International Women’s Day is a special day for us here at My Friend Alice, as a business run by women, for women. It’s a time for us to reflect on the challenges we face as women, to rejoice in the successes we have had over the years and to celebrate the things that make women great.
Something that we like to do here is to use International Women’s Day as a chance to learn more about the things that we as privileged women can do to support other women. So, let us introduce Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia, an Australian charity that is actively working to change the lives of women living in horrific circumstances. We admire the work that this organisation does and wanted to share it with you all simply because we felt that we had to – a cause like this should be respected, admired and supported by as many people as possible. This is us, spreading the word.
Image: Bruce Perry 2012
We live in a country where giving birth, though painful, is relatively safe, so it might come as a surprise to you to know that around 300,000 women around the world die each year as a result of complications from pregnancy and childbirth. If midwives were present during birth, up to 90 per cent of these deaths could be prevented, according to the International Confederation of Midwives.
In addition to an increased death rate, in areas like rural Ethiopia, where there is no access to maternal health care, there is also an increased risk of injury. One of the worst things that can happen to a woman or girl is an obstetric fistula, an internal injury caused by an obstructed labour during childbirth. A woman can be left in agony for days, almost always losing her baby, and ends up with horrific internal damage that leaves them incontinent, isolated and ashamed – this is where Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia comes in.
Image: Mary F. Calvert 2016
Through surgery, rehabilitation and counselling, the organisation heals women who have suffered through an obstetric fistula injury, restoring their dignity – making them whole again.
“These women have suffered more than any woman should be called upon to endure. To meet only one is to be profoundly moved and calls forth the utmost compassion that the human heart is capable of feeling,” said founder Dr Catherine Hamlin AC.
"These women have been neglected at the most important moment of their lives. We would never put up with this sort of suffering.”
The organisation believes in a world where all women are able to deliver their baby safely and where childbirth injuries are a thing of the past, which is why they also focus on education and prevention.
Image: Joni Kabana 2014
Dr Hamlin is passionate about creating awareness of these issues, so that more help can be provided.
“I just want the world to know that there are women suffering and there’s something that can be done about it,” she said.
“My dream is to eradicate obstetric fistula from Ethiopia. I won’t achieve this in my lifetime, but you can in yours."
Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia has restored the health and dignity of over 50,000 women who have suffered obstetric fistula, with every donation helping to empower them - incredibly, an amount as small as $50 can provide long-term physiotherapy for one patient.
You can make a donation here: Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia
More information about founder, Catherine Hamlin, a woman we admire, you can read out blog post here.