The film starts with a colourful wedding in a remote village in Mali. The bride is beautifully dressed, with a special hairstyle and make-up. For Sushuan it’s the first wedding after her own, 9 months ago. Now she is highly pregnant. Promised at the age of 10, the wedding took place soon after her first menstruation. She begged her parents to let her go to school and not to marry her yet, because after marriage she is not allowed to go to school anymore. Despite her condition she still does all the heavy work she used to, like chopping wood, walking miles to fetch water and cooking for the family of her husband. Now and then she feels a sudden pain in her belly. Nevertheless Sushuan, small and very delicate for her 14 years, welcomes her pregnancy then without children she is nothing.
Nobody is happy, that Mariam is expecting a baby. She is not married yet and her fiancé denies fatherhood. She never had a chance to visit a doctor or a health center, but she consulted the traditional midwife in her village. When labour starts, it’s in the middle of the rainy season and all the streets to the village are flooded. The last two days Mariam has been pacing the small hut of her family, pausing still when the labour pain struck her. By now she is completely exhausted. Finally her family put her on a donkey chart and take her to the nearest hospital. Arriving there one day later, the baby’s life couldn’t be saved. When Mariam wakes up the next day, her bed is wet with urine. She is ashamed and tries to hide, hoping that after some days it will better. But it won’t – she already developed a fistula.
After an obstructed labour 15 year old Kaneba has lost her baby and developed a fistula. In the local hospital they couldn’t help her. Back home people start to shun her, nobody eats the food she is preparing and she is too weak to work in the fields. When after several weeks she is still incontinent, her husband leaves her and marries another woman. Kaneba goes back to her parents. But in the little hut the smell is soon too dominant. They build a separate hut for her outside the village, but they nurse her and bring her food and water. In this hut Kaneba stays for two years – alone, ashamed, helpless. She barely eats, because the more she eats or drinks, the more wastes trickles down her legs. “I just curled up” she says.
But then, one day, she hears in the radio about a new treatment in Bamako. She wants to go there, at all costs. Her parents sell a cow to bring up to the money and she travels to the clinic. There, for the first time, she sees other girls with fistulas, all hoping to get healed. After a few weeks it’s Kaneba’s turn to go into surgery.
All these girls live in the area social worker Mme Dolo is in charge of. Since 10 years she is fighting with heart and soul against the stigmatization of women with fistulas. We see her travelling thousands of kilometres to remote villages, visiting women and inform them about the possibilities of treatment. She tours with an open-air-theatres from village to village to inform about the problem and does radio spots to sensiblise people. Mme Dolo has studied in Rumania, but decided to come back and stand up for underprivileged women in her country.