Meet Wilmina

“The last 22 years have been years of great pain, loss and very deep sorrows. I lost my baby, later lost my marriage, lost friends, and lost my only family (my parents). Fistula robbed me of everything that I once valued, and I have been left very empty.”

Wilmina's Story

“The last 22 years have been years of great pain, loss and very deep sorrows. I lost my baby, later lost my marriage, lost friends, and lost my only family (my parents). Fistula robbed me of everything that I once valued, and I have been left very empty,” Wilmina shared.

Wilmina was married at the age of 18. Like other girls in her village in this position, Wilmina was excited and full of expectations for her new married life. Everything went blissfully until complications arose during her first childbirth. She ended up delivering a stillborn child through a Caesarean section. It was a devastating time for her.

“As I went through the trauma of losing my baby, I kept reassuring myself that I would soon recover and move on. But little did I know that there was another tragedy waiting to strike. On the 5th day following my delivery, I woke up and found all my bedding wet. When I stood up, urine poured on the floor. After consultation from the nurse’s desk, it was confirmed that I had developed an obstetric fistula. My world tore apart, my dreams shattered and my hope faded away when I was told that my condition was not treatable,” said Wilmina.

There is a saying in Wilmina’s community, that “When Mr. Problems knocks on your door, he comes in in with his entire clan.”

When Wilmina was discharged from hospital, her husband accompanied her home. He had acted very supportive at the hospital, but she would soon realize that it was an act. As soon as they got home, Wilmina found all of her belongings already packed. That same day, her husband escorted her back to her parents’ home, claiming that Wilmina was a bad omen to his family.

“Was it really my fault? Did I make a mistake by fulfilling my divine mandate of child bearing? Is it wrong to be born a woman?” These were the questions that Wilmina kept asking herself.

Then, tragedy struck again. One day, Wilmina returned to her parents’ house after fetching water, to discover that her parents had been murdered in cold blood.

“It was not easy for me to handle all of that with my obstetric fistula and all the problems surrounding my life, and yet being the only child of my parents. After my parents’ burial, I was asked to leave because my uncle was now the rightful owner of all that belonged to my father since I was not a male child.

“A good Samaritan took me in and built me a small hut on the furthest end of his farm, which I deeply appreciate,” Wilmina shared. “For 22 years I have lived there. I have been sent into loneliness, I have lost all, misfortunes have pursued me, and tears have been like my daily bread. Every day I ask myself why am I still alive?”

Wilmina has undergone three corrective surgeries, all of which have been unsuccessful. When she spoke with Fistula Foundation, she was awaiting her fourth surgery at our partner facility, Gynocare Women’s & Fistula Hospital, where her surgery will be supported through our Action on Fistula program.

She is trying to remain hopeful, but after so much sadness, it is difficult. Instead she asks, “Will I ever know a good life?”

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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    Towanda is 20 years old and from a rural area just outside of Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital city. Four years ago at the age of 16, she became pregnant. When the time came to deliver, there were a lot of complications.

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    A mother of two, Harka Maya lives in Sindhuli, Nepal, roughly 80 miles (129 km) from Kathmandu. She developed a fistula last summer, while in labor with her third child. Being from a poor farming family, it was customary for her to deliver at home.

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    Gul lives in Afghanistan. At 13 years old, her father arranged for her to marry an older man who had another wife, and after one year of marriage, Gul became pregnant. When she went into labor, it lasted for two days. There were no clinics or doctors where she lived and Gul's husband became worried. He took her to her father's house, where Gul's father killed a sheep and placed the sheepskin on her as part of a traditional treatment used in her area. After three days of wearing the sheepskin, Gul delivered a stillborn baby.

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  • Aneni

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  • Reeta

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    Reeta arrived at International Nepal Foundation's fistula clinic with her younger son, Tej. They live in Kanchenpur, a 9 hour journey by bus from Surkhet. Reeta developed an obstetric fistula after her youngest son’s birth 33 years ago. She had delivered two sons previously at home without difficulty, but the third labor was more complicated.

  • 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.

  • Annet Jane

    Annet Jane

    Uganda

    Pregnant at 14, Annet Jane suffered with a fistula for 23 years before receiving treatment. Now, she has hope for the future.

  • Rasoanirina

    Madagascar

    Extremely shy, and embarrassed by her condition, Rasoanirina stopped going to school.

  • Naresia Kenya

    Naresia

    Kenya

    Naresia is a Masai girl from a rural village in Kenya. Only five months ago, at the age of 14, Naresia gave birth to a baby. After a prolonged and difficult labor, she awoke to find her bed soaked with urine. The doctors informed her that the delivery process had left her with an obstetric fistula and she was now incontinent.

  • 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.

  • Flavia

    Flavia

    Angola

    Flavia is a shy 17 year old girl who was married when she was just 15. Soon after, she became pregnant. Her labor began at home, but the family was unprepared when the labor became obstructed. Not knowing what to do, they finally took her to a hospital.

  • Elvanah

    Madagascar

    Elvanah gave birth to her first child at the age of 17. Her labor became obstructed, and ultimately was delivered via C-section. Her prolonged obstructed labor had resulted in an obstetric fistula.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Aidah

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    72 year old Aidah lived with obstetric fistula for an astounding 41 years before accessing treatment at Evangel Vesico-Vaginal Fistula Center in Jos. Her family stuck by her side the entire time, and recounted to hospital staff how fistula severely limited her (and their) opportunities and success in life.

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    Halima

    Somalia

    Halima is yet another brave fistula survivor from Somalia. “When I went to labour, the pain got stronger and stronger and lasted on and on. Something was not right. It took two days to convince my husband to bring me to a health facility. The doctors that saw me decided to immediately carry out a cesarean section. But they had no anesthesia. The pain was unbearable, and when I screamed they started beating me. My baby could not be saved and I developed what I later learned was an obstetric fistula. My husband left me because he could not stand the smell caused by my injury.”