A sisterhood of survivors
In Mwanza Region, Tanzania, Amref Health Africa is supporting networks of fistula survivors who, as well as running small businesses, are working as ambassadors and shifting perceptions in their communities.
In Mwanza Region, Tanzania, Amref Health Africa is supporting networks of fistula survivors who, as well as running small businesses, are working as ambassadors and shifting perceptions in their communities. Read more about the project here.
These images and stories were created by fistula ambassadors from across Mwanza Region. After a workshop led by photographer Sam Vox, during which participants learned about the fundamentals of photography and storytelling, the ambassadors spent time with some of the survivors they support, photographing the women as they went about their daily lives.
This participatory photography project was funded by the National Lottery Community Fund as part of their support for Amref Health Africa’s fistula work in Tanzania.
Story and images by Makongoro Mganga, a fistula ambassador and a psycho-social support volunteer at Ukerewe Island, Mwanza Region.
“I took these photos of Vaines Deus from Nantare village in Ukerewe, Mwanza Region. Vaines [had] been living with fistula for three months. She got fistula during her seventh pregnancy. As difficult as it was for her during this time, things didn’t get any better for Vaines: she was neglected by her community and abandoned by her husband. This left her to be the sole provider to her seven children. She had very little hope of getting any medical treatment or financial support from her family or community.”
“On a quiet afternoon Vaines received information regarding fistula treatment from an ambassador who was […] raising awareness on fistula through community meetings that were supported by Amref Health Africa.
Vaines attended this meeting and was advised to reach out to her nearest health clinic for an immediate check-up. The check-up confirmed it was fistula and she was immediately referred to Bugando Hospital where she received her surgery. She had a successful surgery and fully recovered from fistula.
Vaines received psycho-social support from Amref fistula ambassadors, which helped immensely in build her mental strength and to bring back her confidence. She then joined an entrepreneurship training programme and income-generating activities through Amref.
Today I am happy to say she is the proud owner of various livestock such as goats, ducks, and chickens, which help generate some income that provides for most of the needs for her family. She also has a farm with multiple fruit trees that she sells to generate more income.”
Women lead the way
As an ambassador, I am very happy to see the support and training Vaines received through Amref. I believe that this is the best way to support someone who has been through such a difficult time. I would like to see more women in our community leading the way to financial stability.
- Makongoro Mganga, fistula ambassador and psycho-social support volunteer, Ukerewe Island, Mwanza Region.
Obstetric fistula around the world
Story and images by Charles Jumanee, a fistula ambassador from Mahaha village, Magu District, Mwanza Region.
Mpejiwa Lunyilija is 80 years old (born in 1941). She contracted fistula in 1988 after a complicated fifth pregnancy that led to her child being stillborn. Mpejiwa lived with fistula for more than 35 years without receiving treatment. “I was embarrassed to meet people or socialise because of the unpleasant smell,” she says. She isolated herself, stopped attending all community meetings, and stopped going to church where she was a regular member.
In early 2020, Mpejiwa met fistula ambassador Charles Jumanee, who was doing outreach visits in Mahaha village, where both of them live. “Mpejiwa was in a very bad state at the time and completely outcast from her community,” remembers Charles. After they talked, “she had all the information she needed and immediately headed to Bugando Hospital […] Mpejiwa had a successful surgery and was under doctors’ supervision for the next six months. I’m happy to say that she is fully recovered and back to living a normal life and an active member in her community. She’s resumed her daily activities and also rejoined her church group.”
“As a fistula ambassador I am happy to see Mpejiwa happy and living happily with her community. I hope to see more women come forward to seek treatment because fistula is treatable and free from all charges.”
This is the reason I wanted to be an ambassador to fistula patients: I want to tackle all the myths and misconceptions around the topic so that no one goes through what I did.
- Penina Lusato, fistula survivor and ambassador, photographed at her home in Buguza village, Ukerewe Island, Mwanza Region by fellow ambassador Makongoro Mganga (December 2021).
"I want these women to know that there are people out there who care."
Fistula survivor and entrepreneur Scholastica Daudi, also from Mwanza Region, explains what motivates her to act as an ambassador within her community.