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…
Margaret and Rose's Story
“I don’t think I want to recall what I went through and what my sister also went through,” Rose told our translator.
For nine years, Rose looked after her sister, Margaret, who suffered from obstetric fistula. At the age of 14, Margaret was raped while fetching water at the local stream. She became pregnant as a result, and endured a difficult labor, which resulted in a stillborn baby and an obstetric fistula. An orphan, Margaret had nowhere to go, and nobody to help her through this terrible tragedy – except her sister, Rose.
“I stood up to defend my sister, who is my deepest friend, because she needed to be with someone,” said Rose. She recalled the earliest days of her sister’s fistula, and how difficult it was. “It was rough, tough, humiliating, disgusting, and she was always in tears because there was no one who wanted to associate and mingle with her.” Margaret was treated like an outcast by all her other relatives and her community because of the foul smell of her incontinence. Her brothers refused to sell a small portion of family property left behind, that could have provided funds to help Margaret get care.
“Let her suffer. We will bury her when she dies,” the brothers had told Rose. But Rose would not abandon her sister. She took her in to her own home, to provide care for her sister alongside her husband and family. “Nobody stood by me to assist Margaret, except my dear husband,” Rose said. A young business owner, she put her career on hold to care for her sister. Instead of working, she spent more days at health facilities to ty to seek treatment for Margaret and eventually moved her business away from the busy market area to be closer to home, and closer to Margaret.
One day, Rose and Margaret were introduced to an outreach worker who works with Fistula Foundation’s Action on Fistula program in Kenya. She was promptly referred to treatment and today, Margaret is dry and happy once again with a new chance at life.
And Rose’s reaction upon learning that her sister was finally healed, after a decade of suffering? “This news came with a lot of joy and jubilation to me. It was a surprise to all who had rejected her, who never believed Margaret would be normal once again. I really thank the organization and all who supported Margaret when she was leaking continuously. The successful surgery was the most very good news I have had for a long time, after that long journey of suffering.”
Action on Fistula is a program led by Fistula Foundation, which is funded by Astellas Pharma EMEA.
- 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)