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Kenya

Disturbing silence of women grappling with diseases of ‘shame’

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Gladys on the other hand is 35 years old.

What started as small wounds around her private parts later affected her menstrual cycle.

“I no longer know my menstrual cycle. I can bleed for even one and a half months and they disappear for another month. I have heavy bleeding and I lose a lot of blood during my cycle. The blood comes anytime.”

She becomes very weak just before her periods.

“I become very weak. My whole body feels tired. My blood has all shades of colour. It is sometimes black, brown, deep red, light red. It really looks very different; I get back pain. I have been through this and I am still going through it.”

Gladys has no choice. She has to soldier on because she is yet to access gynaecological services.

Pauline Ngwetek is also a TBA.

“Women here don’t want to talk about it. But they are suffering. They say there is a lot of dirt in that secret place and they are also scratching down there. Others have wounds. You see mahali ya siri ni ya siri (a private part is a private part), that’s why they fear talking about there,” Ngwetek explained.

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Penina Torari, 45, has met many women while helping them deliver.

She only knows of the sexually transmitted gonorrhoea.

“I know someone gets gonorrhoea because of sleeping around. But I don’t know how other people get infected by other STDs or UTIs. But when they come to give birth, I see they are sick because of the dirt around that area.”

The women, she explained, don’t discuss STDs and UTIs until symptoms are visible or they are completely sick.

“They hide the disease until when they are about to die and they are completely ‘rotten’ down there and the symptoms cannot be hidden. That’s when we take them to a doctor.”

Sampao recalls a disease which they refer to as emirika (syphilis) in the local dialect.

“When people get emirika, they use herbs to treat it. But the wounds become very big, the disease eats everywhere, from down there, to the stomach until wounds come to the mouth, their hair falls off. They hide themselves until they die.”

Whereas people in urban areas can check into a hospital and get specialised services, women in remote areas like this part of Magadi unfortunately struggle to treat themselves and soldier on with the diseases.

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