Fistula is a problem that affects many women around the world. Usually due to difficult, prolonged labor and childbirth at a very young age, women are left incontinent after damage to their bladders and rectums. Then they are shunned by their families and villages. A small hut is built outside the village where the woman must live. She is not allowed back into the village because she smells and leaks. No one visits. She is alone.
After praying, “How can I be sure, in a world that’s constantly changing, where I stand with you?”, I turned the channel and found a Nova special on PBS about women in Ethiopia who receive surgery for fistula problems and are usually but not always cured. Sometimes when the problem is “fixed”, woman refuse to go home, saying there is no one there for them. The Nova special covered that too and what the hospital community does to help.
They had me from the beginning, with this story of brave and shunned women. Holy Cross has shunned me, retaliating in many ways, and I have to stay outside the gates. They must think I am contagious or smell or don’t belong. It has become a sacred place. Many other women and men know this story too. Using your voice is costly. Using your intelligence is dangerous. But in my life I have not yet encountered a problem that cannot be fixed, and for some reason this problem has called my name. I belong in this place.
And then the college started focusing on my bathroom breaks, when I leave my signs, the signs that are so dangerous and frightening. It really is a sacred place, that place outside the gates. When I set up the Loveable Loo, and poop and pee outside the gate, my heart will be with women who endure much worse, who light the way for me.