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Bringing Back Dignity

Women Confront Fistula in Ethiopia

These three videos that tell the stories of Tihun, Yeserash, and Abebu -- three young women from Ethiopia who have survived obstetric fistula. The women and their family members give insight into the difficulties of life with fistula, the joys of being repaired, and the lessons learned from their experiences. These videos are excerpts from the film "Bringing Back Dignity," produced under the ACQUIRE Project funded by USAID.

Despite the double tragedy of losing her baby and developing a fistula, Tihun has been blessed with a supportive husband who did not leave her when she was ill. Her husband Aweke explains that everyone urged him to leave his wife with beliefs that he would contract her condition, but he would not do so. Both Tihun and Aweke have learned valuable lessons from Tihun's fistula. Aweke regrets not being careful to use protection that would prevent an early pregnancy. Tihun vows that if she ever has a daughter she will not marry her off, and instead will let her go to school and then choose her own husband.

Yeserash and her father, Simeneh, express the hardships of obstetric fistula as well as the lessons learned from their experience. Simeneh's father regrets marrying off his daughter at the young age of 12 or 13 and vows that he will not do the same with his other daughters. He wishes other people would learn from his "painful mistake", urging them not to arrange early marriages and to allow their daughters to consent to marriage. Yeserash is now fully recovered and has since had a health baby boy.

Abebu, a 20-year-old fistula survivor, describes the hardships of living with a fistula and how her life has been transformed by repair. Abebu was married at the age of 15 and developed her fistula after four days of prolonged labor. When her leaking began, her husband stole her property and threw her out and her parents shunned her. Now that she is cured, Abebu is glad to be able to mingle with friends and participate in community events.

These videos recount hardships and celebrate achievements related to the participant's daily struggles with pregnancy, loss, and relationships, as well as their search for safety, acceptance, and dignity.  Our hope is that viewers will come away with greater compassion, as well as an understanding of what causes fistula, how women can be repaired, and why community members, the health sector, and policymakers all have critical roles to play in prevention.

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