International Women’s Day 2024: Inspire Inclusion

The theme for International Women’s Day 2024 is Inspire Inclusion. When we inspire others to understand and value women’s inclusion, we forge a better world. And when women themselves are inspired to be included, there’s a sense of belonging, relevance, and empowerment.

This year to mark International Women’s Day, we shared the story of a meeting between two inspiring Australian women. Sam Bloom is a world para-surfing champion, bestselling author and inspiration behind global hit movie Penguin Bloom. In 1998, Sam and her husband, Cameron, travelled to Ethiopia where she met Dr Catherine Hamlin. It was a meeting that Sam would never forget. A nurse herself, Sam said, ‘Catherine and Mamitu represented everything I wanted to be when I first decided to become a nurse.’ Catherine believed in helping others without expecting anything in return. 

Sam and her family recently visited Ethiopia for the first time since this incredible experience and travelled back to the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital. They noted the amazing progress and expansion to the hospital, but also ‘One thing that hasn’t changed is the dedication and kindness shown to each of the patients by the staff. It just emanates from their smiles and the way they care for each of the women.”

The Hamlin Model of Care, which is intrinsic at every Hamlin Fistula Hospital, is grounded in treating the whole person with respect and compassion. Every woman deserves to determine her own future, but those who suffer from an obstetric fistula, a debilitating childbirth injury, are often left incontinent and facing social and economic exclusion.

Every time a former fistula patient is able to return to her community, gain employment, start a business, socialise or have children again, biases are broken.

A fistula patient laughing in the gardens of Hamlin's Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital | International Women's Day 2022

Holistic treatment that goes beyond surgery

For over 60 years, Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia has been committed to caring and empowering women not only through life-saving fistula repair surgery, but also through the restorative Hamlin Model of Care.

Through the Hamlin Model of Care, Hamlin patients are provided nutritious food, clothing and a Hamlin blanket, preoperative and postoperative physiotherapy, customised counselling programs, literacy and numeracy classes, vocational training, and reintegration support. The holistic ethos which underpins all patient care at Hamlin extends to empowering women after they return to their communities.

Patients at Desta Mender learning literacy skills | International Women's Day 2022

Dr Catherine Hamlin: Breaking the bias

Dr Catherine Hamlin travelled to Ethiopia in the 1950s to work as an obstetrician-gynaecologist, something which was virtually unheard of back then. But this didn’t stop her.

As a young woman, graduating from the University of Sydney Medical School in 1946, Dr Catherine Hamlin challenged biases and broke stereotypes at a time when approximately 90% of doctors were male.

She went on to establish a network of six fistula hospitals, a rehabilitation and reintegration centre, the Hamlin College of Midwives and over 90 Hamlin-supported midwifery clinics.

No other woman, or man, has done as much to eradicate fistula and give these women back their lives. the years. Catherine’s dedication has inspired countless women who are studying and working in health.

Catherine and patients

How can you support women this International Women’s Day?

Donate: Donate to help restore the lives of 100 Ethiopian women in March. Donate here.

Social media: Share this blog on social media to spread the Hamlin story and encourage other to learn more.

Shop: Celebrate women by supporting female artisans’ wares at the Hamlin Shop. Proceeds from your purchase provide income to fairtrade artisans, in addition to supporting Hamlin fistula patients.

Talk: Have a conversation with your family, friends or colleagues. Talk to them about what International Women’s Day 2022 means to you and let them know about Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation.

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