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Harriet's Story

Fistula Survivor to Successful Entrepreneur

By the time 20 year old Harriet arrived at the Women’s Reintegration Center in Soroti, Uganda her older husband had already abandoned her.

Child Bride to Entrepreneur

“I felt like my world had collapsed” sobbed Harriet who would constantly break down crying during counseling sessions when she first came to the center. She had labored for five days before she gave birth to a stillborn baby. Harriet survived, but life as she had known it was over. Her husband left after her first fistula surgery was unsuccessful and she was required to rest for three months before a second operation. An estimated 130,000 Ugandan girls suffer an obstetric fistula and abandonment following adolescent marriage and early pregnancy.

At the Reintegration Center, Harriet experienced much needed physical and emotional healing. Worldwide Fistula Fund (WFF) and partner TERREWODE in Uganda had launched the Center in 2013. Fistula survivors like Harriet receive treatment, counseling, nutrition, education and vocational jobs skills to rebuild their lives.

Harriet discovered an affinity for sewing and an economic opportunity. Entrepreneurship classes taught her how to secure a microloan from AWAC Village S&L Association. She quickly repaid the loan by sewing student uniforms for primary schools. Within one year, Harriet was sewing uniforms for three more schools. Now Harriet not only supports herself with her growing business, but she employs three other fistula survivors!

Healing and Economic Opportunity in Uganda

Fistula surgery is only the first step. Women like Harriet are not only abandoned by their husbands, but shunned and ridiculed by their communities. They live in isolation. After treatment, a woman with fistula needs support and vocational skills training to rebuild her life – services offered at the Women’s Reintegration Center in Soroti.

Harriet continues to grow her tailor business. She has reunited with her husband, and he is supportive of her new business.

WFF partner TERREWODE is located in Soroti, Uganda and works throughout the Teso region. They partner with WFF to help women with fistula access treatment, post-operative care, counseling, nutritional support, literacy education and entrepreneurial and vocational skills training. Through a network of local survivor and advocacy groups, TERREWODE helps women reintegrate back into their communities after treatment and promotes prevention education.