Women awaiting fistula repair surgery at CEML do not have a private place to do their wash, and are often ridiculed and bullied by others in the laundry facility due to the stench of bodily waste on their clothes. To maintain dignity, it is important for these women to feel clean. We hope to build a separate laundry facility where they can feel comfortable meeting their needs without facing stigma, shame, and unkindness. Our partners at CEML have described this as a significant need.
Women who suffer from fistula constantly leak urine and/or feces due to their injury. Because of their leakage, these women are marginalized and cast out. In places with communal facilities, they are often made to feel very unwelcome and in a laundry facility, people treat them poorly, believing their fluids make the whole area unclean. For these women, it is especially important for them to feel their clothes are clean and dry, and that they can wash them without fear of bullying.
The microproject will provide separate laundry facilities for these women. Our partners have cited this as an important need for their psychosocial wellbeing as they await surgery to repair their fistulas. Preoperatively, the women stay together in a patient villa and often form intense bonds of friendship with one another due to their painful shared experiences and losses. Keeping them close to one another in sensitive areas will be an enormous benefit.
Almost all gynecologic fistulas occur in developing nations where maternal health infrastructure is weak and women are marginalized citizens. Building confidence in fistula survivors through skills-training and income generation is key to restoring them to their best selves. These women in turn can become teachers and advocates for others in their communities, further changing the perception of what women are capable of when properly invested in and supported.