Having fistula was completely disruptive to Mary’s entire way of life, and directly impacted her ability to earn a living. Treatment and peer support programs gave Mary a meaningful improvement in the quality of her life. Today, Mary is operating a small business, participating in a micro-loan program, owns her own home, and is making plans to expand her business.
My name is Mary, and I lived with obstetric fistula for 26 years. During that time, I faced a lot of difficulties. I wouldn’t do any work and I would lock myself up in the house. Before being diagnosed with fistula, I had a small business where I sold tomatoes and bananas at the market. Additionally, I would buy fish and resell it in the Copperbelt province. But travelling to the Copperbelt for business proved challenging. I would carry my own plastic bucket for bathing and washing. I wouldn’t borrow a bucket from a friend, because I thought everyone knew about my condition. Eventually, it reached a point where I would shun travelling because of my condition, which adversely affected my small business.
I learned about access to treatment for fistula through a nurse who works at Mansa General Hospital. When Fistula Foundation was conducting the Fistula Surgery Outreach Camp in 2017 at Mansa General Hospital, the nurse came to my home in Mansa and informed me that my problem (vesico vaginal fistula) would now be cured. The next day, I went to Mansa General Hospital together with the nurse, I was screened and later underwent surgery.
I joined the fistula survivors group so that I can help other women who have gone through what I went through, by empowering them with small loans for them to start small businesses. The fistula survivors’ group in Mansa has income generating [activities], like growing tomatoes, vegetables, sewing doormats and cooking lunch for the theater team whenever there is fistula surgery at Mansa General Hospital. From the money raised through those activities, we started a small loan business where we give small loans to other fistula survivors. These loans are paid back with low interest per month.
I’m very grateful to our survivors’ group, as I have been able to complete building my own small house with the help of the loan that I received. And I’m looking forward to getting another loan after I finish paying off this current loan off, so that I can build another small house which I can put up for rent and earn extra income. I would like to see the survivor groups continue to help women access a small loan for a business or build a small house, like I have done.