Photo by: Ousseini Issa
Mariama Boubacar, who is 25, comes from a hamlet near Ouallam, in the west of Niger. This is her story.
I was married at 15 and pregnant at 17. Unfortunately, that first baby died through lack of assistance. It was only on the third day of labour that the baby came into the world lifeless. At the end of my second pregnancy I ended up with fistula because no-one helped me during birth.
My labour lasted two days, during which I was in bed alone in my room. It was only on the third day that I was taken to a health centre and they kept me another two days before telephoning Ouallam, from where an ambulance came to fetch me. Five days after the labour the fistula appeared. When this started, the wise woman kept me a week before transferring me to Dimol (a maternal health NGO) in Niamey.
I needed four operations to recover my health. Since I arrived the NGO has looked after everything: my lodging, my food, my clothes, my everyday needs and offered me training in knitting, sewing, French and Arabic - as well as my surgery. Now, God be thanked, I am cured and I am in perfect health.
I’ve been at the centre in Niamey three years now and my husband has only come to see me once, at the start. I’ve been back to my village to see my family three times in the last year alone and my husband knew about each of those visits but he didn’t come to see me even then. All the same, I don’t see any disadvantage if my husband decides to take me back. But if he says he doesn’t want me any more, I will decide what to do then.
The first thing I will do when I return to the village will be to raise the community’s awareness of the dangers of early marriage and the need to send girls to school. I’m also going to talk to the pregnant women about the importance of prenatal and postnatal care, which mean the health of the mother and the child is looked after and make it possible for people to intervene quickly if there’s a problem. And I’d tell them that when the pregnancy comes to term, you need to go quickly to a health centre for the delivery.
I’m also hoping, though, that the skills I’ve learned at the Dimol centre will mean I’ll be able to earn some money by my own activities that will make me a bit more financially independent.