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Defining unconditional support: 4 exemplary men

More often than not, women who contract obstetric fistula are abandoned by those they considered their closest relatives, including their life partners. Husbands who had promised to love their wives unconditionally, in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, and in joy as well as in sorrow flee the scene when the women suffer from incontinence. Beyond their physical wounds, most women with fistula also suffer from a deep feeling of betrayal and abandonment.

More generally, obstetric fistula is widely seen as a “women’s problem”. But during our last visit of WAHA’s Fistula Center in Assella, we met with a group of inspiring men: husbands by their wives’ side, fathers consoling their daughters, sons taking care of their mothers.

Here is what they had to say.

Ahmed, Samia's husbandI married her because I love her... Her family is now my family... How could I leave her? I am going to stay right here till she gets healed... I know she was very scared of the operation so I'm happy I was here for her... We will go back home together... If it was the other way around, I know she would have done the same for me... And when she gets better, we will have other children...”

Ahmed, Samia's husband

Samir, Fatima's husband
I know that some men change and become more distant when their wives get sick... but I am not ashamed of my wife... She did not become incontinent because she sinned, as some people seem to think... All I know is that it would have been a sin if I had not stayed by her side. ”
Samir, Fatima's husband

Karim, Halima's father
"When her labor became critical, her husband brought her to me and then he just took up and left... he disappeared... I've been taking care of her ever since... It's not just because she is my daughter, I would have done the same for any other women... no one should suffer like this... but her husband is a coward, really..."
Karim, Halima's father

Gizaw, Alem's son
"My mother has been incontinent for the last 34 years... After she contracted fistula, she stayed with my father and they had me... but after 5 years together, my father decided he no longer wanted to live with her... So they divorced... She raised me all by herself... Now that I've become an adult, I am taking care of her... I brought her to this Centre so that she can find her peace again... What my father did is unacceptable... what I want to say to men is that, you should not run away when your woman gets ill... It's your responsibility to help her get better...
Gizaw, Alem's son

The men we saw at the WAHA Fistula Centre in Assella epitomize the unconditional support that fistula sufferers need as to completely heal from their visible and invisible wounds. Their testimonies have shed light on one essential dimension: obstetric fistula is not exclusively a women's issue. Men should be just as equally concerned.


By WAHA’s team in Ethiopia