriers that hinder access to contraceptive services for adolescents.

·        Shared Decision-Making with Adolescents and Parents: Strategies for involving adolescents and their parents in shared decision-making processes related to SRH.

·        Adolescents’ Perspectives and Preferences on Contraceptives: Insights into the preferences and attitudes of adolescents regarding different contraceptive methods.

·        Special Considerations for Adolescents with Specific Health Conditions: Addressing the unique SRH needs of adolescents with chronic illnesses or disabilities.

Abstract Presentations

Medical students and young healthcare providers presented their research findings and innovative projects during the abstract presentation sessions. These presentations covered a wide range of topics related to ASRHR, showcasing the latest research and best practices in the field. The sessions provided an opportunity for participants to engage with cutting-edge research and to discuss potential collaborations and future research directions.


The conference included an exhibition area where healthcare-related NGOs and institutions showcased their products, services, and initiatives. The exhibitions provided a valuable opportunity for participants to learn about innovative healthcare solutions, network with representatives from various organizations, and explore potential collaborations. The exhibition area was a vibrant space that facilitated knowledge exchange and the dissemination of best practices in ASRHR.

Key Outcomes

The conference achieved several significant outcomes:

·        Increased Awareness and Knowledge: Participants gained a deeper understanding of the complexities surrounding ASRHR and teenage pregnancy, including the social, cultural, and economic factors that contribute to these issues.

·        Enhanced Collaboration: The conference facilitated the formation of new collaborative networks among healthcare providers, researchers, policymakers, and medical students. These networks are expected to drive future initiatives and research aimed at improving ASRHR in Rwanda.

·        Identification of Key Challenges and Solutions: Through discussions and presentations, participants identified key challenges in ASRHR, such as limited access to contraceptive services and societal stigma. They also proposed potential solutions, including community outreach programs, policy changes, and education campaigns.

·        Empowerment of Medical Students: The conference empowered medical students with the knowledge, skills, and networks necessary to take active roles in promoting ASRHR and addressing teenage pregnancy in their communities.

·        MEDSAR in collaboration with other partners working on SRHR is committed to implement the Adolescent and Youth Health Strategic Plan for MEDSAR (2024-2030), ensuring that MEDSAR’s initiatives and operations are strategically aligned to promote ASRHR, preventing teenage pregnancy, and guaranteeing that adolescents have access to essential health services, education, and support mechanisms.



Based on the discussions and outcomes of the conference, several recommendations were made:

·        Expand Community Outreach Programs: Continue and expand community outreach programs like “Kanguka Umenye” to improve access to SRH services and education in underserved areas.

·        Enhance Capacity Building Efforts: Strengthen capacity-building efforts for medical students and healthcare providers through workshops, training sessions, and mentorship programs.

·        Foster Multi-Sectoral Collaborations: Promote interdisciplinary and multi-sectoral collaborations to address ASRHR challenges effectively.

·        Implement Supportive Policies: Advocate for and implement policies and initiatives that prevent early pregnancies and support adolescents’ health and rights.

·        Engage Adolescents and Parents: Involve adolescents and their parents in shared decision-making processes related to SRH to ensure that services and interventions meet their needs and preferences.


The MEDSAR Day & Scientific Conference 2024 successfully brought together a diverse group of stakeholders to address critical issues in ASRHR. The conference provided a platform for meaningful discussions, knowledge exchange, and the formation of new collaborations. The outcomes and recommendations generated during the conference are expected to drive tangible progress in improving the sexual and reproductive health outcomes of adolescents in Rwanda. Continued efforts and sustained collaboration will be essential to build on the momentum generated by this event and to achieve lasting improvements in ASRHR.

We extend our heartfelt thanks to all participants, speakers, panelists, and partners for their invaluable contributions to the success of the MEDSAR Day & Scientific Conference 2024. Special thanks to the organizing committee for their dedication and hard work in planning and executing this event. We also express our gratitude to the University of Rwanda, WHO, UNFPA, and other supporting organizations for their unwavering support and commitment to improving adolescent health in Rwanda.


7. Appendix

Categories: EVENTS


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