Bringing Awareness to Fistula
“I Am African & I Can” is a women’s empowerment blog highlighting stories of black women’s struggles and successes.
Hadiatou Wann is the creator of "I AM AFRICAN & I CAN" as well as the writer and editor for the blog. She is the author of "Magnetic Bond: The Love Every Woman Deserves," a nonfiction narrative empowering women to take charge of their love lives.
By Hadiatou Wann | 08/23/19
Some are passionate about numbers, others are passionate about building software. Habiba Cooper Diallo is passionate about bringing awareness to a medical plight affecting women during child birth.
Bearing a child is a feeling most women hope to experience at some point in their lives. However, bringing a human being into the world can cause life-threatening defects.
When Habiba was a teen, she came across a story in the Wall Street Journal that opened her eyes to fistula. What is fistula? It is a condition where soft tissues are torn as the baby descends the birth canal, resulting in uncontrollable leakage.
"This occurs when the baby gets stuck in the birth canal due to being in the wrong position or due to a head that is too large in comparison to the size of the mother's pelvis,” she explained.
The story Habiba read was about a girl, Anafghat Ayouba, from Niger who lost her baby during childbirth, and developed fistula due to complications. The young girl was treated and became an advocate for fistula. Unfortunately, she died 3 years later due to an infection.
Though Anafghat died, her story remained engraved in Habiba’s heart. In 2015, inspired by Anafghat’s story, Habiba published “Yeshialem Learns About Fistula.” The book educates the public about fistula.
“Literature is a reflection of reality,” the writer said. “You have to fight to make your voice heard, especially as a black writer.”
In December, Habiba traveled to Ghana and met women affected by fistula. After a complicated childbirth, the woman leaks urine or feces because her organs have been wrecked. When Habiba visited the women affected by fistula, the victims expressed that they are ostracized. Husbands can't be intimate with them, so they abandon them. Others won't eat or go near them because of the strong odor that permeates the room.
Normally, doctors recommend an emergency Caesarean section when they detect the woman will have a complicated delivery. If the woman does not get a C-section, she risks getting fistula.
Women affected by fistula are usually from developing countries; they can't afford a Cesarean or live in remote areas where a hospital is not accessible. They end up undergoing a prolonged labor which lasts 3 days or longer.
“Alot of women don’t know they can get treatment,” Habiba said. She adds that fistula can be avoided when preventative measures are taken (e.g. prenatal screenings).
Because treating fistula costs $700 USD for one treatment, a lot of women can't afford it. Habiba launched a fundraiser this year to provide funding for women affected by fistula.
Semhar Haile and Habiba have been friends since university. She says, “Habiba is an incredibly passionate, intelligent and highly dedicated person who is fully committed to her passion for gender equality, especially empowerment of women affected by fistula. She is also a wonderful, supportive and loyal friend, a very curious and well rounded person with wide range of interests. It’s a privilege to be able to call her a friend.”
One woman's pain should be everyone's concern. Though Habiba did not experience fistula, she took on the responsibility to fight for women in these vulnerable situations. She wrote a book on fistula, and traveled across oceans to meet victims in order to better serve them. Habiba’s empathy for others, and her ongoing aim to support fistula victims is what makes her a woman of INFLUENCE.
Welcome to Habiba’s World
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