Friday, October 17, 2008


Imagine that you have a daughter and as soon as she is born you promise her to her future groom a man who is already three times her age and as soon as she hits puberty she will be whisked away to live with this much older man and then she will be forced into the role of wife, lover, mother, house keeper, indentured servant, and her life is never her own. Imagine then that this young girl could have been you if you were born in Niger, Chad, Mali, Nepal, etc. Imagine having no control over your life, your future, or your body do you see where I am going with this? I got my Essence magazine in the mail today and the most important story in the magazine wasn't even mentioned on the front and if I hadn't bother to look through the whole magazine I would have missed it what I am typing on and on about is Child Brides as I read the whole story I was intrigued, and enthralled and also deeply disturbed. Anytime I see something that strikes a chord with me or makes me want to learn about it I dig my heels in and go for broke. Which needless to say inspired me to write this very post. I am not the first to write about this subject and I certainly won't be the last but this is an eye opening type of situation. Girls all over the world are being forced into marriage in these countries that are ravaged by poverty and my heart goes out to these little girls, my sisters from afar.


Some where in the back of my mind I know that in underdeveloped countries people are trying to do anything they can just to survive, I think of the young girls in America who haven't even learned how to wash themselves good let alone know what it takes to be a wife it's harrowing to the soul to say the very least. I feel when I look at the pictures of these young African girls in the essence article a sense of kinship, a spirit that goes beyond the pages of this magazine article I feel like these are my little sisters that are being pushed down this road that causes them farther hardship and problems medically, physically, mentally and emotionally. Not to mention the never ending cycle of poverty these girls are forever stuck in.

We bitch and moan in this country about basic things and these little girls are being traded off like they are cheap coats I understand that this is their culture, I understand that their parents can not afford them therefore they are passed off to someone who can, it still doesn't make it less disheartening. They have no say in their lives they go from the rule of their parents to the rule of a much older man, their lives are forever not their own. From the day they are born they are controlled by others and that is sad, they don't even get to come into their own as women. They don't get to have education, they don't get to have basic freedoms, they are chattel.

Girls get engaged when they are 9 and when they turn 12 they go live with their much older husbands, all kinds of things happen to these girls, abuse, sex they aren't ready for physically, mentally, emotionally and as a result pregnancy these girls begin having babies before their bodies have even fully developed yet, plus in their villages their is virtually no health care which result in birthing complications, and damage to the young girls body the most common result of these girls giving birth is a horrible condition that is known as fistula, many are often then shunned by their husbands because they can't control their body functions after their young bodies have been wrecked by giving birth to children as children themselves.

If you don't know what Fistula is here is the break down:

Q: What is an obstetric fistula?
A: A fistula is a hole. An obstetric fistula of the kind that occurs in Ethiopia (and many other developing countries) is a hole between a woman's birth passage and one or more of her internal organs. This hole develops over many days of obstructed labor, when the pressure of the baby's head against the mother's pelvis cuts off blood supply to delicate tissues in the region. The dead tissue falls away and the woman is left with a hole between her vagina and her bladder (called a vesicovaginal fistula or VVF) and sometimes between her vagina and rectum (rectovaginal fistula, RVF). This hole results in permanent incontinence of urine and/or feces. A majority of women who develop fistulas are abandoned by their husbands and ostracized by their communities because of their inability to have children and their foul smell.

Q: Can fistula be "cured"?
A: Yes. An obstetric fistula can be closed with intravaginal surgery. If her surgery is performed by a skilled surgeon, a fistula patient has a good chance of returning to a normal life with full control of her bodily functions. The Fistula Hospital has a 93% success/cure rate.

Q: How much does it cost to treat a fistula?
A: At the Hamlin Fistula Hospitals, it costs US$450 to provide one woman with a fistula repair operation, high-quality postoperative care, a new dress, and bus fare home.

Q: What are the causes of obstetric fistula?
A: A fistula results from an obstructed labor that is left unrelieved and untreated. It is estimated that 5% of all pregnant women worldwide will experience obstructed labor. In the United States and other affluent countries, emergency obstetric care is readily available. In many developing countries where there are few hospitals, few doctors, and poor transportation systems, and where women are not highly valued, obstructed labor often results in death of the mother. When she survives, there is a great likelihood her child will die and she will develop a fistula. According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), there are three delays that contribute to the development of a fistula: delay in seeking medical attention; delay in reaching a medical facility; and delay in receiving medical care once arriving at a health care facility.

Q: I heard that fistulas are a result of female genital mutilation. Is this true?
A: While harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM) are rightly of concern to the international medical community, they are not major contributors to the development of an obstetric fistula. Some patients at the Hamlin Fistula Hospitals have been victims of FGM, but their fistulas are almost always caused by an obstructed labor resulting from a too-small pelvis or a malpresentation of the baby. FGM does not "cause" a fistula.

Q: How many women does this problem affect?
A: Because fistula affects women in the most remote regions of the world, an accurate count is very hard to achieve. The most common estimate is that 100,000 women worldwide develop fistulas every year, though some estimates put the number closer to 500,000. Experts at the Hamlin Fistula Hospitals estimate that there are approximately 9,000 new cases of fistula every year in Ethiopia alone. Because most fistula sufferers are young women—many still in their teens—they are likely to live with their condition for upwards of 25 years. By any estimate, there are at least two million women currently living with fistula throughout the developing world. The world capacity to treat fistula is estimated at 6,500 fistula repair surgeries per year.

Q: Where is fistula prevalent?
A: There is a high incidence of fistula in Africa and parts of Asia, but women are susceptible to developing fistulas wherever there are insufficient emergency obstetric care systems.

Q: Can fistula be prevented?
A: Any woman who can gain access to emergency obstetric care such as a cesarean section will not develop a fistula. This is why Hamlin Fistula Hospitals are building new small hospitals in five Ethiopian provinces to increase the capacity of regional hospitals to provide fistula repair surgery and quality emergency obstetric care.

Q: What can I do to help?
A: A tax-deductible donation to the Fistula Foundation directly assists in restoring health and dignity to women in Ethiopia suffering from fistulas. The Fistula Foundation is also expanding its Circle of Friends, a program which assists groups and individuals who want to hold their own fundraisers to support the Hamlin Fistula Hospitals. If you have questions about any of our programs, feel free to email us at

Information taken from FISTULAFOUNDATION.ORG if you would like to know more about this organization please feel free to look it up. If you don't do anything else this year do something bigger than self, it puts a lot of things in perspective when you see girls in Africa and other under developed countries who don't have the luxury to live a regular life like that of an American girl which is taken for granted everyday. It is a reminder that we as a developed country should not forget that there are people who are suffering all over the world going through things we find appalling every single day and this is their way of life their culture. This very article is similar to the one in this month's essence

Write to your state's lawmakers visit:

To volunteer your medical services to repair fistulas contact Barbara A. Margolies at