Marie Claire is 65 years old. This happened to her when she was 15. She remembers that when the labor started during her first pregnancy, she was quickly surrounded by her mother and the village traditional birth attendant, who was known to assure a good delivery. They used all of their knowledge and practices on her; they even invoked God and Spirits and medication of their ancestors. All of this was in vain.
Marie Claire stayed in the village unable to deliver for a week, struggling for her life. Since her husband was absent from the village, it came to her father to make the decision to take her to a hospital located about 15 km away from the village. He went there for help and came back the following day with a church-owned car to take Marie Claire to the district hospital. By that time, she was so tired and weak that she was unable to realize what was going on. The next thing she remembers is being told that the baby was pulled out by force and was dead. As for Marie Claire, she was unable to work or control her urine.
Her situation was seen as a punishment for an assumed wrongdoing, since Marie Claire has been telling people’s fortunes since she was child. Two days later, she was taken to a hut located in the middle of the forest, totally isolated from the village. She was fed from time to time by her mother. Despite the tragedy she was experiencing, Marie Claire decided to keep on living.
She had been struggling against her loneliness, her humiliation, her sickness, and her distress for two years when her husband came back and took her to Conakry, the capital of Guinea. Marie Claire’s situation worsened when he died a few months later, leaving her alone, without any income. For the second time, she was alone and isolated, and for the second time in her life, Marie Claire firmly decided to keep on living.
To survive, she went to the outskirts of the city, where she was not supposed to be known, telling people’s fortunes once again. She lived this life until 2006, when the manager of the obstetric fistula project took her to the hospital for treatment. Marie Claire was 65 years old. She hid her problem from others for 50 years, as the smell of urine drove everybody she tried to approach away. Even her nieces whom she adopted years ago would run from her.
After having surgery twice, she recovered her health and her dignity. Today, Marie Claire says there is not any difference between ordinary old women and her. She can go anywhere she wants without getting driven away and she can safely do whatever she wants to do.
Marie Claire has not had any contact with her biological family since she left her village 48 years ago. She now says that her real family is the obstetric fistula project.