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The Backyard Women, Burundi

According to a study mentioned by the National Program for Reproductive Health and the United Nations Population Fund in 2005, an estimated 1000 new cases of obstetric fistula are reported annually in Burundi, averaging three instances for every 1000 births in this African nation.

The obstetric fistula is a lesion responsible for the permanent and uncontrollable flow of urine or the excretion of fecal matter from the vagina. It is often a complication from a long and difficult childbirth with a prolonged blockage of the the fetal head in the lower genital tract. It is more common in cases of unassisted labor.

More than 80 % of women with fistula are thrown out by their husbands. The bad odor from the permanent and uncontrollable secretion is usually the reason for this repudiation. The social problems caused by this invalid pathology are often worsened by the lack of resources to treat these women who are rejected by their husbands, families, friends, and communities.

In Kirundi, fistula is called « Ingara Yo Mukigo, » or « the backyard disease. »

We followed the different lives of women before, during, and after the operation. All of them loss their babies during childbirth. Since then, they have lived in partial or total isolation. The lucky ones are allowed to stay with their husbands, while the others must return to their parents’ homes. Desperately wanting to return to a normal life, they work in the fields, hoping for a family and children, and sharing all of this with a man.

These women were terrified of an operation. Some trembled. One told me in the operation room, « I’m scared, but I’m proud to be here. »

The exhibition consists of 30 black and white framed prints 40X40cm

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