In honor of International Women’s Day, Fistula Foundation CEO Kate Grant writes about how access to surgery and vocational training is empowering women—and impacting entire communities in the process. Read the story of Rose on Global Moms Challenge: #WomenInspire: How access to surgery and vocational training is changing lives – Global Moms Challenge Rose Chelimo…
Gladys, 26, is from a very remote village in Kisii County, Kenya, in a region where child marriage and polygamy are common. Married at 18, she became pregnant with her first child a few months later. Her baby was born at the local health center with the help of a trained nurse.
In 2014, Gladys became pregnant with her second child. This pregnancy went as smoothly as the first one, but the delivery did not. She labored at home for the first 24 hours with the help of her husband, who eventually took her to the nearby health center. Because it was at night, it took Gladys and her husband three hours to find transportation to reach the hospital. They were finally able to get a motorbike, and had to travel for another hour to reach the health facility. Even after they arrived, it took two hours for the doctors there to help Gladys deliver her baby—a girl. Though her child survived, the ordeal left Gladys with a fistula.
As a result of her incontinence, she was abandoned by her husband. Gladys gave up hope that her injury could ever be healed. “I never knew what I was suffering from,” she says. “I thought I had been bewitched, since stool used to come out from me from the wrong place, and sometimes unexpectedly, and I had this stench that chased everyone away from me. But worse, I was shunned by everyone.”
Gladys sought help from different hospitals to no avail. For about two years, she lived with the shame and discomfort of her condition. Then one day, she heard a radio announcement that gave her hope. The outreach organization Daraja Mbili Vision Volunteers, a partner with our Action on Fistula program, was doing radio campaigns to educate community members about fistula and help women get free treatment. Gladys called the hotline and was referred to Kisii Gynocare Fistula Center, where she had successful fistula repair surgery in July 2016.
“Daraja Mbili Vision rescued me from this nightmare and gave me hope,” she says. “I am happy to say that today the future is looking brighter for women like me who have undergone fistula repair and are able to return to our communities.” Now healed, she is a happy woman. Just a few months following her surgery, she reports that she has started a small business selling bananas in a nearby market.
- 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)