When Catherine Won the Alternative Nobel Prize

Dr Catherine Hamlin has dedicated her life to ensuring that women are able to access quality maternal healthcare and deliver a baby safely. Over her 60 years in Ethiopia, she has helped over 60,000 women receive free obstetric fistula repair surgeries. In providing these surgeries, Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia have been able to restore dignity to women who have often been ostracised by their communities, as well as provide rehabilitation, counselling, skills training, and literacy and numeracy classes. In creating the Hamlin Model of Care, a complete treatment for these vulnerable women, Catherine has made a tangible difference in the lives of thousands. That is why, in 2009, she was awarded the Alternative Nobel Prize.

The Alternative Nobel Prize

Established in 1980, the Right Livelihood Award seeks to “honour and support courageous people solving global problems.” Often called the ‘Alternative Nobel Award’, the Right Livelihood Award places an emphasis on those who are offering practical solutions to the most urgent challenges facing humanity. The prize is awarded by an international jury and is awarded in December.

Accepting the award on Catherine’s behalf was Annette Bennett, the Dean of the Hamlin College of Midwives at the time. In her speech, Annette noted that “there must be men and women of compassion and determination so that childbirth for all women can always be safe, and babies and mothers saved.”

Recognition for a lifetime’s work

In awarding Catherine the prize in 2009, the Right Livelihood Foundation cited “her fifty years dedicated to treating obstetric fistula patients, thereby restoring the health hope and dignity of thousands of Africa’s poorest women.” As a recipient of the Right Livelihood Award, Catherine joins an elite group of 174 Laureates from 70 countries. She is in illustrious company, joining the likes of Edward Snowden, Alan Rusbridger, the White Helmets and Greta Thunberg.

Catherine celebrated her 95th birthday this year; even though she is no longer participating in fistula repair surgeries, Catherine still advocates everyday for the most vulnerable women in Ethiopia. Through her advocacy work – at the national, international, and Oprah level – Catherine has been able to bring attention to the plight of fistula sufferers.

Catherine’s vision is a world free of fistula. Together, we can make this vision a reality by 2030. Find out how you can help here.

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