‘99.9% of fistula-stricken women are poor and under-age’

Fistulas occur mostly due to complications in childbirth.

Express August 18, 2011

KARACHI: Around 99.9 per cent of women suffering from fistula are very poor, said gynecologist Dr Shershah Syed at the Spotlight on Women’s Health: Innovative Ways of Increasing Awareness through the Media conference on Thursday.

“It occurs in 12- to 13-year-old girls who get married early and have children at a dangerously young age.”

Fistula, a medical condition with consequences worse than death for many women, happens mostly due to complications in childbirth when the woman’s bladder or urethra develop a tear. A a result, the urine steadily leaks, causing the woman to perpetually smell; as a result she is ostracised by her family and husband. This was the sole focus of attention at the conference organised by the Pakistan National Forum on Women’s Health (PNFWH), the United Nations Population Fund and Gawaahi.com on Thursday.

Dr Shershah Syed, who has worked extensively on fistula, claims that the community should be made aware of and sensitised to their suffering.

A foreign university student Morial Shah who is in the city on her summer break and has worked with the doctor before, said that they should focus on a localised approach rather than how to project it in the media. “We need to develop terms so women can accurately describe what is happening to them,” she said. “Fistula is an English word and these women do not know it, speak it or use it.”

A documentary based on real life events, ‘Maen Jioungi Saw Uttha Kay’ which depicts the story of a young girl who suffered from fistula was screened. The girl Munni was able to receive treatment because of her understanding and supportive sister-in-law and recovers - however not many women are as lucky.

The screening was followed by a discussion on how to create awareness on such issues in the media. Performing artist Sheema Kermani, also the executive producer of the documentary, strongly disagreed with ideas of glamourising the characters and the story to sell it to the media. “For women’s health to improve we need to first improve the status of women in society.”

Published in The Express Tribune, August 19th, 2011.


Karim Javed | 11 years ago | Reply

They don't realize that they are also born from a women. Unfortunately Govt is doing nothing in the field of Health & Education. Now we can compare our country with Zimbabwe economy where rich is getting richer and poor is getting poorer.

Asma | 11 years ago | Reply

@Hasan: You are absolutely right Hasan - it appears that it Pakistan the welfare of the state and the welfare of women are two completely mutually exclusive concepts. Also, it is incredibly sad that we do not hear the voice of educated women in these arenas. The culture of apathy and misogyny is thoroughly entrenched.

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