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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)
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We’re Making a Difference in Kenya

Read Another Woman’s Story

  • Bernard

    Kenya

    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.

  • Esther

    Kenya

    Esther gave birth to her second child, Manuel, less than one year ago. She was encouraged to stay at home to deliver the baby, where she labored for three days with the help of a traditional birth attendant. Fortunately, she gave birth to a lively baby boy. However, after four days she noticed she was leaking urine and was unable to control it.

  • Doris

    Zambia

    After two days of labor at a clinic hear her village, Doris was transferred to a hospital where the staff refused to give her the cesarean section she needed because "she was going to die anyway." Her baby did not survive and Doris developed an obstetric fistula. Her husband left, and soon, so did her hope.

  • Fatima, from Sudan (photo credit: WAHA)

    Fatima

    Sudan

    Fatima lives in Sudan. She went into labor at the age of 16, but initially didn't have access to a hospital. By the time she was taken to the hospital, the baby was dead, and Fatima developed an obstetric fistula. Her husband divorced her, leaving Fatima emotionally shattered by the loss of her husband and first born child.

  • Zatindravelo

    Madagascar

    When it came time to deliver her baby, Zatindravelo dutifully made her way to a medical facility to deliver, but her labor took a turn for the worse when there were no doctors or nurses present to assist her when she needed them most. She labored for 17 hours with her first child. The child did not survive. As a result of her prolonged, unrelieved labor, she had developed obstetric fistula.

  • Momakely

    Madagascar

    When it came time to deliver her baby, Momakely made her way to a health facility a great distance away from her home. But her labor was prolonged and difficult, and her baby did not survive. Momakely was left with an obstetric fistula for five years, until she learned about free fistula services offered by SALFA.

  • Marizany

    Madagascar

    At the age of 18, Marizany and her husband looked forward to the arrival of their first child. But labor did not go as planned, and Marizany was left with an obstetric fistula, leaking urine uncontrollably. She suffered from fistula for 28 years.

  • Salha

    Tanzania

    Salha had a complicated and prolonged labor before she was finally brought to a hospital in the Mtwara region of Tanzania. There she received an emergency C-section section, but it was too late. Tragically, Salha’s baby had already died. A few days later, Salha realized she was leaking urine.

  • Lucie

    Madagascar

    With a tube down her nose to her stomach, Lucie was unable to talk. Her sister, Elysa, relayed this story on her behalf.

  • 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.

  • Kemzo

    Madagascar

    Kemzo endured two to three days of excruciating labor before being taken to get a C-section at a public hospital in Vangaindrano. The prolonged obstructed labor had resulted in obstetric fistula.

  • Pushpa

    Nepal

    Pushpa is approximately 50 years old and from a remote village in western Nepal. When she arrived at Kathmandu Model Hospital, she was leaking urine and feces uncontrollably and was severely depressed.

  • Brenda

    Brenda

    Kenya

    Thanks to a newly opened fistula hospital close to her home in Kisii, Kenya, 17-year-old Brenda was able to get treatment after six months. Now that she is healed, she has dreams of returning to school to become a nurse.

  • Habiba-Niger

    Habiba

    Niger

    Habiba was married at 16 and pregnant with her first child soon thereafter. She began labor at home, as most women do in Niger. After enduring two days of painful, obstructed labor, she was sent in an ox-cart to the nearest hospital. By the time she received a Caesarian section, Habiba had been in labor for four days. Her baby did not survive.

  • Salome

    Kenya

    Salome's labor began at night. She sought help from her mother-in-law, who immediately called Salome's husband - by cultural norms, the only one who could give permission for Salome to seek help at a hospital. But he had turned his phone off for the night and was unreachable. Her mother-in-law tried all she could throughout the night to help Salome deliver her child. By the time Salome's husband returned the call the next morning to advise that she be taken immediately to the hospital, it was too late. The baby did not survive, and Salome had developed an obstetric fistula.

  • Rahila

    Guinea

    Rahila never had the opportunity to attend school; instead, she sells donuts in the market and farms for a living. She married at age 14 and became pregnant soon thereafter. Unfortunately, Rahila developed obstetric fistula during delivery and was left leaking urine and feces.

  • 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.

  • 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.