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Supporting Women with Childbirth Injuries in Uganda

TERREWODE delivers medical care, sexual and reproductive health education, and maternal health advocacy to girls and women in eastern Uganda.

Up to 100,000 women worldwide each year suffer from obstetric fistula, a childbirth injury that causes incontinence, social isolation, and lasting medical issues. As a teenager in Uganda, Alice Emasu Seruyange had friends who experienced it. She decided to make fistula awareness and maternal health access her life’s work.

Alice went on to found the Association for Rehabilitation and Reorientation of Women for Development (TERREWODE), which delivers medical care, sexual and reproductive health education, and maternal health advocacy to girls and women throughout the Teso region in eastern Uganda.

The grassroots organization provides fistula surgeries, maternal care, and community education addressing the condition’s causes, including early marriage. In 2019, TERREWODE completed construction of a new hospital, the only one in Uganda dedicated to treating childbirth injuries. More than 370 women and girls were treated last year.

It also addresses barriers to healthcare and economic opportunity as women’s rights issues. Patients are invited to help craft maternal health and fistula prevention policy recommendations and take part in financial literacy programs. The Fund for Global Human Rights has supported TERREWODE for nearly 18 years, helping it to reach more communities and bolstering its advocacy and other women’s health rights efforts.

For Alice, the prevention and treatment of fistula, support for survivors, and the need to elevate women’s needs and voices are inextricably linked.

“Women and girls are the most affected when their human rights are neglected, and therefore it is imperative to design and implement solutions with their involvement. For so long they have had their human rights breached when they suffer from obstetric fistula and other childbirth injuries, and this is partly because of culture. This is why it is important to empower more women and girls in leadership to rise up and promote visibility of these issues in their communities,” Alice says.

The Fund’s support for TERREWODE is made possible by People’s Postcode Lottery (UK) and the Regan Ralph Feminist Leadership Fund.