Life-changing pain from supposedly routine implant operations. Kim Chakanetsa speaks to two women who were injured by medical devices, and have gone on to campaign for concerns about them to be taken seriously in the UK and US.
Kath Sansom set up Sling The Mesh in 2015, ten weeks after having a trans-vaginal mesh implant for stress urinary incontinence (SUI), which immediately caused her excruciating pain and debilitation. It was removed seven months later, but Kath is still dealing with the physical and mental after-effects, and fights on for others left in chronic pain by mesh operations. In July 2018 the UK Government temporarily paused the use of vaginal mesh for SUI cases in England, while they carry out a safety review. This is due to report in Spring 2020.
Angie Firmalino's permanent birth control implant caused heavy bleeding, fatigue, and sharp stabbing pains. Removing it left fragments of metal and plastic in her body, which continue to cause her health problems. Angie founded the Essure Problems online support group to share her story and warn other women of the risks. It grew to tens of thousands of members who took their concerns to the authorities. In 2018 the device was withdrawn voluntarily by the manufacturer, who say they stand by Essure’s safety and efficacy.
L: Angie Firmalino (credit: Angie Firmalino)
R: Kath Sansom (credit: Kath Sansom)
Women rewriting history
History is told by the victor, and he's usually male. Kim Chakanetsa speaks to two historians who've made it their mission to track down 'ordinary' women of the past, and carve out a proper place in the history books for them.
Hallie Rubenhold is a social historian whose book The Five focuses on Jack the Ripper's victims. These were real women with varied lives, before being killed and - mostly incorrectly - labelled as prostitutes. While their murderer remains unidentified over 130 years later, Hallie has pored over census records, ships' manifests, workhouse ledgers and newspaper cuttings to painstakingly reconstruct these women's stories.
The Indian feminist historian Uma Chakravarti focuses on rehabilitating controversial women from the past and uncovering previously unknown women's stories. Uma's film A Quiet Little Entry is about an ordinary woman called Subbalakshmi, who contributed 'small acts of resistance' to India's struggle for Independence and left behind an extraordinary archive of papers.
L: Uma Chakravarti (credit: Uma Chakravarti)
R: Hallie Rubenhold (credit: Johnny Ring)
Passionate about democracy
The relationship between women and democracy in Brazil and Bhutan - Kim Chakanetsa talks to two women with a passionate interest in their country's political system.
Petra Costa's parents were dissidents under the military dictatorship in Brazil, and she was two when democracy returned. Petra filmed with the first female President Dilma Rousseff, as she was impeached in 2016, and followed the rise of the populist right-wing President Bolsonaro. In her Oscar-nominated Netflix documentary The Edge of Democracy, Petra asks if Brazilian democracy will survive, and how women will fare.
Namgay Zam is a respected journalist in the small Himalayan country of Bhutan, which only transitioned from absolute monarchy to democracy a decade ago. The number of women MPs has increased in that time but Namgay says there is still a long way to go before women are respected and recognised fully in the political system.
L: Namgay Zam (credit: Bhutan Street Fashion)
R: Petra Costa (credit: Netflix)
Is veganism more than just a food fad or diet trend? Research suggests the majority of vegans are female - why? Kim Chakanetsa talks to two women who promote a vegan diet about the challenges they face getting their message across - and the anger they encounter from those who see it as a criticism of their own choices.
Selene Nelson is a British American freelance journalist, activist and author of Yes Ve-gan! In 2018 she offered an article to a supermarket chain magazine on vegan cookery and the editor responded including a joke suggestion for a series on “killing vegans one by one”. When his email was included in an article about hostile attitudes to vegans it caused such a furore he resigned.
Itua Iyoha set up Eat Right Naija after transitioning to a vegan diet herself. She wants to share what she's learned with others in Nigeria and support them to make the change. She says she faces questions about whether she can't afford meat, is seriously ill or whether she'll ever find a man to marry her.
L: Itua Iyoha (Credit, Itua Iyoha)
R: Selene Nelson (Credit, Selene Nelson)
Why I dated on reality TV
On Love Island and Date My Family - what's it like to date in front of millions? With TV dating shows the idea is for romance to blossom between contestants, but can fame and fortune also follow? Kim Chakanetsa brings together two women who know.
Montana Brown is one of the breakout stars of the British TV show Love Island. She took part in 2017 and became popular for her no-nonsense attitude and quick-witted banter. Despite coming fifth in the dating competition, since leaving the villa she has amassed an impressive social media following and started her own swimwear company.
Rey Letsooa became a household name in South Africa after appearing on the popular show Date My Family. Although she didn't ultimately get together with her chosen bachelor, her show trended on social media for three days and viewers seemed to connect with her confidence and authenticity. Rey says 'I knew I would get judged on my weight but I didn’t let it stop me. I may be a size whatever but I knew that what I am is more than that.'
(Image: Montana Brown (L) Credit: BBC. Rey Letsooa (R) Credit: Rey Letsooa)