A Summit Advocating for the Advancement of Women’s Rights

On 10th December over 100 stakeholders, advocates and dignitaries attended an advocacy event organised by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Ethiopian Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs, and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission. With the aim of influencing public policy and the means of eliminating discrimination and gender biases, the event highlighted the specific barriers – including lack of access to quality medical care – which hindered gender quality in Ethiopia.

Women’s health: the cornerstone of development programs

The event, held on Human Rights Day, featured panel discussions and guest speakers such as the Simegn Wube, the State Minister of Women, Children and Youth Affairs. The theme of the summit was ‘Celebrating the Role of Women in Protecting and Advancing the Rights of Women and Girls.’ The discussion focused on the urgent need to place gender equality and human rights high on public policy agenda. The event posited that the broadening of women’s choices over their health resulted in greater agency for women and girls. It was contended that greater reproductive rights and women’s agency was the cornerstone of any development program.

Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia provides both short-term and long-term family planning services, giving women more control over their health and increasing the likelihood of safer pregnancies. Hamlin-supported Midwifery Clinics provided 145,078 patients with short-term family planning services and 77,290 patients with long-term family planning services in 2018/19.

A wider conversation on gender equality

The conversation on gender equality in Ethiopia gaining momentum; the UNFPA event was organised in connection with the ’16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence’ initiative and part of a series of advocacy events.  Gender-based violence has unfortunately been a factor for many obstetric fistula patients, with spousal abandonment being a common occurrence for patients arriving at Hamlin hospitals.

The UNFPA event was held as part of the UNFPA’s ‘Preventing and Responding to Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, including HTTPs and the Rehabilitation of Survivors’ program; the program is supported by the Canadian government. Female empowerment programs – including literacy and vocational skills training – in Ethiopia have gained international attention; the generosity of Hamlin supporters has made a significant difference in the quality of life for tens of thousands of Ethiopian women.

Advancing women’s rights through a holistic approach to healthcare

In celebrating the role of women in protecting and advancing the rights of women and girls, the impact of Dr Catherine Hamlin’s work over 61 years in Ethiopia cannot be understated. The Hamlin Model of Care treats each person with the respect and compassion she inherently deserves; a holistic approach to treating fistula provides patients with rehabilitation, counselling and reintegration courses; and the creation of regional hospitals and clinics provides free health services for geographically isolated and impoverished women. For Catherine, the importance of improving the quality of life for women after their treatment is a key aspect to her approach to healthcare. “To send women home to experience again a normal life after all they have suffered is the greatest reward we can have and is shared by all who look after fistula patients,” said Catherine.

You can help improve the healthcare and quality of life of women in regional Ethiopia; Catherine’s 96th Birthday Wish is to upgrade and stock vital medical equipment for regional fistula hospitals. Find out how you can help here.

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