Borgen Magazine highlights the Action on Fistula program in Kenya, interviewing Fistula Foundation Senior Program Director Lindsey Pollaczek. Read the full article at the link below: Action on Fistula: An Innovative Program to End Obstetric Fistula KENYA – Gladys, a 26 years old mother of two, felt helpless after the labor and birth of her…
Christine A.'s Story
Christine grew up in a polygamous family where her mother was the sixth wife. She never spent much time with her father, sometimes seeing him only once every two months. When she did see him, it was not a happy time. As a teenager, she would secretly cry after witnessing her father mistreat her mother with verbal and physical assaults. When she turned 18, she decided to move in with her boyfriend as a way to escape.
They married, and although she and her husband struggled without a source of income, for the first time she experienced peace. Nearly one year after marriage, Christine became pregnant with her first child.
“With so much love and support from my husband, I successfully delivered at a health facility. And so it was with my other [subsequent] five children. My husband passed on in 1998 when I was pregnant with our sixth child,” said Christine.
At 28 years old, she had become a widow and life changed overnight. “Before burying my husband everything had been taken away from me, including his clothes. Everyone from my husband’s side turned their back on me. I was even falsely accused for being behind his death.”
The day of her husband’s burial, Christine went in to labor with their sixth child.
Barely 3 months after the burial of her husband, Christine received a surprise visit from her four brothers-in-law and a village elder. It was 11:45pm and Christine had no idea why they had arrived. Then the village elder stood and declared that according to Luo tradition, it was time for him to carry out his mandate before midnight.
“The village elder wore a red robe, held something in a liquid form, and stood and chanted some words while sprinkling the liquid substance all over my house. At midnight on the dot, he declared I was now free from any attachment from my late husband and I was now free to be inherited. Immediately after the declaration, three of my brothers-in-law and the village elder left, leaving behind the eldest brother-in-law,” Christine recounted. The eldest brother-in-law then stood and declared that he would resume Christine’s late husband’s position and responsibilities.
Her new husband was very different from her first. He did not support her, spent most of his time with his three other wives, didn’t keep his word of providing for her children, and arrived at her home only when it pleased him. Soon, Christine had become pregnant with her seventh child.
When Christine’s labor began, her husband called his three other wives to help her deliver at her home while he drank his traditional brew in his private room. After 25 hours of being in labor, Christine delivered a healthy baby. But two weeks after delivery, she realized that she had begun to leak urine uncontrollably.
“As soon as my new husband learned about my condition, he went and I never saw his face again – apart from when he came to ask me to go back to my parents’ home because he was planning to start cultivating the piece of land surrounding my house,” said Christine. She said she was insulted, called names publicly, and finally was forcefully evicted from her home along with her seven children.
She shared her story while awaiting free obstetric fistula repair surgery at Cherangany Nursing Home, a partner in Fistula Foundation’s Action on Fistula initiative.
“I am hoping to get cured,” said Christine. “I am very optimistic! I will again stand on my two feet. I have had many losses, but all is not gone! Thanks to the opportunity to get treated, I will live again!”
- 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)