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Women with Fistula


Every year a delegation of Soroptimists from all four Federations goes to New York for the annual two-week session of the Commission on the Status of Women, in an attempt to influence the outcomes of negotiations between the Member States of the UN on the rights of women across the world.

Soroptimist International is well known and respected at the UN for its work, every project on our Database is a source of information to our United Nations’ representatives, who can use the information to strengthen arguments and allows us to put the data together to maintain our special consultative status within ECOSOC. (Economic and Social council) This gives us a voice in the negotiations, one that is listened to and respected.    

It was reported that one of the worst things that can happen to a woman or girl around the world is a fistula, an internal injury caused by childbirth (or occasionally by rape) that leaves her incontinent, humiliated and sometimes stinking, Women with Fistulas are the lepers of the 21st century.

Ethiopia has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the world with 10,000 new cases of fistula each year. In a county of 92 million, there are less than 1500 midwives trained to deal with this issue.

Dr Catherine Hamlin is working to improve the maternal healthcare and the safety of childbirth in Ethipoia through her organisation Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia.ethiopia 3


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An estimated two million women in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, the Arab region, and Latin America and the Caribbean are living with this injury, and some 50,000 to 100,000 new cases develop each year. Yet fistula is almost entirely preventable. Its persistence is a sign that health systems are failing to meet women’s essential needs. The condition is invisible as it involves sex, odour and private body parts, and because victims tend to live in impoverished countries, they are poor, rural and female. They are 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.

It was also reported that for 10 years a woman, living with a fistula, had to travel to work before dawn, when the buses were empty, because she smelled of urine. She was unable to drink fluids during the day, as she could not control the flow of urine. When she heard of the possible surgery, she walked for many days to get to the health centre. Following successful surgery at Hamlin Fistula   Ethiopia she has returned home to lead a normal life.ethiopia 1



May 23rd is the UN International Day to End Obstetric Fistulas, and SI Birkenhead held a coffee morning which was attended by members and friends. The funds raised will help to purchase a mannequin, to enable trainee nurses to understand the problems associated with fistulas and to also to provide funds to help to train 10 young women to work in the community in Ethiopia.

SI Birkenhead raised £150.00 and as we were able to donate by gift Aid which with tax relief, the total money donated was £187.00.

Fistula Foundations and charities are dedicated to ending the suffering caused by childbirth. Their philosophy is that no woman should have to suffer a life of shame and isolation for trying to bring a child into the world.