Meet Bernard

Bernard Owino is one of six county mobilizers with Disciples of Mercy (DOM), an organization that runs a fistula outreach program in Kisumu. Before joining DOM, he worked with orphans and other vulnerable populations in the region for four years as a social worker.

Bernard's Story

During that time, Bernard came across a number of women with fistula but did not know how to support them, as he was largely unfamiliar with the condition. His concern for these women continued to grow and he decided he wanted to do something to help. That’s when he first heard about DOM.

As a county mobilizer, Bernard’s main role is to identify new fistula patients. He first conducts verbal screenings then refers potential patients to our partner facilities for a more thorough physical exam. Women who are diagnosed with fistula are then referred to the nearest treatment center to undergo free repair surgery. Following treatment, Bernard follows up with patients to ensure they are doing well and to address any reintegration challenges they might be experiencing.

“Challenges are inevitable while working with this kind of population,” Bernard says. “Men are still the sole decision makers in our African setting, so even women who have fistula are unable to make the choice of whether to go in for treatment or not. Men don’t like being part of any conversation that talks about women’s reproductive health. The few who do allow their wives to go for treatment often don’t even visit them while they are in the hospital. The lack of men’s support in the treatment process is a stumbling block.”

What keeps Bernard motivated in the face of all these challenges? The smiles on the faces of fistula patients after their surgery. “Is there anything on this planet as rewarding as seeing someone smile?” he asks. “Those smiles keep me going when the going gets tough. I feel it’s the least I can do in gratitude of the life my mother gave me.”

About Kenya

  • Population: 45,010,056
  • Average Births per Woman: 3.54
  • Female Literacy: 84.2%
  • Population Living in Poverty: 43.4% (less than $1.25/day)
Read More

We’re Making a Difference in Kenya

Read Another Woman’s Story

  • Jacklyn

    Kenya

    Jacklyn is just 29 years old, but has faced enough heartbreak to last a lifetime. Born and raised in Kisii County in western Kenya, Jacklyn was raised by her older sister because their parents abandoned them when she was a small child. She was never able to go to school because she had to do odd jobs along with her older sister in order to have enough food to eat at the end of the day.

  • Aneni

    Zimbabwe

    Before finding treatment through Fistula Foundation, Aneni* suffered with a terrible fistula for 35 years.

  • Landy

    Madagascar

    Landy became pregnant at 14 years old. When it came time to deliver, she labored at home as most women do in her village. But after a day of excruciating pain, her labor did not progress and her family took her to the village hospital. The baby did not survive.

  • Alphonsia

    Tanzania

    Alphonsia’s heart-wrenching story began 27 years ago after her labor failed to progress properly.

  • Action on Fistula - Jane

    Jane and Elizabeth

    Kenya

    After suffering five miscarriages, Jane prepared to deliver her first child. But two days of difficult labor left Jane with an obstetric fistula. At home, she became traumatized by isolation and mistreatment from her husband, who had taken another wife. Her sister, Elizabeth, stepped in.

  • Mildred

    Kenya

    Mildred developed fistula after prolonged, obstructed labor with her second child. She endured two difficult months of life with fistula before receiving treatment through our Action on Fistula program.

  • Justine

    Uganda

    Justine is 37 years old and lives in Bumasiki , a small village in Bugiri District in Uganda. When her labor pains began, she prepared to go to the hospital but didn’t have enough money to get there. She arrived 20 hours later after gathering sufficient funds from friends and neighbors; but by then, she had developed an obstetric fistula.

  • Josephine-Congo

    Josephine

    Democratic Republic of the Congo

    Josephine is from the northwestern corner of the Democratic Republic of Congo. 34 years old, she is the mother of two healthy boys, ages 11 and 9, the only surviving children from her four pregnancies.

  • Sofia - WAHA

    Sofia

    Liberia

    At 16, Sofia lost her baby boy in childbirth and developed a fistula, prompting her husband to leave her. Unaware what her condition was called or that treatment was possible, she became almost completely isolated over the next three years, giving up hope of ever being healed. A radio ad changed her life.

  • Christine A.

    Kenya

    Christine loved her husband and bore him six children. But after he died, Christine's life changed when she was forced to marry her eldest brother-in-law, who cared very little for her or her children. She became pregnant with her seventh child, enduring a prolonged labor that left her with obstetric fistula. Her new husband shunned her and kicked her out of her home. But then she found hope.

  • Harriet

    Uganda

    Harriet leaked stool for two years before understanding that she was living with a treatable injury. 

  • Fistula Foundation - Khadija

    Khadijah

    Chad

    Khadijah lived with fistula for 18 years, and it isolated her from everything and everyone around her. Originally from Chad's northern region of Bar Elgazel, she was married when she was only 14 years old. Her first pregnancy came three years afterwards and, not knowing the importance of seeking health care or treatment, she never received any prenatal care.

  • Mary A.

    Kenya

    Mary waited her whole life to have a child. At the age of 47 she finally became pregnant. But her labor was difficult, and her child did not survive. She developed fistula as a result. She was ostracized by her family and shunned by the entire community, until finally, at the age of 73, she finally accessed a free surgery that would change the rest of her life, and remind her what it felt like to feel "human" again.

  • Kaudha

    Uganda

    Kaudha is from eastern Uganda. At age 27, she developed a fistula after spending hours in labor with her third child. Unfortunately, the baby did not survive, and Kaudha’s condition left her feeling isolated from friends and loved ones. But in fall 2015, her story—and her outlook—changed dramatically.

  • Abiar

    Kenya

    In her 23 years, Abiar has seen and experienced more sadness than most do in a lifetime. Losing her entire family to civil war in South Sudan in 2011, she married as a way to protect her own life. But soon the worst happened: with no access to health care, food or shelter, she became pregnant.

  • Christiana

    Liberia

    Pregnant at 16, Christiana suffered with fistula for several years before her successful treatment at our partner hospital in Monrovia, Liberia. Now, with the new skills she is learning through a patient rehabilitation program, she hopes to help support her family.

  • Domitila

    Domitila

    Angola

    In 2012 Domitila became pregnant with her 9th baby. During her final trimester, she had a severe episode of bleeding. Her family realized this indicated the baby had died, but hoped she would still be able to push it out on her own at home. When nothing happened, they finally took her to the hospital where a hysterectomy was done. After this, she no longer was able to control her urine - she had developed a fistula.

  • Sujata

    Nepal

    Sujata lives in Bajura, a very poor and remote mountain district in western Nepal. She lives with her husband, whom she married when she was 16 years old, and his family in a small house shared by 12 people. One year after their wedding, Sujata was looking forward to the birth of her first child. There was no health facility nearby, so when Sujata’s labor entered its eighth day, the family called on the local birth attendant.