NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 8 – Behind their welcoming smile, hidden underneath is the constant pain they endure daily; and at night when they get to their homes they cry when no one can see them fighting battles nobody knows about.
They are battles they choose to keep to themselves because they consider them as ‘shameful’.
This is the sad reality of many women in rural Kenya who live with easily treatable Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) and the more perilous Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs).
Capital FM News set off on a journey to Magadi after a past interviewee got concerned that women in Oldonyo Nyoike area were not seeking treatment though they had symptoms associated with UTIs and STDs.
Due to the ‘disgrace’ associated with such diseases, our interviewees looked for a far location under a tree and on a hill to ensure no passerby would eavesdrop.
It took a while to openly talk about their personal struggles with diseases they don’t know how to describe but refer to them as diseases of ‘sehemu za siri’ (diseases of private parts) or ‘diseases of shame.’
Being a Traditional Birth Attendant (TBA), Alice who was the oldest of them recalled she used to notice that some women she assisted during birth had excessive discharge or wounds around their private parts.
In this location, “women would rather die than say they are sick. When they look like they are going to die or all symptoms can be seen, when you see them walking with legs apart or scratching then you know they are sick.”
Though she helps other women, she herself has as an infection that has not been treated for several months.
“What kind of sickness is this when I feel very itchy down there? Alice asked. “When I pee, down there gets very hot and I feel like I am burning. I am an old woman, I don’t bleed.”
“I know I am sick but in don’t know what I am suffering from. I don’t know if I can be treated.”
“Hapo ni mahali pa siri, na maneno ya siri inabaki ni ya siri (that place is private and it should always be kept private).”
Their biggest challenge is communication.
As we interviewed the rest of the women, Alice did the translations because they express themselves only in their local language.
To understand them, they need a translator or a doctor who speaks their language.
“Some women go to Nairobi for treatment but they cannot explain to the doctor or the doctor cannot understand where they are suffering from,” Alice explains.