The sierra-leonean story of fistula is complex in nature, but very simple in structure. early marriages lead to early child births which are usually done by TBA's, traditional birth attendants, also known as sowies, somewhere in a unstirile room is the leading cause of our fistula cases. I was brought on board on this project by the U.k based organization, Health Povery Action (HPA). My job seemed simple, go to the sub-regions like Kamakwe, talk with the women in a focus group, take photographs of fistula advocates, hear their stories and create a visual narrative that would supplement the National Conference on Fistula. In the process, Haikal Organization/ Foundation also got me on their projects in the communities they work with. The Director of Haikal Organization-Foundation, Haja Hawa Turay, a faith based community development organization said to me in our first official meeting "Fatou, this affects your women the most-fulah women. they are the most vulnerable, the least educated and they have the highest early marriages, this is about your community". I stare at her wondering what my response was suppose to be other than feeling very strongly that i needed to understand fistula better particularly in the Sierra-Leonean context.
|Community Gathering- Haikel Organization/Foundation-Mattru-Jong|
This girl is from Mattru-Jong, Southern Provence in Sierra-leone. She is 11 years old and suffers from traumatic fistula . The cause isn't early marriage and thus early birth, it is rape. She remains a minority in these types of fistula cases. This is a case handled by the Haikal Organization/Foundation.
This woman is 65, she too suffers from prolapse, 13 children later. she is survived by 7. she smiles at me after i take her photograph and shakes my hand. I am in awe of her dignity. She is also a Haikal Organization/Foundation case.
HPA takes me to Kamakwe, the regional head Regina Taqi Bash is a woman who inspires me. she is quiet in nature, she is filled with passion and knowledge. she cares, alot, but she also beleives we still shouldn't be talking about fistula-its such a simple condition to fix and even simplier to prevent (kinda).
These women are fistual advocates under HPA.
Marie & Mary.
|Marie & Mary- HPA Fistula Advocates|
Mary's husband abandoned her after she had fistula. she was cured, went back to her community, remarried and now has two children. she says anything is possible.
Back to Mattru-John:
these women are vocal and passionate. they are the ROLE MODELS of Haikal Organization/Foundation often referred to as champions. They talk to other women about family planning, the importance of delivering their children in hospitals, HIV/AIDS, rape and domestic violence. they talk to other women and give them hope- there is always a way.
|Role Model- Haikal Organization/Foundation|
is the leading cause of fistula cases in Sierra-Leone. many women still live in shame and isolation in the most remote and legislated of places across the country. relegated to the periphery, both men and women fistula advocates are working tirelessly to reach them and get them access to the health care services they deserve- a basic human right. The operation is free, accessibility to these free operational clinics is a barrier.
|Lunch Time at Community Meeting -Mattru-John: Haikal Organization/Foundation|
this is what i know for sure.....The fight continues, and i promise you this much, many many people are dedicated to seeing it minimized if not completely eradicated.
fambul dem this is how we do...