Pakistan is an amazing and complex country and a country of extremes. It boasts some of the highest and most beautiful mountain ranges; invites one in to incredible and gracious hospitality; arguably has the best food in the world and, with all that, has some tremendously difficult situations for women.
So it was early on in life that I met women with tremendous disadvantages, many in situations that seemed hopeless. It was before I turned 20, while volunteering at a women’s and children’s hospital in Shikarpur, Sindh, that I first met a woman who had a fistula. By definition a fistula is “a medical condition brought about by obstructed labor and/or trauma leaving a woman with incontinence,” The resulting symptoms are that the woman constantly smells like urine and can never get clean. But that is just the medical definition. The practical definition is loss of family, isolation, being seen as a pariah, and relegated to a cursed position in areas of the world where being a woman brings challenges from the first days of life. Fistulas are indescribably awful for the woman who has one.
”These are the women most to be pitied in the world,” said Dr. Hamlin. ”They’re alone in the world, ashamed of their injuries. For lepers, or AIDS victims, there are organizations that help. But nobody knows about these women or helps them.” (Alone And Ashamed, by Nicholas D. Kristof, Published: May 16, 2003)
Consider these sobering statistics about fistula:
It is estimated that 90% of fistula patients consider suicide as a solution. (Kristof and WuDunn, Half the Sky)
According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 2-5 million women have fistula worldwide.
The World Health Organization estimates as many as 50,000 — 100,000 new cases of fistula each year, yet the global treatment capacity is less than 20,000 cases a year. (Hope for Our Sisters)
The treatment is a surgery that has a 90% success rate if there are no complications and with complications the rate is still fairly high at 60%. It is not an exaggeration to say that the treatment saves lives. In a world where these women have been cast out like garbage, alienated and isolated, this surgery brings a hope that radiates through their world, forever changing their future.
“Nothing can equal the gratitude of the woman who, wearied by constant pain and desperate with the realisation that her very presence is an offence to others, finds suddenly that life has been given anew and that she has again become a citizen of the world,” Professor Chassar Moir. (Hamlin and Little, The Hospital By The River)
So why on a Saturday am I bringing up this serious topic? Because today at 1pm eastern time my niece, Christi-Lynn, a nurse and woman who is passionate about women’s health worldwide, is holding a special tea to raise money so that one woman can receive this surgery. The cost of surgery is $450.00. That’s the equivalent of 2 months worth of cell phone service for a family of five. It’s nothing. A tiny dent in a budget – and it changes a life. I have only raised awareness for causes a couple of times, but I believe that those who read Communicating Across Boundaries have a unique love for the world, and for women. So even though you can’t attend – if you can give to the tea party “An Afternoon of Hope” to raise money and awareness of the problem of fistula’s for women around the world, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blogger’s Note: The organization that my niece is working with is called Hope For Our Sisters: Changing the Lives of Women One Woman at a Time. Much of the information on this post was gleaned from their excellent site. Follow the link for more information including articles as well as information on how you can host a tea. One of my good friends, Judy Long, uses her talent as a photographer to create cards to sell with all proceeds going towards Hope for Our Sisters.