Some 20 out of 24 women treated of obstetric fistula have been trained on hygiene, sanitation, protection and development of livelihood plans. The women were trained in Bamenda and Nkambe
on June 1 and 4, 2022 respectively. The trainings were organized by the Socio-Economic Empowerment of Females with Fistula (SEEFF), a project implemented by the CBC Health services with support from Hope and Healing International and UNFPA.
The 5 months (February to June 2022) pilot project is being implemented in the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon with activities aimed at mobilizing the treatment of 34 females with fistula. Since the start of the project in February 2022, 28 females have had their fistulae repaired with a high rate of success according to the CBC Health Services, Urologist and Obstetric Fistula treatment expert, Dr. Ebogo and his collaborators.
Obstetric Fistula is a childbirth injury which occurs when a woman or girl suffers prolonged or obstructed labour or some other trauma without timely medical intervention and which leads to incontinence or constant and uncontrollable leaking of urine and/or feces through the vagina. While some of the beneficiaries have experienced a complete halt of urine/faeces leakage, others have witnessed a reduction in the rate of leakage with all of them gaining total or partial continence.
It was a happy group of women who after undergoing surgeries for the repair of their fistulae, turned out to receive knowledge that will help them reintegrate into their communities. This is because before treatment these women have faced a litany of challenges including shame, stigma, discrimination, divorce and, rejection that caused most of them to isolate themselves from other community members. This has resulted to over a long period of time, loss of self-confidence and self-worth, and consequently loss of social status at all levels within their communities. They also experienced deepened hardship due to their loss of livelihood as a result of the obstetric fistula. More so, many of these women have lived in ignorance and have suffered abuse and violence at different points in their lives that has compounded their issues.
It is for the above reasons that during the training, the Main Facilitator, Mrs. Boyo Maurine, the Psychosocial Support Focal Point for the SEEFF project, among other things, drilled participants on self-assertiveness skills and positive coping mechanisms. She encouraged participants to brace up for the future as advocates for women in similar situations and to use their stories to encourage them to take up services. Mrs. Boyo reiterated the place of self confidence, assertive communication and the power of positive energy in the process of reintegration.
The participants were also exposed to knowledge on the rights of women and girls and gender-based violence response. They were assisted to develop livelihood plans with most of them planning to engage in business and acquisition of skills in different trades to strengthen their socio-economic empowerment. Once their plans are assessed and properly analyzed in the days ahead, the project will assist them with start off capital in the form of conditional cash transfer.
One of the beneficiaries, Achuo Irene disclosed that she has lived with obstetric fistula for close to 20 years and avoided all social gatherings including family gatherings because of stigma. She lamented that she was often referred to as smelling thing and was avoided. She also depended largely on the goodwill of her parents for survival. With excitement, she says, she has started going to different types of social gatherings and plans to start a business to sustain a living and lead an independent life.
Nandze Regina, for her part, says she has started going to social gatherings during the day unlike before when she could only go to gatherings like funerals at night because of fear of being embarrassed by urine leakage.
The project comes to an end on June 30, 2022 with hopes of a second phase.