It's A Girls Life

It's A Girls Life

Posted by Bronwyn Newnham on

In a small hospital in Ethiopia, there is magic happening. 

This hospital is dedicated to a single cause, a specialty, and the passion of the people who work at this hospital is to give healing to women who have an obstetric fistula.  

Young girls in many poorer nations work hard. Often this strenuous physical labour uses so many calories that, although the girls may eat a good diet, there are not enough calories left after work for their own growth.  If married in their teens these girls then have the painful challenge of giving birth to a large baby through a small pelvis. (

In our nation, obstructed labour is relieved by an emergency Caesarean Section, but in the rural areas of many poor nations, obstetric health care is often completely unavailable, and young women in obstructed labour can struggle for days. An obstructed labour usually results in the death of the baby, and injury to the mother’s internal soft tissue.  The dead tissue results in holes (fistula) in the walls separating reproductive and excretory systems. So after losing her baby, this woman must live with a never-ending flow of urine and/or faeces. A woman in a poor nation, especially those in isolated villages, has no access to medical intervention and no access to disposable hygiene products. She finds herself in an unspeakable situation. Smelly and unsightly this young woman inevitably finds herself in acute and devastating social distress. 

The Hamlin Fistula Hospital was the first hospital in the world dedicated solely to the healing of obstetric fistula. Australian Doctors Reginald and Catherine Hamlin established this hospital and together developed a technique for obstetric fistula repair that is now used the world over. At the Hamlin Fistula Hospital, they work to restore these women, body and soul.  

A Walk to Beautiful is 44 minutes long but well worth a watch! It is such a beautiful and courageous story of the women who come to the Hamlin Fistula Hospital for emotional and physical healing and such a lovely story of hope.

This hospital has been hugely influential by establishing an awareness of a need for trained obstetric care in poor nations to prevent such terrible birth injuries. Now there are many other hospitals following their wonderful and empowering example. 

Improvement in Maternal and Obstetric Care is now a United Nations Development Goal. In 2015 the United Nations reported that 71% of births worldwide are now attended by skilled health personnel, this has increased from 58% in 1990. The worldwide maternal mortality rate has been cut by 44% since 2000. The United Nations is working in developing nations encouraging and enabling governments within these nations to prioritise women's access to adequate health care.

It is amazing what can be achieved if we work together. 

The video describes the situation of women in Mozambique, and so many nations where there is poverty. So many of our products at The Fair Trader are made by women. We seek out maker communities that employ women, where women work in safe working conditions, receive an equal wage and have an equal voice. The income enables the women to provide for themselves and their children independently from the male household members. A Fair Trade Wage ensures adequate income for health care, housing, food and of course, education. 

"Educating girls for six years or more drastically and consistently improves their prenatal care, postnatal care and childbirth survival rates."

Providing the extra income with a Fair Trade wage enables families in challenged communities to provide education for their children. This is an amazing way to prevent child bride marriages and young mothers. We can reduce the incidence of obstetric fistula for girls simply by enabling them to stay in school!  

The knowledge of this made me smile when my daughters were teenagers, and complained so bitterly about school. I knew how lucky they were. When you support fair trade you are supporting women, and you are making an impact, both for women who are working now, and their daughters as they grow and learn, you are creating real opportunities just by purchasing something beautiful. 

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