Ethiopian woman Wubete features in the documentary
Ethiopian woman Wubete features in the documentary

Giving women back their beauty

When Year 12 Trinity students Clare Pearce, Kyah Johnstone and Amelia Thompson watched the documentary A Walk to Beautiful about Ethiopian women being outcast from their communities because they couldn't access a simple medical procedure, she was shocked and deeply touched by their plight.

The doco is about five women who have been treated and cured by Australian-born Dr Catherine Hamlin, co-founder of the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, which is dedicated to providing free fistula repair surgery to poor women suffering from childbirth injuries. Without the simple surgery, women are left with a hole between the rectum and vagina that leaks urine, and they are often abandoned by their husbands, exiled from their communities and left to fend for themselves.

When Clare discovered all this from the documentary, and the fact it was happening to women younger than her through forced marriage and rape, she and a group of girls at school decided to take action.

“One woman, Wubete, ran away from three different husbands because she didn't want to get married but when she fell pregnant to her fourth husband she had to stay,” Clare said. “When she got a fistula after childbirth she was outcast by her husband and had to walk to the hospital to get treatment because she couldn't afford the bus fare.

“We could never imagine something like that here - we think our problems are bad as teenagers, but this really puts your life into perspective when you see what these women have to go through. It was incredibly sad and touching.”

A group of senior students from Trinity and Woodlawn, in conjunction with a local women's group called the M&Ms, are now holding a fundraising dinner next Thursday, September 17, to raise money for the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in its 50th anniversary year.

“There is a 90% cure rate and the hospital cures around 30,000 women a year, but they need more doctors because Dr Hamlin can't do it forever,” Clare said. “Some of the women are being trained to become nurses there, so they get this opportunity to help other women going through the same situation - it gives them a job and the ability to help others. They've also built a 100-person village for women who can't be cured, because there is that 10%, and they are in a community where they are safe and accepted.”

She said she was thankful to Trinity, which screened the documentary in its society and culture class, because she's no longer ignorant about the horrific situation these women endure.

“It's just not an issue we have to face in Australia because of our health care system and it's unbelievable seeing what these girls have to go through,” Clare said. “The health care system in Ethiopia has no way of dealing with them and it's socially unacceptable and not really understood there, so they have no future. We hope to help give them one.”

The A Walk to Beautifu' fundraising dinner is on next Thursday, September 17, at Tommys in Lismore. Parts of the documentary will be screened and there will be a 2-course dinner and some fun fundraising games.

It starts at 6.15pm and tickets are on sale at Tommys for $50. For information, email 6049@trinitylismore.com or 6033@trinitylismore.com.


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