Jamila Khasim Dalile was married at 16 and became pregnant shortly afterwards. She labored for two days before she was able to get proper medical assistance. But it was too late. Jamila lost her baby and the prolonged labor left her with a fistula – an injury to the birth canal leaving her leaking urine. When her husband discovered her condition, he abandoned her.
Obstetric fistula is one of the most shattering consequences of child marriage, as young girls are especially prone to developing fistulas. Women suffering from obstetric fistula are often stigmatized in the community and face a life of isolation as they are typically excluded from normal social and economic activities.
Fortunately for Jamila, she was able to get help her fistula repaired at Comprehensive Community Based Rehabilitation in Tanzania (CCBRT). However, fistula treatment goes far beyond repairing the injury. Many patients – especially those who have lived with the condition for years – require emotional, economic and social support to fully recover from their ordeal.
CCBRT’s Mabinti Centre serves as a sanctuary for women and girls recovering from obstetric fistula operations and provides jobs and life skills training for fistula survivors like Jamila.
The Mabinti Centre trains young women recovering from fistula surgery in screen-printing, sewing, beading and crochet. During a 12-month course the trainees develop the knowledge and skills they need to establish an income and become financially independent. Women learn how to produce high quality textiles and how to use recycled materials in innovative ways. At the end of the year, each graduate is supplied with a starter kit to start a business. The kit contains a sewing machine, scissors, supply of fabric and a calculator. Mabinti also provides follow-up and support for an additional year, including home visits and monthly coaching sessions.
Johnson & Johnson partners with CCBRT and others, including the UNFPA-led Campaign to End Fistula, Women and Health Alliance International (WAHA), and Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, to help fistula survivors get back on their feet after surgery. Working with communities is also pivotal to reduce stigma surrounding the condition and ensure women are welcomed back into society.
Related: Video: Fistula in Tanzania