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Stephanie Okereke talks about her VVF Charity Campaign on MNet Africa Magic’s Jara

BellaNaija.com

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For the past few years, Stephanie Okereke has quietly been doing great work with her campaign to educate and raise funds  for surgery to treat Vesicovaginal Fistula (VVF). Cases of VVF are especially prevalent in Northern Nigeria where certain traditions, poverty or family pressure force hundreds of girls get married and have children in their early teens before the pelvis is well developed and ready to handle childbirth.

According to the Fistula Foundation,

A fistula is a hole. An obstetric fistula of the kind that occurs in many developing countries is a hole between a woman’s birth passage and one or more of her internal organs. This hole develops over many days of obstructed labor, when the pressure of the baby’s head against the mother’s pelvis cuts off blood supply to delicate tissues in the region. The dead tissue falls away and the woman is left with a hole between her vagina and her bladder (called a vesicovaginal fistula or VVF) and sometimes between her vagina and rectum (rectovaginal fistula, RVF). This hole results in permanent incontinence of urine and/or feces. A majority of women who develop fistulas are abandoned by their husbands and ostracized by their communities because of their inability to have children and their foul smell. Traumatic fistula is the result of sexual violence. The injury can occur through rape or women being butchered from the inside with bayonets, wood or even rifles. The aim is to destroy the women and the community within which the sufferer lives. Once committed the survivor, her husband, children and extended family become traumatized and humiliated.

Stephanie has been working with first ladies of Northern states in Nigeria on various awareness and treatment campaigns. This week on MNet’s Jara, Stephanie is interviewed by co-host Helen Paul and she shares the story behind her passion for the cause and also the positive results the campaign has yielded so far.

2011 is set to be a monumental year for Stephanie Okereke, in addition to her VVF charity work, she is currently planning her wedding to her beau, Linus Idahosa and has major North American feature editorials lined up.

You can watch the show on Saturday evening at 19.30 CAT. Jara is re-screened on AfricaMagic every Monday at 12.00 CAT and Wednesday at 23.00 CAT.

51 Comments

  1. E.J

    March 4, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    First to comment!!!!! yayyyyyyyyyyyyy!!!!! *screaming on the street*

    • Chipii

      March 4, 2011 at 4:33 pm

      LOL

    • Ms. Sassy eyes

      March 4, 2011 at 4:46 pm

      OMG I am soooooooo happy for you. Wow. Your family must be so proud. What an achievement. The glory. It is so Amazing. Just keep staring at your PC all day for new BN posts and the sky is your limit. Keep it up.

    • iBreatheFreedom

      March 5, 2011 at 1:05 am

      loooooooooooooooooooooooooooool. U go fear sarcasm

    • Bola

      March 5, 2011 at 10:08 pm

      E dey pain you? Choi! My dear E.J enjoy your first place jare! Some peeps are just jealous!

    • love

      May 16, 2011 at 4:58 pm

      hehehehe…this is so funny.

  2. E.J

    March 4, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    wow! this article is really informative. Never knew about VVF. Keep it up Stephanie.

    • TERMS

      March 4, 2011 at 3:58 pm

      really? u must be a guy!

    • say it as it is

      March 4, 2011 at 10:52 pm

      VVF is virtually unheard of in developed countries.So i can understand why a few people might not have heard about it.

  3. Memory

    March 4, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    Wow Stephanie the work you are doing is great. thumbs up girl congrats on the upcoming nuptials. 2nd attempt at marriage.lucky girl! May this be the last. For better and worse Amen.

  4. Tiki

    March 4, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    i’m a girl, but I never knew about VVF too! Thanks for sharing, Stephanie. God bless your hard work and envisaged marriage.

    • Karimah

      March 4, 2011 at 7:59 pm

      Really????

  5. Akindele dare

    March 4, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    you are the best,keep it up.

  6. Promise

    March 4, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    U did d work of a brave woman,keep it on.

  7. Kathryn Cage

    March 4, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    can no one see that Stephanie and linus Idahosa has some kind of facial semblance? I bet she’s his missing rib, she’ll surely be his wife and eternally, no divorce.

    • mary007

      March 4, 2011 at 6:43 pm

      I really do not think this comment is relevant here. Go to another page or website

    • FM

      March 4, 2011 at 10:32 pm

      lmfao!!!

    • Miss Face

      March 4, 2011 at 11:17 pm

      Hahahaha ha hehehe!

