“I was married off to my husband 10 years ago in Debark, north of Gondar. [There, it] was common for girls in our community to get married at an early age under 14 but my parents waited until I was 19 even though our neighbours warned them I may never get married and advised them to marry me off at an early age of 13.”
Alemitu is from Debark woreda, Turaina kebele which is 106 KM from Gondar town. Alemitu is now a 30 years old and a mother of an 8 year old boy who is constantly seeking his mother’s support.
“My first pregnancy occurred when I was 20 years old, when the excitement of being a newlywed was still with me. I was so proud to show that I could get married and be pregnant, and be accepted by the locals, especially for those who told my parents to marry me off at an earlier age. I thought my life was complete and filled with joy. Yet, I did not know what was to come.”
“It was customary for a pregnant woman to deliver at home and I presumed to do the same. When the time for my labor started I waited for about 3 days to deliver my child at home. The pain was so unbearable that I lost all my strength to push. When I became too weak and no one could do anything, my family took me to Debark hospital and I gave birth to a dead child. They said the foetus was distressed and I should have gone to a health facility as soon as the labor started.”
At the age of 22 Alemitu was pregnant with a second child.
“I was anxious to be pregnant again and to deliver a live baby this time. So God blessed me with a baby boy after going through a rough time with my first pregnancy. Then suddenly after 2 years my baby was partially paralyzed and sadness shadowed me once again. I could hear people talking behind my back, how unfortunate I was and the misery I had faced. At home also it was no paradise, my child needed me for his every movement unless he is sleeping. I had to carry him on my back when doing house chores or going out to the market or anywhere. It was so sad that I sometimes will not attend public gatherings and ceremonies. I preferred to stay home.”
When Alemitu’s boy reached 5 years old, she became pregnant for the third time. This time she hoped for a live baby and a healthy child to nurture.
“When it was time to deliver, I wanted to go to the hospital but everyone was against me so I had to endure 3 days in labor. Then when there was no sign of a baby coming out, my family took me to Debark hospital. I had to be surgically opened to deliver. It was a dead child again. No strength was with me to accept what happened, I was unconscious for more than 3 days. When I woke up I wished for a miracle, that it was all fine and I could kiss my baby but the fact was the same. The nurses removed the rubber tube which helped me to pass urine and told me to call them if my bed was wet.”
After few minutes, Alemitu called the nurse and told her that her bed was wet. Then she was told that she could no longer control her urine and she had to get treatment for the disorder at Gondar hospital fistula centre.
“That time, I could bear it no more. I was shocked, I felt cursed, recalled all the back talks I had listened on how unfortunate I was at once and believed it was all true. On top of this, I heard that my husband left me too. I felt suffocated and wanted to scream but couldn’t. Then immediately when the doctor referred me to Gondar hospital suggesting 3 months of stay at home, I refused to leave Debark hospital. I wished to be buried with my misfortune inside the hospital if I had to. The hospital nurses and doctors were considerate enough that they did not discharge me and let me stay inside the hospital for 3 months. It helped me to hide from the community; I could not face them anymore.”
After 3 months of stay at Debark hospital, Alemitu was transferred to Gondar hospital fistula centre by the hospital’s ambulance and received the treatment a week after her admission. She had a successful surgical repair.
“To tell you the truth, I did not believe I could be cured. I only went to Gondar hoping to have another hiding place. Then after the treatment, I was born again. It was a miracle. I was healthy again. “
Once cured, Alemitu went to her parents’ home with her six year’s old partially paralyzed child since she was forced to leave her own home. Her husband did not want to see her again. Even if she was healed, Alemitu had to live with some isolation reflected by the community because of her past troubles. She had to live for about a year, looking down, carrying her boy on her back and busy doing house chores inside her parents compound. She could not send her boy to school because the support she receives from her parents is only enough to feed them and she did not have an income to help her boy get walking aid or pay school fees. As a result, she became one of the women recruited for the socio-economic reintegration program by WAHA and part of the vocational training offered.
“Now, I have skills to produce items those can be sold and generate income of my own. I am so happy that this organization has helped me to get cured from my disorder without paying a penny and gave me a chance to support me and my child. Now my boy is 8 years old. He needs to get walking aids and start learning at school. May God repay you for what you did for me! I am happy to move ahead now! Thank you for letting me see that there is more to life than what I imagined and filling me with hope to see tomorrow.”
At the age of 30 Alemitu is inspired and ambitious to provide her boy with a better future. She is determined to teach those women trying to deliver at home and hiding behind closed doors because of fistula to come out and seek treatment at health facilities.