Abandoned to a small hut by her family and community, Apio’s only visitor was her husband. He shunned her, but would occasionally sneak into the hut to rape Apio.
He would not wish anybody to know that he had come to my bed. Each time he came, he complained that I was smelling and not taking good care of myself.
The fistula worsened as Apio bore two more children while suffering from the injury.
Apio delivered her first child through cesarean section one year after marrying at 17-years-old. Her child survived, but she developed an obstetric fistula.
Almost 50 percent of women ages 20 to 49 were married by the age of 18 in Uganda — nearly 3 million women total, according to UNICEF.
A Traditional Birth Attendant oversaw Apio’s first delivery. When she saw the delivery was not going well, Apio’s mother-in-law lifted her onto a bicycle and took Apio 6 miles to the nearest health center. The heath center referred her to a hospital, but it took her another day to get there because of difficulties finding transportation.
When Apio returned home, she tried to resume her normal life, but she was rejected because of the fistula she had developed during the difficult labor.
For 7 years, Apio suffered from her injury and from her husband’s abuse. At 24-years-old, Apio was identified by a fistula advocate working with WFF’s Ugandan partner, TERREWODE. The advocate encouraged Apio to go to TERREWODE to receive surgery, but she refused until she met the Abarilela Women Fistula Solidarity group. The group of 26 fistula survivors and community members convinced Apio to get surgery.
Through TERREWODE, WFF’s supporters helped provide Apio with life-changing surgery, hospital transportation, nutritional meals, pre- and post-op counseling and reintegration training.
If it was not for TERREWODE, I would be no more. I got completely cured and even became exposed to better opportunities through the women fistula solidarity group I joined. It has enabled me to travel to places such as Kampala where I met the Speaker of Parliament in person. I never thought that would ever happen to me in my entire life.
Apio is now a tailor and hopes to add fashion design to her skill-set to give her a competitive edge.