The Curious Autodidact

October 21, 2010

Women’s Basic Health in the Developing World

Filed under: media related,nonprofit,social justice,women heroes — Honilima @ 4:56 pm



Sometimes a movie or documentary can teach you something you knew nothing about and this is the finest use of the media. Enjoying a documentary, one that compels you to learn more, or take action, is even more enlightening.

Netflix has allowed many documentaries that may not have otherwise seen the light of day a new life in the hearts of viewers. Independent documentaries are often the most interesting and “A Walk to Beautiful” is a stunning story of Ethiopian women and introduces first-world viewers to the issue of obstetric fistula, a hole that forms between the vagina and the bladder or rectum during prolonged, obstructed labor. Women are left incontinent, some develop nerve damage in the feet and legs and most are shamed in their community because of their smell and disability.

Obstetric fistulas were virtually eradicated in the United States in 1895 and the first fistula hospital closed its doors in New York City in 1925.

This movie follows five Ethiopian women as they make their way to the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital and we watch as their lives change from one of utter ostracization to one of acceptance being around other women who have also been marginalized by her community.

You will meet the elderly and totally dedicated Australian British national Dr. Catherine Hamlin who founded the hospital in 1974 with her now deceased husband Dr. Reginald Hamlin. These services are supported by donations from the public and offered to the community without charge. You will see how the lives of these women are profoundly altered.

Less than six in two women in developing countries give birth with any trained midwife or doctor. In Ethiopia where this movie is filmed there are as estimated 100,000 women who suffer with untreated fistula, with over 9000 more women estimated to develop fistula annually.

According to the Fistula Foundation website “Because most fistula sufferers are young women—many still in their teens—they are likely to live with their condition for upwards of 25 years. By any estimate, there are at least two million women currently living with fistula throughout the developing world. The world capacity to treat fistula is estimated at 6,500 fistula repair surgeries per year.” This well produced documentary explains the shame and heartache involved with this all too common affliction, no one can watch this documentary without at least feeling more informed, if not driven to action. Hamlin Fistula Hospitals has initiated an expansion project to build five mini-fistula hospitals throughout Ethiopia. Tax Deductible Donations can be made The Fistula Foundation and mailed to: The Fistula Foundation, 1171 Homestead Road, Suite 265, Santa Clara, CA 95050. This is a marvelous movie to watch with friends or with your book group to raise awareness of this tragic condition.

After watching this film I was driven to read The Hospital by the River: A Story of Hope that further fleshes out the story of the couple who founded this hospital in Ethiopia in the late 1950s. Although it seems obvious the book was patched together from stories told the John Little the co-author the story makes up for the writing and is well worth a read if you’ve never read anything about Ethiopian culture or about a couple so self-sacrificing for the needs of others. Watch the movie, read the book and make a donation to this important cause.



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