A woman with obstetric fistula is isolated, misunderstood, stigmatized, and sometimes even exiled. These social traumas cause intense psychological wounds that require individual and group counseling to address and heal. Our program manager Carol Mabeya uses her background in social work to provide one-on-one therapy and facilitate group healing from a specific, shared trauma. This program consists of daily individual counseling sessions of 20 to 40 minutes depending on need, as well as daily group sessions of 5 to 10 women lasting 30 minutes. Each fistula survivor is in counseling for the duration of her stay at our program houses.
We provide vocational training in tailoring, hairdressing, and catering. The tailoring students study for two years at our workshop in Eldoret under our tailoring instructor Ann Ojina, once a fistula patient in our program herself. The hairdressing training consists of one year of fully funded study at a local vocational college. The catering program consists of two years of study at St. Joseph Technical Training College. After each fistula survivor finishes the training in her field of choice, she is given a business grant, fundraised with our partner Benevolent, to start a career. Many of the graduates of the vocational program go on to full-time positions in their fields, or venture into business ownership by participating in our business training.
Often a woman’s career is waylaid by a fistula. The business training exists for those women who have previously established work experience in a specific field and dream of advancing their careers by starting their own small businesses. In this three-day module, our staff in Kenya impart the main tenets of small-business ownership. As in the vocational training program, each woman leaves the business module with a grant fundraised via our partner Benevolent.
Many fistula survivors dropped out of school when they became pregnant or when they developed a fistula. Our scholarship program helps these girls and young women return to their educations by partnering with The School Fund to pay for their uniforms, school fees, and books.
Farm Skills Program
Farming is a very common means of earning income in rural Kenya. Many fistula survivors have a background in farming and, once healed, are eager to learn how to turn their experience into an income-generating business. Our program includes a three-day farm skills training seminar taught by our partner Farming God’s Way. As in the vocational and business trainings, women leave the farm skills training with a grant to launch a small business.
Kiondo Bag Weaving
Kiondo bags are a traditional Kenyan bag made sustainably from the fibers of the sisal plant and dyed with the bark of the muasi tree. Kenyan fashion designer Vicky Ngari, who learned bag making from her Kikuyu roots, is on a mission to reawaken the art of the Kiondo and simultaneously empower impoverished, rural women with a marketable skill. She teaches Kiondo workshops for fistula survivors – many of whom go on to open small businesses that benefit the earth, their communities, and their economic standing. See some of the survivors’ beautiful work here.