On 26th April 2012, Dr Catherine Hamlin was bestowed with an honorary Ethiopian citizenship in recognition of her dedication to the people of Ethiopia.
In a ceremony in the Prime Ministerial Office, Catherine was given an Ethiopian passport and certificate of honorary citizenship. In awarding Dr Hamlin, the former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi noted her outstanding humanitarian work, which has since has led to 60,000 obstetric fistula patients being successfully treated. Mr Zenawi stated that “Dr Hamlin was awarded the citizenship for serving fistula patients for more than five decades by establishing a fistula hospital in the country.”
Catherine has called Ethiopia home for 60 years now. According to Catherine, she has felt a sense of belonging since day one: “Although I was not born in Ethiopia, I love the country very much. I felt very much at home straight away because the scenery seemed very familiar to us. We got a really warm welcome so we didn’t really have culture shock.”
A special place amongst Ethiopians
Catherine holds a special place in the hearts of Ethiopians. As journalist Sue Williams discovered in her profile of Catherine for The Weekend Australian Magazine, Catherine is widely recognised and often compared to Mother Teresa by locals across Ethiopia.
Five years after being made an honorary citizen, Catherine was acknowledged by the Ethiopian Foreign Minister Workneh Gebeyehu at a ceremony marking the re-opening of the Australian embassy in Addis Ababa. Workneh remarked that “she has been described as one of Australia’s most remarkable women, notwithstanding the fact that she is one of our most remarkable women here in Ethiopia too. She is indeed a remarkable bridge between our two peoples.”
In fine company
In being awarded an honorary citizenship, Catherine joins a handful of incredible people. This group includes Catherine’s friend and famed suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst.
Over the past 60 years, Catherine’s compassion and commitment to the most marginalised women has influenced thousands to join her mission to eradicate fistula. Forever.
You can discover more about Catherine’s journey in our 60for60 series here.