Gojjam Yegezuleh is a 23-year old woman who was born and raised in Feres Bet Woreda (district), West Gojjam Zone of the Amhara region. She was married at the age of 14 and had no opportunity to go to school. She developed fistula during her second delivery due to a 3-days prolonged labor at home before being taken to the hospital on her fourth day. As a result, she had a stillbirth and developed fistula. Fistula not only affected her physically (through incontinence) but also completely changed her life in a negative way. She said, “I didn’t know anything about fistula and how it occurs. After I developed it and divorced with my husband, I became hopeless and even tried to kill myself. I used to cry day and night and was convinced that I am a cursed person.”

She lived in isolation until she found out about the fistula treatment available at the Hamlin Fistula Hospital in Bahir Dar. She had two surgeries before she was cured. However, she was still depressed and uncomfortable to return to her home where she was ostracized.

She was enrolled in the HHOJ program and was very shy at first, but started to regain her confidence and became one of the most active participants. During her graduation, Gojjam said, “I came from darkness to light, thanks to God. I was labeled as ‘Fistula’ in my community, but now my name is changed to ‘Ambassador’. My future is bright, and I promise to advise pregnant mothers in my town to receive medical care during pregnancy.”

Since her graduation, Gojjam has identified 6 women with OF, sent 25 women for ANC follow up; among these, 13 have delivered at health institutions and the rest are still on ANC. During the Income Generating Activity (IGA) and business skills training, Gojjam decided to pursue a small business making and selling local drinks. She received a loan of 5000birr ($250USD) and started her business within a month of graduating as a Safe Motherhood Ambassador. She started to make a profit in her second month of starting her micro-business and has already started repaying her loan. She says that she continues to lead a happy and independent life.

In November 2015, Gojjam was invited by the Ministry of Health’s National Taskforce for Fistula Elimination, and gave a speech about her experience with fistula in front of over 100 delegates from 9 regions in Ethiopia. She eloquently shared her struggle, treatment, recovery, and her current status as a Safe Motherhood Ambassador.