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Culture: do women have to bear the brunt?

Written by Aida Toye, Linking, Learning and Communications Assistant, Voice, Oxfam in Niger

Did you know that fistula is associated with giving birth, resulting in chronic incontinence of urine and/or feces? Did you know that it is caused by prolonged obstructed labour due to inaccessible medical interventions such as C-section and forceps delivery?

In Niger, a total 15,000 women suffer from obstetric fistula with nearly 750 reported new cases every year. Early child marriage is one of the causes resulting in early pregnancies in girls younger than 16 years. This was a recent statement by the Nigerien Minister of Health.

Fistula leads to stigmatisation, rejection by family and society. And the resulting incontinence problems usually lead to depression.

The Beautiful Echo project, led by Oralite Plus as part of an Innovate and Learn grant, works with fistula survivors by supporting them to create art as a way of dealing with the past and to prepare them for a sunny future. Mariama, a programme participant tells her story;

“My name is Mariama. I am 20 years old and I had a little boy. When I became fistulous my husband didn’t take care of me. He even embezzled 100,000 francs CFA that my parents in the village entrusted him with to accompany me to the hospital in Maradi. Then he went back to the village and completely cut me out of his life. Today, I don’t have a child. My dearest wish is to be cured of obstetric fistula and never to return to my husband’s house again.”

Despite everything, Mariama continues to be hopeful about her future and looks forward to being independent. She never misses a training session at the Oralite plus and has now explored different ways of making leather products.

Voice was informed that Mariama had a surgical operation thanks to the Maternal and Child Health centre and now lives free from fistula. She went back to the village where she lives with her parents while making commercial leather products.

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