Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

3rd Session, 40th Parliament,
Volume 147, Issue 11

Thursday, March 25, 2010
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

Maternal Health

Hon. Mobina S.B. Jaffer: I rise today to ask all honourable senators in this chamber to advise the government how to provide resources for maternal health to the most marginalized women in the world.

A number of years ago, I was in Lokichokio, Kenya, in the emergency ward of the hospital when I smelled the most awful odour. I cannot describe to you how strong the smell was. I looked up and I saw a 16-year-old Masai girl with the most beautiful face I have ever seen, but I am embarrassed to tell you that I gagged on the smell of her odour and had to leave the hospital.

A few months later, when I returned to Lokichokio hospital, I met this young Masai girl. Her name was Lapasha. Lapasha was married at the age of 14 and became pregnant. When she went into labour, she was asked to get out of bed and squat. All that day Lapasha squatted, straining in agony, and with each passing contraction the baby did not arrive. One day passed and then a second day passed. Lapasha continued to deal with her contractions, squatting in agony. The baby did not arrive. Lapasha was weak. Her legs were stiff from the hours of harsh labour she endured. On the morning of the third day, the child inside her died. Through a fourth and fifth day, her contractions continued. On day six, the poor girl gave birth to a dead fetus and then slept with exhaustion.

Honourable senators, when she woke up, the bed was wet. With alarm, she realized that she was suffering from a fistula. A fistula occurs because of a complicated birth, and a woman is left with a hole in her bladder or rectum, or both. Lapasha had large holes in her bladder and rectum. Sick and without help, this girl was then thrown out of her house by her husband. She lived in a hut far away, all on her own. She was shunned by her family and by other women in the village. Nobody wanted to come near her because of the smell emanating from her.

Two years later, Lapasha was brought to the Lokichokio hospital by her father. He had walked for days with her. He transported her to the hospital in a wheelbarrow. After two agonizing years, at long last she received the help she so desperately needed.

Honourable senators, when we speak about maternal health, we speak about women such as Lapasha. There are simply too many Lapashas in the world.

Let us work together to help Lapasha, and other marginalized women. As a country, Canada has an ability to provide dignity to women like Lapasha and that is what we need to do. This is my understanding of the help necessary for marginalized women on issues of maternal health.



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