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Learn From My Story: Rural Ugandan Women Share Difficult Childbirth Experiences and Talk  About the Relief of Overcoming Obstetric Fistula

Case Studies

Learn From My Story: Rural Ugandan Women Share Difficult Childbirth Experiences and Talk About the Relief of Overcoming Obstetric Fistula

Emily Paulos

Despite the devastating impact of obstetric fistula (a severe medical condition caused by obstructed vaginal delivery during childbirth) on the lives of thousands of women and girls each year, the international health community has until recently largely neglected the problem. The ACQUIRE Project has responded by working with national governments and local partners to strengthen existing and/or implement new comprehensive fistula initiatives. The ACQUIRE approach is holistic, collaborating with stakeholders at the facility and community levels on strategies that can prevent fistula from occurring in the first place, increase women’s access to clinical treatment and counseling, and provide rehabilitation services to help affected women reintegrate into their communities.

In 2007, Silence Speaks partnered with Engender Health’s Uganda-based ACQUIRE program on Learn from my Story. The goals of the project were to pilot an innovative, storytelling-based support group intervention to support fistula patients with community reintegration following repair, and to produce a collection of stories for use as health education, training, and advocacy tools. Following weeks of dedicated outreach by ACQUIRE collaborators, a group of women assembled in the Ugandan town of Masaka for an orientation session. They viewed sample stories, talked about the purpose of the project, were given and taught to use disposable cameras, and were asked to take photos of their homes and villages. One month later, the women traveled back to Masaka, cameras in hand, where we guided them through a four-day workshop. The participants shared their stories as a group, recorded them with interpreter support, and chose photos from among those they had taken; we then combined these materials with other images and video clips to produce the finished stories. While editing was underway, the storytellers visited the hospital where they had been treated, to offer advice and support to other patients awaiting fistula repair.

We designed and authored a compilation DVD featuring the digital stories (in participants’ first languages with English subtitles and with overlaid English voiceovers) together with excerpts from a series of short video interviews that we conducted with ACQUIRE fistula counselors and providers. ACQUIRE and EngenderHealth are using these materials as part of ongoing trainings about fistula treatment and care and sharing them at conferences and meetings related to women’s health practice and policy in Uganda and internationally.

Read more about the project in this reprint of an article originally published in the Agenda Feminist Media Journal, or in this posting on our StoryCenter blog.