Empower Women, Empower Communities
Dr Catherine Hamlin dedicated over 60 years of her life to restoring the lives and dignity of more than 60,000 Ethiopian women with obstetric fistula. She always believed that treating a fistula patient isn’t just treating a hole in the bladder, but rather the whole woman with love and care. That’s why she developed a Rehabilitation and Reintegration Program at Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia to further support women recovering from fistula injuries. The program embodies the Hamlin Model of Care and empowers women to live a life with independence and dignity.
What is Desta Mender?
In 2002, Dr Catherine Hamlin founded Hamlin’s Rehabilitation and Reintegration Centre, Desta Mender. Desta Mender (‘Joy Village’ in Amharic), is a recovery centre where longer-term fistula patients with more severe injuries can continue to heal. Some women with complex cases may need multiple surgeries and ongoing care.
Repairing a woman’s fistula injury is not the end of her story. Having lived in social isolation for months or even years, re-entering the community can be daunting and few have an income that allows them to live independently.
At Desta Mender, each woman has a tailored rehabilitation and reintegration program. Women are offered counselling, literacy, and numeracy classes, as well as vocational and life skills training. The Hamlin team supports women to find sustainable employment upon reintegration back into their communities. In some cases, this also includes the facilitation of start-up grants to establish their own business, enabling these women to generate an income.
Hamlin’s Women’s Empowerment Program
In 2021, Desta Mender launched a new Women’s Empowerment Program to provide more former fistula patients with the chance to learn at Desta Mender. Training is provided by Holleta College and those women who are in need of income support are selected and invited to return for the three-month residency program to learn vital vocational skills.
With the support of Women’s Hope International, this groundbreaking initiative empowers women to live with choices and independence – in turn empowering their community and those around them! The program trains 245 women every year, offering a range of opportunities, including leadership and communications training, as well as small-business guidance.
Hope and Independence: Elifinesh’s Story
While at Desta Mender, Elfinesh took classes on business management which gave her the tools she needed to run her own small business. She was given a start-up grant to open her own shop in Begi, south-western Ethiopia. Three years later, Elfinesh has a stable source of income that allows her to provide for her daughter.
“They are all precious to me. For every patient that comes to us we try to give them all the love, care and expertise that we have to help them to get better and back to a normal life.” – Dr Catherine Hamlin