    • shade

      March 5, 2011 at 6:22 am

      Haha. Now dying. That was hella funny…

      On a serious note, Stephanie Okereke is just an awesome lady. Bless her…

  8. babycake

    March 4, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    thumbs up girl, u are doing a great job, i have read some articles on VVF trust me no one wants to be in the shoes of the victim… @Memory she is indeed a lucky girl some of her mates has not been married even once…LOL

  9. Lait

    March 4, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    Good job Steph, nothing like adding value to human lives…
    and Helen Paul looks really nice in the Ituen Basi dress!

  10. florence ojei

    March 4, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    waooooo i must say you are doing a great job, more grace to your elbow.
    more blessing.

  11. foolish talk

    March 4, 2011 at 8:54 pm

    God bless! informative!

  12. bobbydox

    March 4, 2011 at 8:59 pm

    this is someone who has survived the tick skin of nollywood i am so so proud of you

    • Miss Face

      March 4, 2011 at 11:49 pm

      Tick? Skin?**

    • Straight4ward

      March 5, 2011 at 2:48 pm

      LOOOOOOOL!!!!!!

  13. Miss Face

    March 4, 2011 at 9:06 pm

    Whoever the stylist is did a good job. From the hair to the outfit……….glad that stephanie is looking so classy and well put together. Be back later for the real comment.

  14. TRINAH

    March 4, 2011 at 9:14 pm

    Love ya Steph

  15. uchechi

    March 4, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    Well done steph…keep it up and raise more awareness on this cause. All the best!!

  16. fashionconscious

    March 4, 2011 at 10:20 pm

    i am so proud of stephanie and i love her!

  17. Linda

    March 5, 2011 at 2:44 am

    VVF is an everyday way of life for many girls in the north. Cos their body does things it shouldn’t so early. It’s a simple solution really! Education for the men who think it’s fine to hand their 12 yrs old to a 50 yrs old man to marry and have kids. I’m sure it’s happening all over Nigeria it’s a real disgrace this country is still at this stage in 2011. Dio salvo la nostra anima

  18. NNENNE

    March 5, 2011 at 5:01 am

    Great.

  19. who's that girl?

    March 5, 2011 at 7:07 am

    Good Job

  20. Tina Ike

    March 5, 2011 at 10:54 am

    I grew up in the northern part of Nigeria(Kano) and VVF is real and very traumatic due to traditions marrying/getting pregnant at very young age. I am impressed Stephanie is taking up this cause, and shedding great light on the issues. Keep up the great work. Celebs who use their platform to reach out this way will have staying power!

  21. cyriacus .c. ezekwe

    March 5, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    Struck by strange illness!
    This man wants to walk again
    •Needs N5m for surgery

    By SUNDAY ANI
    Sunday Sun, February 13, 2011

    “If the penis does not die young, it must surely eat the bearded fruit,” so said Chinua Achebe in ‘Things Fall Apart.’ Achebe was actually talking about the inevitability of procreation by any full-grown man who decides to walk into the marriage institution.
    Every man who takes a wife does so primarily to raise children and then enjoy other perks that go with it.

    So, when on April 28, 2001, Mr Cyriacus Chigozie Ezekwe walked down the aisle with his newfound love, he was full of expectation. Friends and relatives that graced the event told him they would come back in another 12 months to celebrate the arrival of a new baby. But fate had a different plan for him. Soon after his marriage he developed a strange illness, which incapacitated him thus dashing the hopes of a new baby as envisaged by friends and relatives.

    What started like mere malaria in 2002, according to Ezekwe, eventually weakened his knee joints that he could no longer stand erect not to talk of walking.
    Ezekwe, a businessman dealing on second-hand clothes in Lagos before the illness, is today rendered immobile by neuropathic joint, a condition doctors said needed kneecap replacement surgery before he could walk again.

    The surgery, which would cost about N3.5million, could either be done at the Lagoon Hospital in Lagos or in India. But he was advised to go to India where there are enough specialist hospitals. At the Lagoon Hospital, he would have to wait until there are two or three similar cases before an expert would be invited from India to perform the surgery.
    Speaking about his pains in the past nine years, Ezekwe said: “How I wish there is an instrument that could be used to diagnose my pains so that the machine would be able to tell people what I am going through because nobody would be able to understand it. Only God understands the degree of pains I go through. It has been horrible day and night. I have had cause to ask if it is possible for somebody to be alive and still be in hell.”

