For many children in Osokotoit Village in Serere District, Uganda, there is a very thin line between poor health and a despondent childhood. For many girls, this is the first step towards the ladder of failure to realize their dreams. Mary Amongin knows the struggles of girls in Osokotoit Village. The 15-year-old first born of seven children has been fighting fistula ever since she can remember.
I was sexually assaulted when I was seven years old and developed obstetric fistula. At the time, I did not know what it was. I had constant abdominal pain and would pass urine uncontrollably. I had a very bad odor.
Had I been bewitched? I kept asking myself. I though God hated me so much to have allowed me to suffer through such a fate. I did not know any other person with the condition, I believed I was cursed. I felt filthy and was embarrassed all the time. I was confused and afraid, and for the longest time, I did not tell my mother what was going on.
My mother noticed the difference in me and she tried to interact with me more. When I turned eight, I told her about my situation and how my body felt; like a stranger’s. She was very caring and took me to Ongino Hospital in Kumi District where I was evaluated. They did not, however, treat my condition. After a while, I lost hope, believing I was destined to always have the condition. I did not see the need to visit the facility anymore.
I could not concentrate in school because the pupils would talk about me. This took a toll on my grades. So I decided to drop out of school and save myself the embarrassment of being a topic of discussion. My teachers tried to help me, but I had not told them what I was suffering from, so they could not do much.
The backbiting became a blessing in disguise as the Amref Health Africa’s Staying Alive Project through the Village Health Team (VHT) leader scouting for females with my kind of problem, heard about me through my school head teacher.
When I was first told about it, I was ashamed, as even my head teacher, a man, knew about my condition. But the VHT counseled me and sensitized me about fistula. I learnt that I was not alone in the fight, and that the condition could be reversed.
My parents and I agreed that the procedure would help me and so I registered for it. My fistula was fixed at Soroti Hospital and my life changed since then. I am now waiting to do my final exam in school and my grades are up. I am confident and have made several friends both at home and in school.”
Written by Rebecca Mulungi, Amref Health Africa in Uganda