The Setting: One by One’s sixth annual fundraiser.
The lights dimmed, the audience soon hushed, and the speaker, a young woman from Kenya, came diffidently to the podium.
“My name is Sarah Omega, and I am a fistula survivor.”
The details of her life came out as she told her story in a measured, steady fashion. Sarah was raped and impregnated at age 19 by a religious leader from her community. When it came time to give birth, she labored for many hours before being taken to a hospital. Unfortunately, she ended up having a stillborn baby.
Because Sarah had labored for so long, she was left with a fistula, a hole between the vagina and anus, which causes leaking of urine and sometimes feces. What she had really needed was a Cesarean section, which is unavailable to so many women in developing countries.
“I had to live with fistula for twelve years.”
During those twelve years, she struggled with feelings of rage and shame at her plight. At one point, she ended up in a psychiatric ward, severely depressed, for several weeks. Ironically, being in that place saved her.
Staff at the ward told her there was a doctor who repaired fistulas and a month later, she had her fistula repaired.
“I realized I had something to offer back to the society in my capacity as a fistula survivor.”
After Sarah told the amazing and moving story of Sylvia, a Kenyan woman who had lived with fistula for 51 years, there weren’t very many dry eyes in the audience. Check out this seven-minute movie, “We Will Come to You”, about Sarah’s journey to find Sylvia in a remote village to bring her to the hospital for fistula repair surgery. This lovely film gave me goosebumps, especially the part when Sarah says Sylvia had been “expecting” her.
Currently, Sarah is One by One’s Outreach Manager in Kenya, training regional representatives to do outreach in their communities, refer women with fistula for treatment, and provide emotional support for these women when they come home after their surgery.
They’ve had amazing success in the short time since the program began in September 2011:
- 30 Regional Representatives were trained and have already educated 23,000 Kenyans in just six weeks.
- Over 100 women with fistula have been found.
You can learn more about Sarah’s story here.