Melua: A young mother empowered through treatment
Caring for your family and the wider community is an important part of life for Maasai women.
For Melua Sironik, a 20-year-old housewife and mother, a typical day includes milking the cows, cooking for her family and occasionally herding the goats in the expansive, semi-arid plains of her village in Narok, south-west Kenya.
Yet when she started to develop trachoma, Melua began struggling to look after her four children – the youngest is just two months old, while the eldest is seven. “Pain set in when my eyelashes turned inwards. I had to keep the affected eye shut to stop the eyelashes scraping my eyeball,” she says.
The pain got worse every time she lit a fire to prepare meals: the smoke would irritate her already suffering eyes. “It was like adding fuel to a fire,” she explains. Fearing she would go blind, she started avoiding the kitchen which frustrated her family. “They accused me of laziness and pressured my husband to divorce me.”
When a health screening worker visited the village Melua was told she had trachoma. Finally, she was able to prove to her family that she had not been faking her illness and could receive treatment to relieve the pain.
Narok Eye Unit, supported by Operation Eyesight Universal (OEU), a partner of the Trust, visited Melua’s village and provided a free, short operation on one of her eyes; two weeks later she travelled to Ositeti clinic, about 20km from her home, for surgery on her other eye.
Two weeks after her operation, Melua was beaming. The screening visit had come at the perfect time and the surgery enabled her to look after her family.
“I’m a hardworking woman and I don’t like being helpless,” she says. “Thank you for helping me to regain my life.”