Fighting Fistula is a task many individuals, non-profits, healthcare professionals and even governments are involved in. At WoSA, we are no exception. We present to you an illustrated book series, titled, Shackled By Tradition.…
Shackled By Tradition is a body of 3 illustrated books, each chronicling the life trajectory of three African females in contemporary African society, and the ills that befall them due to ignorance and traditional beliefs of the men in their lives, ultimately pushing them into the cold grips of fistula.
Each book follows their every day struggle, their contact with this scourge, their struggle with its debilitating effects and how they overcame it and were reintegrated back into society.
The stories of Talatu, Misha and Adane should inspire all girls and women all over Africa and bring hope to thousands of others suffering from Fistula and other related diseases. It highlights the ills women face in our societies and what they go through, every day for no fault of theirs.
The Shackled By Tradition Series is meant to inspire us all. It is meant to make us all, especially the gate keepers of our societies do proper self-introspection, and reevaluate some of the beliefs that have held us back for so long, so we can overcome the challenges of child brides, early sex and forced marriages, female genital mutilation and other vices.
This educational intervention should reimbue in us the unwavering determination to ensure that every victimized woman or child is afforded the freedom of choice.
The choice to get married, or not, the choice to have children, a career, an education or a home. The choice to respect their body, achieve financial independence and/or pursue a healthy lifestyle.
We hope you enjoy the stories of hope, survivors have entrusted to us to share with others to educate, encourage and edify.
Page 1. A Family Unit
In Goa, a remote village on the fringes of the Sahara lived a local farmer, Mallam Sule and his family- a wife and 8 children. He considered education as abomination and forbade all his children from going to school, marrying off each of his 7 older daughters in their early teens. He was about to marry out the last, Talatu, a studious, intelligent girl- at only 12years of age.
Page 2. Truncated Aspiration
Talatu was determined to go to school and with her mother’s support defied her father to start at the local school nearby. Her father, having concluded all plans to marry her off to his major customer, storms the school to drag his daughter out of class, beating her all the way home.
Page 3. The Misery
Talatu learns she is about to be married off to a commodities trader in a few days and becomes desolate. She is afraid for her future, afraid for her life and worried about what would become of her in the house of a man old enough to be her father. She is being consoled by her long time friend, Amina.
Page 4. Child Marriage
The virgin girl, Talatu is soon forcefully married off to Alhaji Idris
Page 5. Early Sex/Pregnancy
Talatu is forced into sex all too soon. She soon gets pregnant, with little or no attention from the wandering trader.
Page 6. Poor Maternal Healthcare
When it is time to give birth, Talatu is tended by one of Alhaji’s older wives, as their husband is nowhere near to take her to the hospital. The husband who is of the belief that a real woman gives birth without assisted care leaves the young girl to her fate. She goes into prolonged obstructed labor as complications develop.
Page 7. The Intervention
The baby dies and starts decomposing right in her womb as her vagina is blocked. Local health workers are notified, she is then taken to the local hospital where the fetus is evacuated and her condition is stabilized.
Page 8. The Fistula Scourge
Talatu soon returns home, but without even a baby to console her, and only the debilitating effects of the medical complications that have arisen from her ordeal trail her back. She begins to leak urine uncontrollably as well as feces, she is no longer able to control her bowels
Page 9. The Stigma
Talatu begins to smell, she can’t go to the market, she cannot go to the stream, she cannot be with her peers as she is incontinent of both urine and feces. She becomes pariah as everyone begins to avoid her. The odor around her becomes too bad and pungent for anybody to come near her. Her husband, irritated by her state throws her out a few weeks later
Page 10. The Rejection
Having no say and nowhere to go, the now 13year old returns to her father’s house. Her father takes her in reluctantly and soon cannot stand her stench. A few months later, Talatu’s own father throws her out into the street.
Page 11. The Depression
Talatu isolated herself from everyone, she hides away from any public glare during the day and only goes out in search of food at night. Talatu considers suicide, but quickly dismisses the thought. For survival, she holds onto hope.
Page 12. A Hint of Hope!
A neighbor, Hajia Asmau who hears Talatu’s story seeks her out. Hajia takes Talatu in despite her condition and tries to make the young girl see that there is still hope despite her disease. She tells her not to despair, that she would send for her daughter in the city to come. The daughter, who is a student doctor in one of the big hospitals may know what to do.
Page 13. The Support
A month later, the daughter Hadiza arrives. She bonds with the distraught girl and tells her she could be suffering from an ailment called Obstetric Fistula. Hadiza takes time to explain fistula to the young girl and her mother, Hajia Asmau, describing what fistula is and how it can be treated, that it is entirely preventable and treatable, and that there is hope.
Page 14. The Quest
Over the next few days, Hadiza explains in layman’s terms that fistula is a hole between the vagina and usually the bladder that leads to continuous leakage of urine or feces from the bladder into the vagina. A week later, Hadiza and Talatu leave for the city so the ailing girl can be attended to at a licensed fistula center in the city.
Page 15. The Treatment
At the hospital, Talatu is finally diagnosed of fistula. She is seen by a surgeon, and immediately admitted into the wards and three days later operated upon. Her treatment is successful.
Page 16. The Adoption
Talatu is discharged and brought back home and adopted by the well to do benefactor while her father who rejected her only a year earlier comes back to ask for her forgiveness. Talatu forgives her father, but government welfare officers have handed her over to her benefactor as she slowly reintegrates back to society.
Page 17. The Reintegration
A year later, Talatu is back in school. She restarts her education which was abruptly truncated that morning nearly three years earlier when her father barged into her school and class to drag her out and marry her off
Page 18. Now, This!!!
The Talatu, despite her ordeal does well. She is a brilliant student and six years later, passes her school leaving exams in flying colors. She has already pre-determined that she will do this to save human lives, especially those of younger girls from the fate that almost drove her to commit suicide.
Page 19 .Sister, Sister!
Dr. Hadiza, now a fully qualified surgeon returns to the village with an NGO preaching against the ills of early marriages and the scourge of fistula. They are at the forefront of strengthening healthcare practices for fistula prevention, detection, treatment and the reintegration of victims into everyday society so they continue to live productive lives
Page 20. The Advocate
Talatu becomes the poster girl of this campaign as she tells her story around the surrounding villages and hamlets, how she survived fistula and what others in similar situations can do. She becomes a fistula activist, and her story inspire hundreds to come out for fistula treatment.
Page 21. The Sensation
Talatu soon becomes a national sensation, celebrated all over the country and beyond. She is given a full scholarship by international aid agencies to study in any American or European University of her choice, but Talatu decides she must be close to her people and insists she will study in her native country or any of Africa’s prestigious universities.
Page 22. A Success Story
Talatu is soon admitted to study her dream course Medicine & Surgery where she knows she will still be at the forefront of fighting the ills of fistula female genital mutilation, practice of child marriage and many other attendant diseases.