By: Habiba Cooper Diallo
Taken from: http://whatsonafrica.org/habiba-cooper-diallo-why-i-wrote-a-childrens-book-about-fistulas/
NOVEMBER 12, 2015
When writing the story, I thought carefully about the character development of Yeshialem who is the protagonist. I wanted her to have a Pan-African outlook, which I find so relevant to our times considering the ethnic tensions and nationalism that is prevalent in many African communities and the legacies of the Berlin Conference (1884-1885) that are still felt today. Yeshialem’s intercultural insights weave us together. She is Ethiopian in the story— still, she is at once a Nigerien, a Libyan, a Rwandese, a Sudanese—and her sense of belonging to various cultures is not at all in contradiction to her national identity (Ethiopian). In the story, I have reflected Yeshi’s sense of multiculturalism in her clothing, her linguistic capability and in her ability to challenge herself to go outside of her comfort zone which is evidenced in her epic journey from Ethiopia to Niger in the west and back. I deliberately gave her gold hoop earrings that are typical among Fulani women in Mali.
By: Habiba Cooper Diallo
Taken from: http://www.endfistula.org/news/my-journey-fistula-champion
30 April, 2014
Obstetric fistula entered my life when I was 12 years old.
It was my final year in primary school, and I was embarking on a study of my West African roots when I came upon a story in the Wall Street Journal about a young Tuareg girl in Niger named Anafghat Ayouba.
The story began with Anafghat as a pre-teen, around the same age I was. She was married by age 11, had a stillborn child a few years later, and developed obstetric fistula. I was shocked to learn about fistula’s devastating impact on Anafghat, her life and her future. Fortunately, she received treatment.
After recovering, Anafghat returned to her community of Tarbiyat, in western Niger, where she excelled in her studies, became a spokesperson for girls’ education and empowerment, and decided she wanted to become a medical doctor. But suddenly, at the age of 17, she developed complications from her fistula and died.
One moment, Anafghat was alive, vibrant and empowered, and the next she was dead. I was speechless, and in that moment my life changed. Before my knowledge of fistula, I wanted to become a lawyer. But after reading about Anafghat, I aspired to work in medicine with a specialization in women’s health. A simple Caesarean section could have prevented Anafghat’s fistula, but she did not have access to proper maternal care.
I read everything I could find on the topic. And I discovered that it occurred mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, in countries like Chad, Ethiopia, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria, the Republic of Guinea, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Uganda. In Asia, fistula is prevalent in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan. A chief underlying factor is the lack of access to healthcare services.
Then I read the book The Hospital by the River, a personal account written by Dr. Catherine Hamlin about her work with fistula patients at the Addis Ababa Hamlin Fistula Hospital. I also read United Nations reports, perused websites and other resources, including the book Cutting for Stone, a novel by Dr. Abraham Verghese. I began speaking to my peers and teachers about the condition. In high school, I wrote about Anafghat for the school newspaper.
In December 2011 and January 2012, my mother, my sister and I traveled to Ethiopia, where we toured the country for a full month, twice visiting the fistula hospital. We saw first-hand the amazing work of Dr. Hamlin, and we spoke with fistula survivors.
Habiba Cooper Diallo
I am a Canadian fistula advocate and blogger, and the founder of the Women’s Health Organization International, WHOI. I have been doing fistula awareness-building in Canada for the past 9 years. My work on fistula has led me to Guinea, Ethiopia, and Sierra Leone. I have been featured in Forbes, the HuffPost, and UNFPA