“Women are going to form a chain, a greater sisterhood than the world has ever known.”
Nellie L McClung
In her shoes
I’m ashamed to say I had never heard of fistula until I read a novel about a decade ago. The doctor in the story referred to a particular case of a young girl making her way to the hospital after having been cast out by her village and eventually, her own family. Incontinent as a result of an obstetric fistula, with each step she would be leaking urine but she was driven on by the knowledge that this hospital offered hope and with a simple operation, she would be able to live a normal life again. She would be able to return to her home, work and even choose to have children again in the future.
A few years ago I met someone who reignited my passion for women’s issues. I had transitioned from a hopeful young adult ready to change the world, to a battle hardened (almost middle aged) mother of three children. On the way I had lost some of that hope that I could make a difference. I now know we have to make the difference.
It was only when I read ‘Half the Sky’ by Kristof and WuDunn that I appreciated how common fistula still is in parts of the world. Every 2 seconds a woman is seriously injured or disabled through giving birth and an estimated 2 million women and girls in Africa are suffering from obstetric fistula caused by prolonged, obstructed childbirth and lack of access to maternity care. Due to their associated incontinence, they are often subjected to a life of isolation.
In the UK we take for granted that we will be offered a caesarean should the life of our baby or the life of the mother be at risk due to complications of childbirth. In other parts of the world, an obstructed childbirth will often lead to the death of the baby and long term complications for the mother.
Hope in action
There are several charities already tackling this problem both in terms of prevention, through good maternity and healthcare and in terms of a cure, through surgery. As part of my 40th birthday celebrations, I have chosen to support Freedom from Fistula Foundation partly because all their administrative costs are met by The Gloag Foundation meaning all donations directly help those who need it most.
The charity helps these women and girls by providing free surgeries to heal their fistulas and free maternity care to prevent fistulas and ensure safe childbirth. They also train local healthcare workers and help thousands of women every year. I have set up a Just Giving page for any donations you may wish to give to support this charity (www.justgiving.com/fortycubedforfistula). For more information on the charity, please have a look at their website www.freedomfromfistula.org.uk.
The Fortycubed Plan
Fundraising in earnest starts next year when I hit the milestone birthday. Rather than seeking sponsorship or straightforward donations, I intend to organise a year of fundraising events and activities from October 2017-October 2018. I have launched this blog a year in advance as friends and family had already started making donations and I wanted to make sure the money got to the charities as quickly as possible so it can be put to good use.