At 14, Saidou was forced to marry her cousin. At 16, she became pregnant and gave birth to a stillborn baby. By 20, she had been living with a tear in her birth canal and leaking urine for four years.
The Worldwide Fistula Fund (WFF) helps women like Saidou suffering from obstetric fistula – a hole in the birth canal caused by prolonged, obstructed labor. Child brides like Saidou face higher chances of adolescent pregnancy and associated health risks like fistula or even maternal death. Those who survive often live like a shadow, ostracized by their family and community.
“Everybody in the village talks about you and your condition when you pass by,” Saidou said. “Some people just laugh at you and others say you are being punished by God for something bad you have done. With the fistula, it is just as if I do not exist. I have cried until my eyes are dry.”
By the time Saidou went into labor, she had received no prenatal care during her pregnancy. She labored at home for two days before eventually giving birth to a stillborn baby. She incurred a fistula from the traumatic childbirth and started to leak uncontrollably.
For a small tear, the fistula ripped apart Saidou’s life. Due to the odor, she was rejected by her community. A year later, she was abandoned by her husband, who took another wife. Saidou was devastated, as she and her husband had grown up together and hoped to start a family together.
Then I heard about the Danja Fistula Center (DFC) on the radio and came from Nigeria to have the surgery.
At WFF’s DFC in Danja, Niger, women receive free obstetric fistula repair surgery, rehabilitation and vocational and literacy skills training.
Now Saidou is on the road to recovery after her successful surgery. As she received comprehensive care, including housing, three meals a day and support from other women recovering from fistula surgery, she was healed in more ways than one. Saidou hopes to marry again, and start a new life.