Married at 16 years old, Zenabo lives in a Burkina Faso society where the core value of a women is based on her ability to procreate. She was able to get pregnant, but suffered from miscarriages with her first two pregnancies. Zenabo wanted a baby and simply refused to give up on having one.
It seemed as though the third time was the charm when she got pregnant again at 19 and successfully carried the baby to full term. After an exasperating four days in labor her baby was stillborn. During labor, Zenabo had developed a severe fistula that left her with no control over her own bodily functions.
She was sent back to her parents for treatment.
Women who develop obstetric fistula will face judgment and rejection from their family and friends. Carrying a foul smell and shame from her husband, Zenabo was shunned from her village. The only person that stood by her side was her mother.
I was tired of washing her clothes every day because the smell was too much. Sometime my tears end up mixed in her wet clothes
Zenabo and her mother were both ashamed and confused as to why this was happening. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the money to get Zenabo the proper care she needed and had to take it day by day.
What did we do to deserve this? Without financial mean to go to a hospital, we were just managing our pain as we can. I had heard about this kind of problem, but I never imagine the misfortune it mean until my daughter got into it. I was left alone with her.
Zenabo’s mother brought Zenabo to ARENA, a WFF partner. Her mother was so grateful her daughter was getting treatment that she went around the hospital helping the other patients wash their clothes and do the dishes after they finished their meals.
Zenabo woke up from her surgery with regained control and a repaired fistula. Her surgery was a success, but Zenabo was traumatized by fear. She didn’t want to leave the hospital because she was worried she’d continue to be stigmatized by her community.
Even healed now, I am scared about people looking at me in the village as an animal.
Our care doesn’t end after surgery. A woman recovering from fistula needs counseling and support to address the psychological impacts of being rejected. Zenabo will continue to recover and go through our social reintegration program to regain the self-confidence needed to return to her community.