Women helping women

Celebrating the women of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia

Today is International Women’s Day; a day to celebrate the women who inspire us and take action to support the women who need us.

The time is now, for all of us, to stand up for these women’s rights and create a healthier, happier world.

Dr Catherine Hamlin has devoted her life to helping fistula sufferers – some of the poorest, most marginalised women in the world. Even in the most difficult of times, she has been a strong advocate for these women so they know they are not alone.

Today, at 94, Catherine is as passionate as ever in fighting for their rights and making their plight known. “I am still trying to wake up the world and tell people about the women we treat!”

On this important day, we give our heartfelt thanks to Catherine.

We’d also like to introduce you to another strong woman of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia, who works hard every day to empower fistula sufferers.

Woman in focus: Beletshachew Tadesse, Rehabilitation and Reintegration Manager, Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia

Every day at Hamlin, we see the impact of empowering women at a community level. Our patients leave Hamlin cured of their injuries, and thanks to our rehabilitation and reintegration program, they are also equipped with a renewed self belief, their heads held high. This new lease on life is thanks to our rehabilitation team, managed by Beletshachew Tadesse.

Beletshachew works at Desta Mender, or ‘Joy Village’, our rehabilitation facility where women live while they heal from their physical and emotional scars. It’s Beletshachew’s job to support fistula patients with more complicated cases and help them reintegrate into their communities with dignity and choices.

“Most of them would love nothing more than to return to the world outside. They may not want to go back to their village, or to their family, but they do want to re-engage with the community again. Our strategy is to support them to re-integrate with the community,” says Beletshachew.

Empowered to empower

Beletshachew learnt a lot from her mother, a local businesswoman – and from a young age she knew she wanted to help other women and girls. She has been with Hamlin for six years. In this time she has lead the development of skills training programs that are individually tailored to each woman.

Training can range from farming skills, childcare qualifications or business skills training. In some cases this also includes start up grants for past patients to establish their own business.

“It can be difficult building up their confidence and skills but we have had so many success stories now, it’s just wonderful! It’s all about empowerment and then watching them reclaim their lives. And sometimes you see real miracles happen.” says Beletshachew.

Strong women make strong communities

The work of Beletshachew and our team at Desta Mender cannot be underestimated. When a woman leaves Desta Mender, she is no longer defined as a fistula patient. No longer an outcast. Rather, she is an empowered individual, ready to write a new chapter in her story. She will go on to benefit her family, her community and the world.

“These women deserve the best. And we should work hard so they can get what they have lost. As a team we are very lucky to serve them.” – Beletshachew.

This International Women’s Day we salute Beletshachew, her team, and most importantly, the women they serve. Collectively, these extraordinary women are working towards a brighter future.

To read more about the work of our Rehabilitation and Reintegration program, click here.

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