I watched a very powerful film the other night called "A Walk to Beautiful." The documentary, released in 2008, just came out on DVD. It's the heartbreaking story of the silent epidemic of obstetric fistula in Ethiopia. This film, besides telling the first-person stories of the five women it follows from their villages to the capital for treatment, also reveals a larger narrative about maternal mortality, reproductive rights, child marriage, malnourishment, and birthing practices in a third world country.
The film has traveled the festival circuit and met continual praise from critics, for good reason.
A fistula usually develops when a prolonged labor presses the unborn child so tightly in the birth canal that blood flow is cut off to the surrounding tissues, which then rot away. The result is a hole between either the rectum and vagina or between the bladder and vagina, which means the mother leaks feces or urine uncontrollably, leaving her a social pariah, typically abandoned by her husband or family.
The most common reason for fistulas shown in this film is the practice of girls being married off too young and becoming pregnant well before their bodies can fit a baby through the birth canal. Of course, lack of proper nutrition throughout their lives can also lead to them being smaller than they should be for a safe birth.