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

  • Senowara Begum, 30 (3)



    When Rahima was just 13 she was married to save her family money on living costs. She soon became pregnant and suffered through prolonged, obstructed labor that left her incontinent. She lived with obstetric fistula for 12 years before finally finding help through our partners at HOPE Foundation for Women and Children of Bangladesh.
  • Cellina-web



    Cellina Nyasugutha is a community health volunteer with Daraja Mbili, an outreach program based in Kisii.
  • Fistula Foundation - Hellen Aoko



    Margaret is 36 years old and from a very remote village in southwestern Kenya. In this area, child marriage and polygamy are very common. At 16 years old, Margaret’s parents arranged for her to become the third wife of a man more than three times her age. She tried to resist, but eventually gave in to the marriage due to pressure from her family and community.
  • Alitash



    Alitash is 56 years old and lives in a small village about 50 kilometers east of Aira, a large town in western Ethiopia. She has given birth three times – her first two children died as teenagers, and the third was stillborn.
  • Beatrice-Kenya



    Beatrice is 17 she lives in Western Kenya. Many women with fistula suffer for years or decades before they are able to access surgical treatment. Fortunately for Beatrice, who was 16 when she developed fistula, it was less than a month before she received treatment at the Nyanza Provincial General Hospital in Kisumu, Kenya. Beatrice developed fistula after laboring at home for two days in the presence of a traditional birth attendant.
  • Everlyn



    Everlyn developed fistula during her second pregnancy. Shunned and stigmatized by her own family, her husband stood by her side until she received successful treatment through the Action on Fistula program.
  • One.Womans.Story.Debora



    Debora lives in a tiny Angolan village quite far from any emergency medical services. In 2008, she was in labor with her fourth child for nearly a week before her uncle finally brought her to a hospital.
  • Rose website



    Rose developed a fistula after her very first pregnancy, and has been suffering because of it ever since. For over fifty years she struggled, never knowing that treatment was available....until recently when she met Sister Anna, the head nurse of Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center's fistula ward in Moshi.
  • Fatma



    When 18 year-old Fatma became pregnant, she did not have early and quality access to the healthcare she wanted when she gave birth. Fatma developed a fistula as a result of prolonged labor.
  • Grace



    Grace got married in 1994, and explained that she immediately felt a burden upon herself to give birth to as many children as possible as quickly as possible in order to earn respect and stability in her marriage. This, she said, is the status quo in the rural African context.
  • Raphael 1

    Pastor Raphael


    The fact that he is blind has never slowed him down, and at 45 years, Pastor Raphael is feeling young and energetic. As a child, Pastor Raphael was unable to finish school as he had tend to the family’s cattle, but he always felt a calling to become a pastor and to serve his community.
  • Jacklyn



    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.
  • 04_Kaudha_post-surgery



    Kaudha is from eastern Uganda. 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.
  • Jane_WADADIA_smiling



    As an outreach coordinator in rural western Kenya, Jane faces a number of challenges - including threats to her life - as she travels long distances in search of women suffering from fistula. But knowing that there are so many women who now enjoy life once again thanks to her efforts gives great meaning to her work.
  • Halima



    Originally from Somalia and now living in Kenya, in the world’s largest refugee camp, Halima has been through a hell few can imagine. But after traveling over 1,000 miles seeking fistula treatment, she is finally healed.
  • maryama fistula foundation



    Zeinabou comes from a village 100 miles north of Danja, Niger. She was married and became pregnant while still in her teens. As is the local custom, Zeinabou planned to deliver her baby at home because maternity services are not easily accessible.
  • Fistula Foundation - Binta



    Binta is 35 years old and from Fidi, a landlocked village in northwestern Guinea. At 14 years old she was forced to marry a much older man, and soon became pregnant. After five days of painful labor, she lost her baby. A few days later, she realized that she was not able to control her urine. The difficult labor had left her with an obstetric fistula.
  • Annonciata website



    Annonciata is a 56-year old mother and farmer from a small village in Budaka District in Uganda. She had previously given birth to six children without significant complications, but her seventh delivery did not go as planned.

We Need YOU!

To follow our work, sign up here for our e-newsletter...

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
* indicates required