In 2018, Seattle-based fistula organization One By One (OBO) joined forces with WFF. The good work started by OBO in Kenya is carried on under the WFF name. WFF and OBO are natural partners because programming for each has always been based on the same philosophy: beyond funding, we strategically partner with local groups in low-resource countries to help locals address women’s healthcare needs. Together since 2018, we serve women and girls suffering from childbirth injuries. Let’s End Fistula Phase II programming continues to draw on the support and expertise of the Seattle OBO community that originally developed and launched it.
Let’s End Fistula: History
What will it take to end fistula and empower women and girls who have suffered to rebuild their lives?
In 2010, OBO asked this simple question during their first strategic planning process. Here was their answer:
- Intensive rural outreach to educate communities about fistula and the availability of free treatment, and find women in need of care.
- Transportation and surgical treatment provided free of charge to restore dignity and opportunity for a productive life.
- Social reintegration support to facilitate continued physical and emotional healing following surgical treatment, rebuilding of family and community relationships, and economic empowerment.
- Prevention initiatives aimed at increasing access to safe childbirth so that fistula and other devastating outcomes do not happen in the first place.
OBO launched Let’s End Fistula (Phase I) in 2011 with plans to address all four essential pillars of holistic care in a single region: Western Kenya. OBO partnered with leading Kenyan fistula surgeon, Dr. Hillary Mabeya, to establish Gynocare Fistula Center in Eldoret — the first facility in Kenya to provide year-round fistula care. Under the leadership of three extraordinary Kenyan women, we trained and mentored thirty Regional Representatives to serve as educators and advocates in their own rural communities. From 2011-2015, this team carried out 4,000 community education sessions, reaching 275,000 women, men and youth with information about fistula and the availability of free treatment. Over 1,000 women and girls received life-transforming treatment.
Let’s End Fistula: Present
Building on the success of Let’s End Fistula (Phase I), OBO launched Phase ll in 2017, which continues under WFF in 2018. Phase II focuses on social reintegration and economic empowerment. In our 2017 pilot year, the dedicated leadership team and 28 Regional Representatives recruited 216 survivors to form 12 solidarity groups for mutual support in social reintegration and economic empowerment following surgical treatment. After submitting detailed business plans, each solidarity group received seed funds to launch their approved economic development initiative. A great deal of anecdotal evidence confirms the benefits of our program to survivors’ economic positions and quality of life.
We are currently quantifying our pilot year success through baseline and post-year data collected on the experience of each survivor. In addition to supporting economic empowerment, solidarity group participants will be trained as their communities’ ambassador for safe childbirth. As fistula survivors, we believe they are uniquely positioned to be powerful advocates and make a vital contribution to ending fistula.