    For his brother-in-law, Pastor Uche Joshua, it is very pathetic to see a once energetic man relapse into a condition that he needs assistance before he could move from point A to B. “It is very painful when somebody you know very well, who was doing what others are doing and suddenly you see the person not doing the same thing. I began to put myself in his shoes. If I were the one, how would I feel? That is why I have taken it upon myself to ensure that whatever we can do we will do it to make him walk again,” he promised.

    In the beginning
    Tracing the genesis of his present ordeal, Ezekwe said: “It was when I was searching for another house after my wedding, having been duped by shylock landlords that I began to feel like I had malaria. So I went to Jema Hospital at Wilmer bus stop (in Ajegunle). After the test, the doctor started treatment but there was no iota of improvement.”

    Strange dimension
    He said he felt uncomfortable when after weeks of treatment there was no improvement and he began to feel a sharp object piercing through the sole of his left leg, when actually there was no physical injury on close examination.
    “At a point I felt like a sharp object had pierced through the sole of my left leg but when I looked at it, I discovered that there was no wound there.

    “It was at this point that my brother became apprehensive and decided to take me to another hospital.”
    He was moved to Havana Hospital in Surulere. And by this time, it was becoming practically impossible for the then energetic businessman to walk. After series of tests, the result showed that he fell down and had bruises inside his knee.
    “When I was told the outcome of the test, I told them I didn’t fall down anywhere. At this point, it was becoming very difficult for me to walk. Drugs were prescribed for me and I started taking them but there was still no improvement.
    “On one of my visits, I met another doctor who doubted if the drugs I was taking would have any effect since the ones I had been taking have not had any positive impact. He suggested that I go home to pray hard for God’s intervention as the only solution.”

    Journey to the village
    Having left the hospital, there was mélange of suggestions from various quarters as to the next step. His parents later took him to his mother’s church in their village.
    “I stayed in my mother’s church between 2003 and 2004. After the prayers, I could struggle to bathe myself but then I would spend like one and a half hours. That is on a good day otherwise the average time is two hours.
    “To rub soap and sprinkle water on my body was a tug of war because I could not stretch my hands as you can see; somewhere within my elbows cannot stretch. It is very painful.
    “That is how I have been living in pain and sorrow every day and night till today,” he lamented.

    In-laws’ intervention
    A new twist was introduced last year when his brother-in-law, Pastor Joshua took him back to hospital for a fresh test. At the All Souls’ Clinic, Marina-Lagos, he was diagnosed with neuropathic joint and was advised that only knee replacement surgery would solve his problem. “My brother-in-law suggested we try hospital again. I was not keen initially but he persisted and on December 11, 2010, he took me to hospital. After series of tests and x-ray, they invited their consultant orthopaedic surgeon, who said my problem was neuropathic joint and that only kneecap replacement would end my woes,” he stated.

    Plea
    Ezekwe, who said he and his wife have been surviving on financial aids from friends and relatives, is appealing to well-meaning and philanthropic Nigerians to help him to raise N5million required for the operation and its expenses.
    He has decided to go to India when the money is available instead of Lagoon Hospital due to wise counsel from the consultant orthopaedic surgeon at the hospital.

    “I was advised to go to India where I would have a lot of choices to make, unlike in Lagoon where I would have to wait until about two or three other people with similar case would come before a consultant surgeon would be invited to perform the operation. The operation on one of the legs would take six hours. But if I go to India, many experts would handle it instead of one person. But now I don’t have a kobo in my account as this condition has exhausted all my savings and that of my family. I am appealing to Nigerians to save me from this agony, so that I can come back to life,” he pleaded.

    His wife and expectant baby
    He commended his wife’s dogged spirit but lamented his inability to make her pregnant all these years.
    “She had stood by me all along. She was working in a supermarket at Jibowu but she was fired on a day she went late to work because she was attending to me. “After explaining that it was her effort to tidy things up for her sick husband that made her late, her boss just told her to go home and tend to her husband and that was how she lost her job.

    And since then, she has been by my side. “Physically, she has not complained to me but you know every woman would want to have children. I know it has been weighing her down but she is holding on to God believing that I will one day regain my health to be able to perform my marital duty. She has been understanding and has been there for me,” he said.

    To assist Ezekwe kindly use the information below:
    Name: Cyriacus C. Ezekwe
    Bank: Diamond Bank
    Account: 0831060024290
    Phone No: 234-8027256950, 8182614708

  22. THE AMAKA

    March 5, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    WOW! very informative. VVF…i never heard of until now. its sounds very traumatizing! i wish her all the luck.

