Infertility affects up to 15% of reproductive-aged couples worldwide. WHO demographic studies from 2004 have shown that in sub-Saharan Africa, more than 30% of women aged 25–49 suffer from secondary infertility, the failure to conceive after an initial first pregnancy.
Fifty-seven-year-old Grace Kambini popularly known as Mama Chips says she got married out of societal expectations. Women are expected to get married to earn respect from their communities.
After nine years in her marriage, she realized that she could not give birth. Both Grace’s husband and his relatives started abusing and insulting her.
The abuse and insults extended to her home where she was tortured and frequently denied food. This would even go for weeks at a time. Her husband did not care about her woes.
“I remember asking my husband, how long I will continue to live this misery. He replied -‘You refuse to leave my house as if your parents are dead, if they are dead you should ask them to open their graves so you may join them. You are of no use to me’. Every time I remember his insults or talk about my experience, I feel faint and out of breath”, she said.
“Due to the stress I endured, I suffered hypertension and Diabetes, now I have to live injecting myself with insulin day and night.” Grace says tearfully.
When her husband kicked her out, She had nowhere to go. Unfortunately, Grace has no living relatives on her mother’s side. Her in-laws did not seem to care about her suffering. At one point, Grace’s husband even asked her to go back to her late parent’s home and wake them from their graves so they can accommodate her. Grace says that she did not have money but she soldiered on.
There was a point in her marriage where she missed her periods for a month. The following month she started bleeding excessively instead of getting her period. She was also vomiting profusely. She decided to seek medical advice to find out what was wrong with her. The doctor advised her to go for an operation, since she was pregnant and the fetus was developing in her Fallopian tubes instead of the uterus (Ectopic Pregnancy).
Her husband of ten years has since divorced her and she now lives alone with no one to support or advise her. “I still ask myself “Who I am in this world? Is this the life I was meant to live?” There is no one to love or help me, I have nowhere to go. When I travel to the village my brothers’ wives constantly insult me”. she says in agony.
She started her own small business, selling chips by the roadside to help sustain her – hence the nickname “Mama chips”.
Grace advises young couples to visit hospitals regularly and seek solutions as a couple, “If I was younger with the knowledge that I have now, I would have explored better fertility options to better my life, now I am too old for that”, she says.
Her story continues to get several views on social media via the popular “Merck more than a Mother” campaign. The campaign seeks to reduce the stigmatization and social suffering of infertile women in Africa. Watch Grace’s story here:
Rasha Kelej is the Chief Social Officer of Merck Healthcare. She says, “The ‘Merck more than a Mother’ campaign launched the ‘Empowering Berna’ initiative at the recently concluded Commission on the Status of Women CSW60. It aims to empower underprivileged infertile women who have passed the stage of receiving fertility intervention. The initiative helps them establish their own small businesses and build their own independent lives.”
Stay tuned to see what happened to Grace after Meeting “Merck More than a Mother” and how “Empowering Berna” project has changed her life. If you would like to share your story, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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