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International Women’s Day 2017 – A woman we admire, Dr Catherine Hamlin

At 93 years of age, Dr Catherine Hamlin has spent more than half of her life dedicated to changing the lives of women, specifically women who have gone through horrific birth experiences and have been left injured and outcast.


Image: Kate Geraghty 2008

1959, on a trip to Ethiopia with her late husband, Reg, was the first time that this amazing woman came in contact with a women suffering from obstetric fistula, an encounter that changed her life forever.

"We were touched and appalled by the sadness of our first fistula patient: a beautiful young woman in urine-soaked ragged clothes, sitting alone in our outpatients department away from the other waiting patients. We knew she was more in need than any of the others. She had been through a long labour of five days with only the village women to help. And so we saw the first of many fistula sufferers," said Dr Catherine Hamlin AC.

Together, the couple began work on perfecting the surgical technique to treat the injuries and within their first three years, they had operation on 300 fistula patients. From there, Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia the charity was born.


Image: Joni Kabana 2014

News of a cure spread and women became to travel from far and wide to see them. As demand grew, so did the need for a fistula specific hospital, so Catherine and Reg began to fundraise. It was opened in 1974 and there are now Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia hospitals in a number of regions across the country.

60 years on, Catherine Hamlin and her organisation Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia is still focussed on the same goal.

“My dream is to eradicate obstetric fistula from Ethiopia. I won’t achieve this in my lifetime, but you can in yours." Dr Catherine Hamlin AC

It has seen over 50,000 women have their health and dignity restored, and the building of six hospitals (with over 550 Ethiopian staff members), a rehabilitation centre and the Hamlin College of Midwives.

Find out more about the organisation and the woman behind it here: Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia

You can read our blog post about the organisation here.