  23. Tomisin

    March 5, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    I just wonder why VVF isn’t more common in places like the UK since it has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancies among developed countries. Can giving birth by cesarean instead of a natural birth prevent this from occurring? I first heard of this condition when i was maybe 6. It was from a Genevieve Nnaji movie and I can still remember Gene walking around with a urine bag and everyone holding their noses. My little self was outraged at such an inhumane act. I remember thinking that all teenage girls who got pregnant were going to have it. Imagine my shock when i grew up and found out that a lot of teenage girls were having a babies without getting this VVF issue, I began to wonder if the scriptwriters just got carried away, the same way every girl who has an abortion must bleed to death. I was just thinking about it a month ago. Off to google.

    Ramblings aside, this is a noble thing Stephanie is doing and I just hope she is able to achieve a lot through this charity. Children should not be thinking of marriage or kids especially not to slimy old grimeballs. eeek. Yup, I’m still outraged.

    • Bola

      March 5, 2011 at 10:24 pm

      The ones that suffer from VVF have children as early as 9yrs old o! Some from 9yrs – about 12/13 years. And they have the child through the birth canal not CS as those in the developed world do. (Those in the developed world are usually teenagers b/w 15 – 17yrs). Usually what happens is that the full grown baby is too large to come out of her still forming reproductive parts and during the time of labour, tears her down below…causing a whole between the vaginal wall and the place where she pee-pees. This causes her to drip constant urine and sometimes feaces (depending on the extent of the damage) and the girl is usually abandoned by her ‘husband’ and society. Some Women suffer o! You guys should go watch the movie, “Desert Flower’ about Waris Dirie. Its on Female Genital Mutilation, a close cousin of VVF. You will not be the same for a long time! God have mercy on us! Man’s inhumanity to (wo)man! Chai!

    • Ginika

      March 11, 2011 at 12:03 pm

      First time I heard about it was on Opara. A certain elderly lady (cant remember her name) living and practising as a doctor in Ethiopia spoke about VVF and her ecounters with the situation in Ethiopia. Thanks for the further enlightenment. Indeed, the wickedness of this world what the so called ‘men’ do to women. Those who do this should not be bestowed with such an honourable title of being called a man because they are BEASTS, thats more befitting.

  24. Mabel

    March 6, 2011 at 7:24 am

    Good work Steph!

  25. Ronnie's Jeans

    March 6, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    Great work Stephanie.God bless you..!

  26. mbabazi

    March 6, 2011 at 6:48 pm

    kudos stephanie.bella please cover the story of the comenter cyriacus .c. ezekwe and see if you can help someone

  27. Vyvyka

    March 8, 2011 at 10:10 pm

    Thats commendable. everyone need to be aware of VVF and the dangers associated with teen marriage.pregnancy.
    http://www.strategicchic.com

  28. Wunmmy

    March 9, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    Very thoughtful of you Steph…keep up the good work. It is really humiliating and unfair to these little girls to have to go through all that trauma….may God help us in this country, amen.

  29. DAN P

    March 11, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    steph good work

  30. tessa

    March 17, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    Hi,
    I loved your article so much. Your blogs classy and educative.
    i need your help, i would like the contacts of a home to protect women who want to avoid Female Genital mutilation, a safe home in Lagos or Abuja. I admire the work you do.

    tessa

  31. Nate

    April 15, 2011 at 6:43 am

    @Ginika….you first heard of VVF on *opara* ……I’m assuming you meant to say Oprah…?? *bb confused face*

  32. cheta nwakanma

    April 30, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    very well done steph….

  33. OTUFODUNRIN OLUWASEYI

    June 16, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    STEPHINE YOU ARE MAKING THIS COUNTRY PROUD, AND THIS IS REALY SERIOUS TO HAVE TAKEN UP THIS CAMPAIGN. REALY WE WANT TO CONTRIBUTE MY QUOTA IN HELPING TO EDUCATE THIS SOCIETY THROUGH SHORT PLAYS. IF YOU INTERESTED I WILL BE WILLING TO SOMETHING IN THAT REGARD.

  34. Jummy

    July 7, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    Go girl,that is indeed a just course.Continue to make d Nigerian women proud.U’re not pretty but also kindhearted.

  35. grace unanka

    July 12, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    have always loved you even without knowing why,with the knowlege of what you are doing now, am getting to love you even more. Am really proud of you. I adore your courage and strength with so much passion. You are indeed a brave women and i must tell you that reading about you transforms my life like magic as though you are close to me though never met you before. keep doing what you are doing cos you are transforming a life; me. will be most blessed to met you some day and share how much transformation you have caused in my life. God bless for standing for Nigerian women.

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