Although I am not in Freetown at the moment, I thought I’d share with you a blog I wrote some months ago, but didn’t get a chance to follow up, as I had intended, with a visit to the centre. That will have to wait until I return, but you can read about it now.
At my first meeting of the International Women’s Club, we heard a presentation by the Director and surgeon of Aberdeen Women’s Centre and marveled at the joyous story they had to tell.
The women who come to this centre arrive after years of pain, shame and isolation, living as outcasts in their communities because of complications of childbirth leading to obstetric fistula, often also divorced. Many are teenagers, pregnant too soon, before their pelvis is fully developed and with no access to proper maternity care. This is the only place in Sierra Leone that they can get the life-changing surgery which enables them to return as useful members of their community. During their recovery they are taught skills to help them earn a living.
There is one trained surgeon, who in turn is training another. From time to time an expert surgeon visits from overseas and they can then operate on a whole ‘batch’ of patients in a short time. A bonus for the patients, but also providing vital further training for the local surgeons.
Before they go back to their village, each woman is given a new outfit and take part in a ‘gladi, gladi’ ceremony to celebrate their new lease of life. The returnees are the best advert for the centre in terms of encouraging others to come forward for surgery – you can imagine how hard it might be to persuade an uneducated village girl, who is shunned by the village, to take the step of going to the capital for an operation.
So outreach is another part of the centre’s work, trying to find fistula sufferers and persuade them to get treatment. They also persuade women who seem to be at risk of developing fistula to attend the Maternity clinic for a safer birth. A protcol for midwives is being implemented to indicate at what stages they need to get a woman to hospital for assisted delivery.
The centre is supported by the Freedom from Fistula Foundation.
There is certainly no shortage of good causes with which to get involved in Freetown.