Two weeks ago, Michael and I led a prayer time, focusing on the issue of gender inequality. This post is the third in a series summarizing the prayer points and action points we presented during that prayer time. Please check out our previous posts in this series on girls’ education and economic opportunities for women.
Today I’d like to focus on the issue of health care. When I read Half the Sky, I learned that health care is generally more available for boys and men than girls and women. A boy is more likely to be immunized or to be treated for illness or injury than a girl. Girls are not typically breadwinners in a family, so they are less likely to receive costly medical attention, whereas boys receive healthcare because it is considered an investment into their (and their family’s) future.
If basic immunizations and health care are not available for girls in the same way as for boys, you can only imagine that when it comes to prenatal care, childbirth, and post-natal care, treatment is scarce. We don’t think of maternal health care as an issue in the West, but the rate of women dying in childbirth used to be equally high in North America and Europe as it is currently in Africa and parts of Asia. So what changed? Why the difference? When women got the vote in the West, politicians and governments began to see women and their children as more significant, and investments were made into women’s health. In developing nations, however, many women give birth without any skilled attendant. Often, women are giving birth with no assistance at all, or are “helped” by other women who have no basic knowledge of sanitation, and no skills in dealing with dangerous situations such as breech births or obstructed labor.
Many women die in childbirth in the developing world, but others are left with fistulas. Fistula is a little-known or talked about subject in the West, because it is virtually unseen here. In Africa and much of Asia, however, where many of the women giving birth are actually young teenagers, and where FGM is an ongoing issue, almost 100,000 women suffer from fistula every year. An obstetric fistula occurs “when the baby’s head puts too much pressure on the mother’s maternal tissues, cutting off the supply of blood. The tissue dies, leaving a hole – or fistula – which causes urine and feces to leak uncontrollably. The shame and stigma is simply unimaginable. Many women are rejected by their husbands, family and friends and left to suffer all alone” (www.cbmcanada.org/fistula). In addition to the smell that results from fistula (resulting in shame and stigma), women with fistula often cannot walk or stand because of the nerve damage which is a by-product of fistula. Because of the constant leak of urine, women with fistula often develop wounds on their legs because of the acid eating away at the skin.
The following video from Half the Sky tells the story of a woman suffering from fistula, and highlights Edna Adan hospital in Somaliland, which treats women with fistula:
I realize that these details are gruesome, and we shudder at the thought of fistula, but my aim is to bring awareness to an issue that is not as well known as HIV/AIDS, poverty, or natural disasters. Fistula can be easily fixed through surgery, and the women who once suffered physically, emotionally, and socially, can go on to live full and meaningful lives, and contribute to their societies. A fistula surgery only costs $400 CAD, and it means a completely changed life for a woman in the developing world.
The stories of women suffering from fistula were the stories that most impacted me when I read Half the Sky. When I finished reading this book, I was left knowing that I had to do something in response to all that I had learned. I am so fortunate to live in the West, to have access to education, economic opportunities, and health care. Leading an intercession time on gender inequality, and writing this series has been part of my own way of acting in response to what I have learned, but I want to do more.
On April 1, I will be turning thirty (yikes!). For my thirtieth birthday, I would like to raise funds for women to receive fistula surgery. Initially my goal was to raise $400 so that one woman could receive surgery, but since presenting this fundraising opportunity to friends at YWAM Turner Valley, we have already raised $430! Further, YWAM Turner Valley as a ministry has committed to matching all funds raised for fistula through this fundraiser, which means we have already reached $860, which will change the lives of two women with fistula! Praise God!
I’m asking for your help to transform the lives of even more women. I am using my birthday as a platform to change the lives of women with fistula, because I believe this is one way I can apply what I have learned, and more importantly, because it is a way I can shine the light of Christ into the life others. Christian Blind Mission is well known for its work amongst the marginalized in the developing world, specifically with regards to their work with the blind. CBM also works with women with fistula, however, and by giving through their organization, the lives of women with fistula can be changed forever. For my birthday, I’m asking that you would consider giving a financial gift towards fistula surgery. Here’s how you can give:
- Give via credit card online. Go to http://www.cbmcanada.org/fistula and click on the “donate” button half way down the page. You will be directed to a page that says YES! I want to bring God’s healing to stop the suffering for women with fistula! If you do not arrive at this page, your gift will not go directly to fistula. The direct link for the specific fistula donation page is here.
- Write a check out to Christian Blind Mission, and in the memo line, write “for fistula surgery.”
- Phone Christian Blind Mission at 1-800-567-2264, and give via credit card. Specify that the gift is for fistula surgery.
As you give, please let me know that you have given. My intention is not to advertise who has given/how much they have given, but I would like to keep a tally of where we are up to so that I can inform the Leadership Team at YWAM Turner Valley as to how much has been given (before the deadline of April 1st) so that the ministry can match those funds; I need to know the total that has been raised if I am to report an accurate number. Tax receipts are available for donations of more than $10.
We cannot fight fistula, gender inequality, or injustice on our own; these issues will only be resolved when culture is permeated and transformed by Jesus. Here are a few specific ways you can pray for health care for women:
- Pray for policy changes – that families, communities, and nations would see the importance of providing women with healthcare, particularly throughout their pregnancies and in childbirth.
- Pray that the church would send medical missionaries/missions teams to educate unskilled birth attendants in midwifery and pre/post natal care.
- Pray that the church would bring awareness to issues such as fistula, which are not as well-known causes as HIV/AIDS, poverty, and natural disasters.
Thank you for praying into the issue of gender inequality, and for following this blog series. Please continue to pray that God’s light would shine into the roots of all cultures, so that women and men would be known the world over as equally valuable children of God.