Most fistula women are divorced and therefore have little to no means to support themselves and/or their children from previous pregnancies. Therefore, an essential component to our Safe Motherhood Ambassador training program is economic empowerment.
Our one-month program includes income-generating skills training, small business skills and savings to help former fistula patients lead self-sustainable lives. Women can choose from a range of activities such as weaving, poultry keeping, cattling, sheeping and marketing. A start-up small business loan is proved at the end of the training.
SMA Success Story: Berhidda Redda
Before joining HHOJ, 33-year-old Berhidda Redda was living with her young daughter in a one-room house surviving off a small plot of land that she farmed herself. Her husband divorced her 17 years ago when he discovered she developed fistula during her first pregnancy after four days of unrelieved, prolonged labor. Everyone in her small town knew her as the woman who was cursed with fistula. Berhidda lives in the Tigray Region of Northern Ethiopia. It is about an hour from Mekelle, the capital of Tigray and the location of our Healing Hands of Joy training center for former fistula patients. Thankfully, Berhidda was cured but she still lives as an outcast with the stigma of having fistula: “Before surgery, I was socially discriminated against by neighbors and even my family but after surgery things are getting better because (I’ve learned) fistula is not a disease caused by doing something out of the law of God but it is a curable disease. I want to know more about fistula and to help others from being exposed to fistula with is a very painful and socially discriminating disease”.
Berhidda wanted to join the Healing Hands of Joy program to save other women from suffering needlessly from fistula. After participating in the Healing Hands of Joy one-month training program, Berhidda has used her confidence and income-generating skills training to open her own small business selling goods to her community. She is also serving as a Safe Motherhood Ambassador (SMA) in her community, monitoring pregnant women and confidently sharing her story to prevent fistula.
See Berhidda’s interview on ETV