With our hearts heavy but filled with hope, we embarked on our second journey to Embu County. In Embu, we met a group of nine women who have the condition called Fistula. An obstetric fistula is a hole between the vagina and rectum or bladder that is caused by prolonged obstructed labor. This leaves a woman incontinent of urine or feces, or both.
The women narrated to us about how their lives changed once they got fistula. Most of them are unable to control their urine and as a result, they are constantly humiliated and suffer from low confidence and self-esteem. Most of them were left and abandoned by their husbands. This led to financial problems. The women said that they are unable to travel long distances. They are confined to areas around their homes because of the condition. They have also been ostracized by their communities.
Mary has suffered from the condition for the last 28 years. As a result, she has been physically and emotionally abused by her husband to the extent that he denies her money for food. Mary lives in complete isolation. She does not speak to people. Her children have abandoned her. She lives a solitary life. When speaking to her, Mary was withdrawn and fearful. She has personally been adversely affected by her condition. In addition to fistula treatment, Mary requires psycho-social support.
The women thought that it was their fate to get this condition. They did not know that it is preventable or treatable. The assumption was some women inevitably get the condition and resigned to it till death.
Lucy Muriithi is a 2017 Akili Dada fellow running the fistula project. She is providing the women with treatment using her seed grant. The seven out of the nine women Lucy works with are now on the waiting list to get treatment. We believe that their lives will change for the better once they receive the treatment.
Akili Dada is proud of both Helen and Lucy for identifying the needs of their communities and working towards addressing those needs proactively. The two young African women leaders are assisting over 20 women and assuring better conditions for their family’s lives.