“As a journalist it is my privilege to shine a spotlight on people…my greatest honour is to be able to shine that spotlight on people who are doing truly extraordinary work around the world. Thank you for letting me shine that light and congratulations on 95 extraordinary years on behalf of humanity.”
On Dr Catherine Hamlin’s 95th birthday in January this year, Nick Kristof, one of the world’s most respected humanitarian commentators and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, shared a heartfelt message congratulating Catherine on her lifetime of achievements and milestone birthday.
A long-term advocate
For 60 of her 95 years Catherine has been dedicated to helping some of the most marginalised women in the world.
Nick Kristof has written about Catherine and Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia in the New York Times over the years, helping to elevate the issue of obstetric fistula to an international stage.
In 2003, he was deeply touched after meeting a young fistula patient, Mahabouba Mohammed, in Addis Ababa. Mahabouba was sold into slavery at 8 years of age and suffered from an obstetric fistula after giving birth at age 13. In this article, Kristof described the horrific isolation experienced by Mahabouba:
“[The baby’s father] confined her in a faraway hut and removed the door – so that hyenas, attracted by the odor, would tear her apart at night.”
After undergoing surgery at Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia, Majabouba became a nurse’s aide at the Hamlin’s Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital.
In 2014 Nick Kristoff again wrote about Catherine here calling her the 21st-century Mother Teresa and noting one of the most striking features of her work is the way she empowers recovering fistula patients to help in the treatment of others.
In 2016, Kristof wrote about gender inequity as a major obstacle to women gaining access to quality healthcare. In this article, Kristof described the heartbreaking reality of women with fistula in developing countries:
“They’re poor, rural and female, and thus voiceless and marginalized. They’re the same group that is routinely denied education, denied the right to own property, denied jobs and denied any recourse after being battered, raped or married against their will — and that’s why gender equity worldwide should be a top item on the social justice agenda.”
In Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s book ‘Half The Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide,’ they tell the remarkable story of renowned fistula surgeon Mamitu Ganesh. Once a patient with obstetric fistula, Mamitu became one of the world’s finest fistulas surgeons under the tutaelage of Catherine and Reg Hamlin and a much-loved member of the Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia surgical team. She was subsequently named one of BBC’s 100 most influential and inspiring women for 2018.
Oppression into opportunity
Over the past 60 years, Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia has given life-changing treatment to over 60,000 women. In addition, Hamlin’s Rehabilitation and Reintegration Program has ensured that recovering patients are empowered with necessary skills to lead a new life of independence.
Nick Kristof has been a dedicated supporter and fierce advocate for Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia. He continues to shine a spotlight on the individual stories of the women Catherine has dedicated her life to. As an advocate for women’s rights and an ally to Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia, Nick continues to raise awareness about obstetric fistula and Catherine’s mission – to eradicate fistula forever.
Thank you Nick.
Author: Felicity Duong, intern at Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation
To read more about Dr Catherine Hamlin and her important work, click here.