Meet Janet

Janet can't explain how she ended up at the political rally that day, but it changed her life forever.

Janet's Story

“I stood at the farthest end of the field as I listened to a politician selling his manifesto at a shopping center in our village. As he continued with his agenda of convincing the members of the public to vote for him, at one point, he started calling on any woman with the leakage of stool or urine to come forth. I hesitated for a while, but when I saw two women coming out, I courageously decided to join them. That same day, we were brought here to receive surgical treatment. It’s true that “mourning may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” My morning has come! My morning has come!”

-Janet, pictured above, describes her path to the Kisii Gynocare Fistula Center

Janet is from Narok, a Maasai community in western Kenya. She is the mother of four healthy children, each delivered with the help of her mother-in-law, who happens to be known as the finest traditional birth attendant in the village. When Janet became pregnant with her fifth baby, her pregnancy progressed normally, until she went in to labor. She labored with the help of her mother-in-law for two days before it became evident to all that Janet needed professional medical attention.

“I almost died in the hands of my mother-in-law,” Janet recounted. But she was rushed to the hospital where her life was saved. Her baby did not survive. After one week, Janet realized that she had begun to leak urine. Her prolonged obstructed labor had resulted in an obstetric fistula.

Day after day, Janet kept hoping her problem would go away, but days turned into weeks, then months. Eventually 14 years had passed since she had developed fistula.

“I was always on my own. I avoided social places. Life became even worse when my husband died, because I struggled a lot to make ends meet. On several occasions, I was denied menial work because of my bad odor. I will never forget the time a young woman chased me from her compound, shouting at me: go away, you stinking woman! Sadness overflowed my heart and I wondered why death chose to take a healthy man like my husband instead of me, since I was already half dead and rotten,” Janet said.

Janet can’t explain how she found herself at the political rally that day, since she usually avoids being in crowded public places. She attributes it to divine intervention. Today, at the age of 40, she is healed and finally free of her fistula.

“I have never voted,” said Janet, “But now since I am clean and I can freely mingle with other people, I can’t wait to vote for my preferred candidates after not being able to vote in the last four elections. And you can be sure, the candidate who sent me for treatment has my vote.”

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

News
A game-changer for fistula in Kenya

Launched in 2014 thanks to support from Astellas Pharma EMEA, Action on Fistula has provided training to increase the number of surgeons treating fistula in Kenya, developed a countrywide network of hospitals offering free treatment, and has delivered free reparative surgery to more than 2,500 women suffering from this devastating childbirth injury.

News
Action on Fistula: An Innovative Program to End Obstetric Fistula

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…

Read Another Woman’s Story

  • Pastor Raphael

    Kenya

    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.

  • Tahinomenjanahary

    Madagascar

    Tahinomenjanahary went in to labor at the age of 17. Her labor was excruciating, but she did not begin the journey to the nearest hospital until she had been in labor for more than a day. In total, she labored for three days. The baby did not survive.

  • Mary

    Kenya

    Mary's first two pregnancies progressed normally, giving her two healthy children. But she never could have imagined what would happen when it came time to deliver her third child.

  • Selina

    Kenya

    Selina, a traditional birth attendant from remote West Pokot, Kenya, helped eight women from her village get life-changing fistula surgery. And she’s not done yet.

  • Maho

    Madagascar

    At 20 years old, Maho is mother to two healthy children. In June 2016, when giving birth to her third child, her labor went quite differently. She endured an excruciating labor that lasted three days and resulted in a C-section. Her child did not survive, and Maho had begun to leak urine.

  • Fistula Foundation - Binta

    Binta

    Guinea

    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.

  • Celestine

    Kenya

    In obstructed labor with her sixth child, Celestine was rushed to her local health facility, only to be told she couldn’t have emergency surgery until her family made a down payment. Anxious and afraid, she waited for her husband to return with the money needed.

  • Grace

    Kenya

    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.

  • Alphonsia

    Tanzania

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

  • Jenipher

    Zambia

    While giving birth to her fifth child in 1998, Jenipher endured a prolonged labor, and her baby was stillborn. Afterwards, Jenipher began leaking uncontrollably- she had developed an obstetric fistula. After 18 years of living with fistula, she had all but given up hope of getting treatment, until she heard a comforting voice on the radio.

  • 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.

  • Alradya-Sudan

    Alradya

    Sudan

    Alradya is 17 years old and lives in northern Sudan. When she was 15, she was married to her cousin, a farmer. She became pregnant and when she went into labor, had only her mother at her side. She endured excruciating labor for two days, but there was still no sign of the baby, which she could no longer feel moving. A traditional birth attendant was summoned to examine Alradya, who ordered that she be sent to the nearest hospital.

  • Rahima

    Bangladesh

    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.

  • Solange

    Madagascar

    Solange spent the majority of her teenage years suffering from obstetric fistula.

  • Nathi-Uganda

    Nathi

    Uganda

    Nathi* lives in Uganda. She was married at the age of 13 and two years later was pregnant with her first child. After enduring a difficult labor, Nathi lost her baby and was left with obstetric fistula, incontinent and leaking wastes. Her husband abandoned her and soon after, her family did, too. At 15, she was alone and scared.

  • Awetu

    Tanzania

    After Awetu developed a fistula following a difficult labor and delivery, her husband left her and married another. She was heartbroken.

  • Vinesy

    Madagascar

    Vinesy had surgery in April 2013 for appendicitis, but something went wrong and she became incontinent as a result. She had developed an iatrogenic fistula as a result of the procedure and had begun to leak urine uncontrollably.