Greatest benefit to humankind: Catherine nominated twice for Nobel Peace Prize

“For the greatest benefit to humankind.” – Alfred Nobel

Nominated twice for the Nobel Peace Prize, Dr Catherine Hamlin has been recognised for her outstanding contribution to improving maternal healthcare for women in Ethiopia.

History of the Nobel Prize  

Alfred Nobel, a Swedish inventor, scientist and entrepreneur, established the Nobel Prize through his last will in 1895. He left behind what was then one of the world’s largest private fortunes, which funded the establishment of the Nobel Foundation and the prestigious prizes. Since 1901, the Nobel Prize has recognized people around the world for outstanding achievements and contributions to physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and work in peace.

In his will, Nobel stated that the Peace Prize would be awarded to a person or organisation that has “done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”

Up until World War I, the Nobel Peace Prize was often awarded to pioneers of organised peace movements. Between World War I and World War II, it was mostly awarded to politicians who promoted international peace by means of diplomacy and international agreements.

Dr Catherine Hamlin: twice nominated for Peace Prize

Since World War II, the concept of peace has broadened and many kinds of peace work have been recognized. The four main areas include arms control and disarmament, peace negotiation, democracy and human rights, and work which has contributed to a more peaceful world.

Dr Catherine Hamlin was first nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 1999. Catherine was nominated alongside Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), President Ezer Weizman of Israel and Professor M. Cherif Bassiouni, to name a few. That year Médecins Sans Frontières won the award for pioneering humanitarian work on several continents.

In 2014, Catherine was nominated for a second time. The nomination came from Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the then Minister of Foreign Affairs for Ethiopia and a long-time supporter of Dr Hamlin (now the Director General of the World Health Organisation). Catherine’s fellow nominees included Malala Yousafzai, Kailash Satyarthi, Pope Francis, Chelsea Manning and President Jose Mujica of Uruguay, amongst others. The Prize was awarded jointly to Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.

Improving access to quality maternal healthcare

To be nominated twice for the Nobel Peace Prize, is a remarkable achievement. These nominations highlight the substantial impact that Dr Catherine Hamlin and her team have had in Ethiopia. Thanks to their work, tens of thousands of women have been able to exercise their right to quality healthcare.

Catherine arrived in Ethiopia 60 years ago, in 1959, and has since made the world aware of obstetric fistula. She is a pioneer in best practice fistula treatment and care, and she and her team have treated more than 60,000 women to date, restoring their health and their dignity. Catherine is a truly inspirational female leader. She recently turned 95 years of age and still lives on the grounds of her Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital.

Catherine was honoured to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. In her usual humble way, she highlighted the importance of all her staff at Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia, in making her life’s work possible:

“It would be lovely [to be awarded the prize], I’d be excited but I’d like someone else with me, to share it. I’ve got a very dedicated staff.”

Author: Felicity Duong, intern at Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation

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