Jemi is 26 and suffered from the debilitating childbirth injury of fistula, which damaged her life for a year. Now she is a volunteer Fistula Advocate for Health Poverty Action, supporting women and sharing her experiences.
Back in 2006, Jemi became pregnant. She went into labour at home and her auntie sent for traditional medicine to help her to give birth. A traditional birth attendant tried to help her deliver by pushing on her stomach. After 3 days of obstructed labour, Jemi convinced her family to take her to the health centre. They agreed and carried her there on a hammock, arriving at night. She was told that her baby had already died and she should go to hospital the next morning, which was a further 25 miles by hammock.
At hospital she had a caesarean and was discharged, but then noticed her clothes were soaked. Her fistula caused her husband to leave her, returning her to her aunt with some money, as her parents had passed away. Some people in the community treated her badly and gossiped about her, while others were kind to her.
After a year had passed, her aunt was told about an operation that could repair her. Although she was scared, she was successfully operated on at our partner organisation, Mercy Ships, and was happy to receive soap and medication there. After being back home for a week, her husband’s mother came to beg her to go back to him now she was well but she refused. Jemi now has a new partner and is pregnant again and looking forward to having the baby, which will be delivered by caesarean at the hospital.
On volunteering as an advocate for us, she says “I am happy to talk to other people to help them avoid what happened to me. I also want them to have the chance to have repair surgery if they need it. I advise my friends and sisters to give birth at the health centre to avoid these problems”.
So far, Jemi has found two women with fistula. After her sessions in communities, they called her to one side and confided in her. She says: “I encouraged them to come forward for repair surgery and accompanied them to the hospital. When I see someone with fistula, I try to help them.”