The vision to end the suffering of girls and women who are left incontinent as a result of fistula in Nigeria gained some momentum recently when Stephanie Linus, a UNFPA Ambassador for Maternal Health in West & Central Africa and a very vocal advocate for girls and women’s rights, took her campaign to the nooks and crannies of Sokoto state in northern Nigeria. This campaign was particularly important as it not only took place in a region with the highest prevalence rate of fistula, but also included meetings with traditional rulers, religious leaders, policy makers, women leaders and other stakeholders who are tasked with creating policies and encouraging lifestyles that directly affect their communities.
To deliver her advocacy message even better, Mrs. Linus screened her award-winning movie, Dry, a masterpiece that connects the dots between underage marriage, poor maternal health and fistula. The movie which has now been translated into Hausa appealed to the local audience.
The awareness campaign also included visits to fistula hospitals where she had discussions with various doctors, nurses, fistula patients and health workers.
Obstetric fistula is a preventable condition which is prevalent in Nigeria and most poor resource countries of the world. An estimated 50,000- 100,000 new cases occur annually in Nigeria, hence it is a major public health problem. The UNFPA has been at the forefront in tackling this issue, spearheading several outreach programs and putting its full weight behind campaigns such as this. The organization is also credited with ensuring the message of the movie gets to every relevant community.
For Mrs. Linus, Dry has taken on a life of its own and continues to take her around the world. The education and awareness it delivers to everyone who watches it inspires her to do more. “Dry is more than just a movie,” she said. “It is a movement, and the plight of the girl child is a cause I must continue fighting for. I’m not slowing down anytime soon.”