International Women’s Day (IWD) is an annual opportunity to celebrate women and girls around the world. This year, as part of its IWD 2019 celebration, Kupona is participating in the GlobalGiving Girl Fund Campaign to raise support for The Mabinti Centre (“Mabinti”), a socio-economic empowerment program providing women and girls recovering from fistula repair surgery with trainings in practical vocational, life, and business skills. Mabinti seeks to equip women recovering from obstetric fistula with the tools and knowledge they need to rebuild their lives and become financially independent after experiencing the trauma and stigma of obstetric fistula.

In honor of IWD and Kupona’s participation in the Girl Fund campaign, today we’re sharing the story of Jesca, formerly a patient at CCBRT, then a Mabinti trainee, and now a full-time Mabinti employee.

Meet Jesca

When Jesca went into labor with her first child in 2006 at age 16, she had no idea how the experience would change the course of her life. Sadly, after a prolonged and difficult labor, Jesca lost her baby – and discovered that she had developed an obstetric fistula.

An obstetric fistula is a birth-related injury usually caused by prolonged or obstructed labor without access to high quality maternal healthcare. One of the most debilitating symptoms that can accompany an obstetric fistula is chronic incontinence. This can contribute to the social stigma and marginalization often experienced by women suffering from the condition. In Tanzania, an estimated 3,000 women develop obstetric fistula every year.

In Jesca’s case, her partner left her due to the incontinence caused by her fistula. Luckily, Jesca’s parents supported her in seeking care at Kupona’s local partner CCBRT in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. CCBRT provides hundreds of women each year with comprehensive, holistic fistula care, free of charge. In February 2007, Jesca underwent a successful fistula repair surgery at CCBRT.

After her surgery and recovery, Jesca tried to support herself and her family by selling fried cassava and taking a job as a security guard, but her income wasn’t enough to meet her and her family’s needs. Fortunately, in 2009 CCBRT founded The Mabinti Centre to support women and girls like Jesca, who were seeking to start new lives after experiencing the trauma of obstetric fistula. Unhappy with the work she had been able to find after her repair surgery, when Jesca heard about Mabinti’s new program she decided to apply. She was accepted as a trainee in 2010.

“I changed my life at Mabinti,” says Jesca. “I’ve really enjoyed spending time at Mabinti and working in an environment where everyone is ready to learn and to succeed in life.” As a trainee, Jesca spent a year at Mabinti learning sewing, beading, crochet, bookkeeping, English and entrepreneurial literacy. After she graduated from Mabinti in December 2012, Jesca kept working at Mabinti through 2012, before ultimately being hired as a full-time employee in 2013.

Being hired full-time “was a new chapter in my life,” says Jesca, who is now 29-years-old and happily married. “The Mabinti Centre has played a big role in my success – I now live in my own house!” Despite the challenges she has faced due to her difficult labor, she says, being at Mabinti gave her hope for the future.

Today, Jesca is happy with her work and remains optimistic about the future: “I thank Mabinti for the trainings and skills they’ve offered me. I now feel confident in what I’m doing. Even if I don’t work at Mabinti forever, I’ll still be able to work for myself because of the knowledge that I’ve gained here.”

Your support helps us reach more women and girls like Jesca with the skills and resources they need to thrive. You can learn more about Mabinti’s work and donate on our GlobalGiving project page: “Give Women Recovering from Fistula a Bright Future.”

Happy International Women’s Day 2019 from all of us at Kupona and The Mabinti Centre!