Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Something to ponder...

"When women thrive, all of society benefits, and succeeding generations are given a better start in life."

This is a quote from Kofi Annan, Nobel Peace Prize winner, and former Secretary-General of the United Nations.

It is on a bookmark that I am using in the novel I am reading at the moment (which is late back to the library... oops!). Every time my eye rests on this quote, I start thinking, and pondering, on how lucky I am to live in a developed nation, where my husband has a job, my children are free to play, and I have freedom of expression, access to education, health care... etc.

How different life is for those women who must physically labour from dawn until dusk, just to keep their family in a meager amount of food, to clothe their children, and for whom education and proper health care, for themselves or their children, is a far-off dream.

Many years ago my sister Megan, who is a wonderful midwife, brought to my attention the efforts of the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, or "The Hospital By the River" as it is known to the women of Ethiopia. This women's hospital was set up by 2 Australian gynaecologists (Drs Reginald and Catherine Hamlin), in 1974. They specifically treat the awful trauma of fistulas.

What is a fistula? Well, it is something almost unheard of in developed nations. When a woman labours for many hours, or days, and the baby is not delivered, the pressure of the baby's head may cause ruptures between the walls of her birth canal, and urethra, or even through to the bowel. There are many cases in rural Ethiopia of women labouring for 3, 4 or even 5 days. Tragically, the baby dies, and when it is finally delivered, the woman is left incontinent as a result of the fistula injuries.

She is then considered unclean and often outcast by her village, family and even her husband. Left to live alone with her incontinence, and the tragic death of her baby, without even the support of loved ones.

Amazingly, these injuries can often be cured with a simple operation. All it takes is a skilled gynaecologist, and the funds to operate the necessary operating theatre and recovery ward. Ethiopian women often save their money for years, walk for days and spend months away from their rural families, in order to have their fistula injuries cured at the Hospital By the River.

It only costs $450 to change a woman's life - "from despair to dignity", as the Hospital's motto says, and the hospital is entirely privately funded.

The website has several great ideas for ways to help. It is a big step to take, but imagine if you were one of those women..... Can we help them thrive?

Definitely something to ponder.

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