Humanitarian Allies Building a Better Ethiopia


October 25, 2019


On 11th October 2019, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded Ethiopian Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed with the Nobel Peace Prize. In awarding Prime Minister Ahmed, the committee cited his work in resolving the long-standing Ethiopian-Eritrean conflict and his domestic reforms – notably, his work in increasing the influence of women in Ethiopian politics and society. Abiy has been an ardent supporter of Dr Catherine Hamlin’s work protecting the most vulnerable women in Ethiopia. The two humanitarians are allied in their commitment to uplifting the rights and status of women in Ethiopian life.


A Nobel Laureate

Upon being named the Nobel Peace Prize winner, Abiy said: “thank you very much. It is a prize given to Africa, given to Ethiopia and I can imagine how the rest of Africa’s leaders will take it positively to work on [the] peace-building process on our continent.”

At 43, Abiy is the youngest leader in Africa and has only held the office of Prime Minister for 18 months; nevertheless, he has made significant strides in diplomatic and domestic reforms.

In his youth, Abiy joined the rebellion against the authoritarian Derg government. He later served as United Nations Peacekeeper in Rwanda in the aftermath of the genocide. His commitment to human rights saw him pledge to restore diplomatic relations and peace between Ethiopia and neighbouring Eritrea.

Tensions over borders and geopolitical power plays resulted in a 20 year conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Over 100,000 people died in the first two years, after which there was a tense 18 year period of no peace and no war. Upon taking power, Abiy visited Eritrea and forged a peace deal with Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki. This peace deal has been monumental and led to family reunifications.

On the domestic front, Abiy has instituted social reforms which are focused on the empowerment of Ethiopian women in social and political spheres. His support for women’s development has made a meaningful impact in the increased health outcomes of women in Ethiopia.


Building a Better Ethiopia

Through their work in women’s healthcare and development, Catherine Hamlin and Abiy Ahmed have shown a commitment to eradicating obstetric fistula in Ethiopia.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee praised Abiy’s reconciliatory work and emphasis on social justice, with particular mention of his commitment to gender equity and the empowerment of women in Ethiopian society. Part of this commitment to gender equity can be seen by in Abiy’s support for the Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia’s work.

Catherine and the Hamlin Team, which consists of over 550 Ethiopians, are building a better Ethiopia. The treatment programs at the six Hamlin hospitals provides patients with the care they need while treating them with the dignity and respect they deserve. Hamlin’s rehabilitation and reintegration programs provide vocational skills training which allow patients to return to their communities with agency and the ability to build an independent life. The Hamlin College of Midwives is educating a new generation of first-class midwives who are working near the communities in one of the 66 Hamlin-supported Midwifery Clinics.

Dr Ahmed was a Guest of Honour at the 60th Anniversary celebrations at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital earlier this year, where he inaugurated a statue of Drs Reg and Catherine Hamlin. Accompanied by his wife, First Lady Zinash Tayachew, Prime Minister Ahmed planted seedlings in the compounds of the hospital.

Remarking on Catherine’s incredible impact on Ethiopian life, Abiy said “Dr Hamlin and her husband gave us a lifelong lesson that heroism is saving human life, feeling humanity and standing by the marginalised.”


Catherine’s dedication to eradicating fistula has seen her team treat over 60,000 women over 60 years in Ethiopia. She has been twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and was awarded the Alternative Nobel Prize in 2009.

With the support of strong allies like Prime Minister Ahmed, the work of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia can flourish – and more women can get access to quality healthcare to treat fistula, and prevent them from occurring.



Click here to learn about Catherine’s nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize.