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International Women's Day 2022: Break the bias on fistula

As part of International Women’s Day 2022, Hamlin is reflecting on the importance of breaking the bias that obstetric fistula patients face.

We want to see a world free of stereotypes and discrimination.

A world where access to equitable and holistic health care empowers women to determine their own futures.

International Women's Day 2022

The theme for International Women’s Day 2022 is ‘Break the Bias.’

Sadly, there continue to be many stereotypes and biases which create barriers for women accessing basic rights.

Every woman deserves to determine her own future, but those who suffer from an obstetric fistula, a debilitating childbirth injury, are often left incontinent and facing social and economic exclusion.

This can lead to malnourishment, impoverishment, and poor mental health. As such, when a woman arrives at Hamlin for care, she requires a multifaceted approach to her treatment that extends beyond fistula repair surgery.

Every time a former fistula patient is able to return to her community, gain employment, start a business, socialise or have children again, biases are broken.

A fistula patient laughing in the gardens of Hamlin's Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital | International Women's Day 2022

Holistic treatment that goes beyond surgery

For 63 years, Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia has been committed to caring and empowering women not only through life-saving fistula repair surgery, but also through the restorative Hamlin Model of Care.

Through the Hamlin Model of Care, Hamlin patients are provided nutritious food, clothing and a Hamlin blanket, preoperative and postoperative physiotherapy, customized counseling programs, literacy and numeracy classes, vocational training, and reintegration support. The holistic ethos which underpins all patient care at Hamlin extends to empowering women after they return to their communities.

Patients at Desta Mender learning literacy skills

Hamlin's new Women's Empowerment Program

In 2021, Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia launched a new Women’s Empowerment Program to provide former fistula patients with the opportunity to learn advanced vocational skills at Desta Mender, Hamlin’s Rehabilitation and Reintegration Center. Women who have previously undergone comprehensive treatment at one of Hamlin’s six fistula hospitals are invited to return to Desta Mender for a three-month residency program.

Hamlin’s Women’s Empowerment Program includes training provided by Holleta College and is supported by Women’s Hope International. Participants acquire life-changing skills through vocational training, small-business guidance, leadership courses and communications training. The program empowers women to live with choices and independence.

After graduating from the three-month residency, many women have returned to their communities to establish businesses and share their knowledge with others. Participants who were previously ostracized have been able to return home and empower other women.

Aselefech learned pottery skills in Hamlin's Women's Empowerment Program

How can you support women this International Women's Day?

We are helping build a world that empowers all women to access social, cultural, and economic opportunities. But there is still work to be done to ensure that no woman suffers the indignity of fistula.

So far, Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia has provided treatment for 60,000 women. Your support will help continue that journey towards transforming 100,000 lives.

Donate: Every Woman Matters. Click here to empower women like Mulu and Zemzem. Your donation can provide women at Hamlin fistula hospitals with extended counseling sessions.

Social media: Share this blog on social media to spread the Hamlin story and encourage other to learn more. Keep up to date with the latest news in our work to eradicate fistula by following Hamlin on social media.

Shop: Celebrate International Women’s Day 2022 by supporting female artisans’ wares at the Hamlin Shop. Proceeds from your purchase provide income to fairtrade artisans, in addition to supporting Hamlin fistula patients.

Talk: Have a conversation with your family, friends or colleagues. Talk to them about what International Women’s Day 2022 means to you and let them know about Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation.

Read: Discover the incredible story of two formidable women whose friendship helped transform the lives of thousands of women with fistula. Healing Lives is the untold tale of Mamitu Gashe, the protégée of Dr Catherine Hamlin, and their inspiring decades-long friendship. Get your copy of Healing Lives here.


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All rights reserved 2023 Catherine Hamlin Foundation (R) (ABN58159647499)
Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation is fiscally sponsored by KBFUS (EIN582277856) and KBF Canada (RCO769784893RR0001)

Photography credits to Cameron Bloom, Nigel Brennan, Mary F. Calvert, Kate Geraghty, Amber Hooper, Joni Kabana, Johannes Remling and Martha Tadesse.

Patient names have been changed to protect the identities of those we help.