Fistula Foundation - Hellen Aoko

Meet Margaret

Margaret is 36 years old and from a very remote village in southwestern Kenya. In this area, child marriage and polygamy are very common. At 16 years old, Margaret’s parents arranged for her to become the third wife of a man more than three times her age. She tried to resist, but eventually gave in to the marriage due to pressure from her family and community.

Margaret's Story

After a few months, Margaret became pregnant with her first child. She delivered her baby at home with the help of her co-wives, and over the next few years delivered two additional children at home without issue. In 2010 Margaret became pregnant with her fourth child – the pregnancy went as smoothly as the first three, but the delivery did not. She labored at home for two days with the help of her co-wives, who eventually took her to get medical attention. It took them six hours on a motorbike to reach the nearest health center, and upon arrival the center was so ill-equipped that it lacked even the most basic medical supplies such as aspirin and gloves. It took another four hours for Margaret to reach the district hospital, where a C-section was finally performed.

When Margaret regained consciousness following the procedure, she was in excruciating pain. “I did not only lose my baby, but I also lost my uterus and ability to hold urine,” Margaret said. She soon lost her position as the youngest wife in the household because her husband wanted a new wife who could bear him more children. “I live a lonely life because my husband hardly comes to my house, his attention is on his new young and clean wife. I feel used and dumped, and my co-wives no longer help me as they used to.”

Thankfully, Margaret heard about our Action on Fistula program through a relative. She was linked with our outreach partner, Disciples of Mercy, who referred her for treatment at Gynocare Fistula Center. Her surgery was successful and she is currently in recovery. Margaret looks forward to putting her life back together when she returns home.

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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Read Another Woman’s Story

  • Landy

    Madagascar

    Landy became pregnant at 14 years old. When it came time to deliver, she labored at home as most women do in her village. But after a day of excruciating pain, her labor did not progress and her family took her to the village hospital. The baby did not survive.

  • Aneni

    Zimbabwe

    Before finding treatment through Fistula Foundation, Aneni* suffered with a terrible fistula for 35 years.

  • Merin’y

    Madagascar

    Merin'y is the mother of three healthy children, but when the time came to deliver her fourth child, things did not go as they had before. Her labor was long and intense, and resulted in an obstetric fistula.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Awetu

    Tanzania

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

  • 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.

  • Queen

    Kenya

    “When my husband saw the many health issues I had, he despised me, he called me names and always told me in the face that I was more than crippled.” She was left on her own and most of the time starving. She reached at a point that she could not withstand the mistreatment and she went back to her parents. After a few years her parents died. “I walk like a crippled woman, there is nothing that I own on this earth, I don’t have a husband, I don’t have a baby. My life is so empty.” She has said that her deepest desire has been to die a clean woman. But at Gynocare, where she received fistula surgery through the Action on Fistula program, she is happy. Here, she feels loved and valued. She knows she has a family at Gynocare.

  • Soazara

    Madagascar

    Soazara's husband abandoned her, because he could not stand her smell. Life became almost unbearable for her.

  • 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.

  • Domitila

    Domitila

    Angola

    In 2012 Domitila became pregnant with her 9th baby. During her final trimester, she had a severe episode of bleeding. Her family realized this indicated the baby had died, but hoped she would still be able to push it out on her own at home. When nothing happened, they finally took her to the hospital where a hysterectomy was done. After this, she no longer was able to control her urine - she had developed a fistula.

  • Meranesoa

    Madagascar

    Meranesoa’s husband accompanied her to the hospital for her fistula surgery, and said he had every intention of helping, supporting and standing by her side while she received and recovered from treatment.

  • Sokhina

    Bangladesh

    Sokhina endured four days of excruciating labor before delivering a stillborn baby. But her nightmare was just beginning: soon after she began to leak urine and learned that she had an obstetric fistula. She suffered with this injury for eight years before learning that help was available.

  • Fistula Foundation - Khadija

    Khadijah

    Chad

    Khadijah lived with fistula for 18 years, and it isolated her from everything and everyone around her. Originally from Chad's northern region of Bar Elgazel, she was married when she was only 14 years old. Her first pregnancy came three years afterwards and, not knowing the importance of seeking health care or treatment, she never received any prenatal care.

  • Hadija

    Guinea

    By age 27, Hadija had already given birth to four children. Sadly, only two of her children survived. Making things worse, her last pregnancy left Hadija with an obstetric fistula.

  • Siana

    Siana

    Burundi

    Siana is 17 years old and from Katanga Province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She developed an obstetric fistula after going through a difficult pregnancy at just 14.

  • Florinda

    Angola

    Living in a small village in central Angola, Florinda was married in her teens and became pregnant at 16. Without access to emergency obstetric care, her difficult delivery caused her to develop a fistula. But today, she is smiling again.