Untold Stories

FISTULA: A DIRE CONSEQUENCE OF CHILD MARRIAGE

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Let’s talk about Fistula and Child marriage……
Obstetric Fistula commonly known as ‘Fistula’ is a child birth injury that destroys a woman’s life. It leaves her incontinent, humilited and too often shunned by her community. Surgery is the only cure.

Understanding the dangers of Fistula

Obstetric Fistula occurs when a mother has a prolonged labor; when the tissues between the woman’s vagina and the bladder or rectum are damaged from the continous pressure from the baby’s head stuck in the birth canal, but does not have any emergency medical care such as C-Section. She often labors in excruciating pain for days. Sadly, her baby dies.
The shipwreck of a fistula patient begins when she goes into labor. As much as she might try, the baby will not budge. Hours pass, days even and her suffering continues. She is in a secluded village with nothing close to a medical attention. To crown her physical pain and agony is the mental torment of lack of information about her situation. Her baby dies inside her and has to be extracted, sometimes piece by piece.
Along with the death of her child goes her dream of motherhood and that dispairing pang and incomprehension that accompanies every woman who has miscarried or lived through the birth of a still – born child. Then the peak of the shipwreck hits her when she cannot understand the constant drip of bodily waste (urine and faeces) down her legs and the awful odor it emits. The stigma of the disease comes with dissociation from people including her folks due to the odor and this crumbles her emotionally.
Fistula is a condition that affects hundreds of women, sadly 90% of them are Africans and their story is hardly told. In the words of Dr. Denis Mukwege, a fistula surgeon, “taking action means saying ‘no’ to difference. It is a choice whether or not to support a woman, whether or not to protect her, whether or not to defend her rights”.
Women are brides for a reason; girls are not brides. Let’s make it a choice to protect the rights of a girl child.

The Child Marriage issues
Every year millions of young children both (male and female) around the world become brides and grooms before the ages of 18. Young genders who are required to enter into marriage at an early age are at greater risk of domestic violence and abuse. They are less likely to be able to escape poverty, those having children too young have a significantly increased risk of health complications, death in children and infant mortality.

Where Child marriage is common and it’s effect
Child marriage is particularly common in the North-west and North-east of Nigeria, where 68% & 57% of male and female aged 20-29 were married before their 18th birthday.
Child marriage is also driven by gender inequality and the belief that girls are somehow inferior to boys, in Nigeria child marriage is driven by;
Level of education; where by 73% of women and 65% of men with no formal education were married before 18, compared to only 9% who had completed higher education
Gender inequality; whereby some men reportedly prefer marrying children, girls are not accepted as equal partners within marriages, which contributes to a sense of low-self worth or esteem.
Violence against men and women; whereby both Christians and Muslim girls and boys have been kidnapped and married off to people. It even goes to point of killing of parents who refuse to marry off their children to them.
These and many more has violated the rights of children and has widespread and long-term consequences for child’s bride and grooms, because it can result to me mental health issues, lack of access to education and career opportunities. If we as a people or country do not put effort to protect younger children by 2030 there would be million of boys and girls who would have been affected by child marriage.
You know if all children had a secondary school education there are few things that would have changed;
They would have the better and right understanding of sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/Aids, and that they also have the full right to refuse and say no to SEX.

In all of these what would happen if children marry to young?
You know lack of education limits both girls and boys option to improve their circumstance economically and make better choices. Having babies at young and tender age causes serious health issues, because pregnancy and childbirth complications are among the leading cause of death in girls aged 15-19 in low and middle income countries. Child marriage is not just an issue for individual, each time a child misses out on their education because of forced marriage, their families and the society miss out on their potential contributions, both economically, socially, morally and other wise..

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