At birdsnest, we have all been truly moved by the positive impact Catherine Hamlin has made on the lives of so many women. We are humbled by the opportunity to contribute to such a crucially important cause. For our team and our customers, birdsnest is about inspiring confidence in women, so when we learnt about Catherine Hamlin’s story there was an instant connection. It is a privilege to be able to play a small part in supporting such an amazing and inspiring woman, and a foundation that she has dedicated so much of her life to.
The woman who gave life to an idea: Dr Catherine Hamlin
My dream is to eradicate obstetric fistula from Ethiopia. I won't achieve this in my lifetime, but you can in yours.
60 years ago, Dr Catherine Hamlin and her husband Dr Reg Hamlin arrived in Ethiopia from Sydney for a posting that was supposed to last just three years. The doctors were heartbroken at the number of fistula sufferers and their subsequent treatment in society and stayed to perform life-changing obstetric fistula operations.
An obstetric fistula is an internal injury caused by prolonged, unrelieved obstructed labour, and presents as a hole between the birth canal and the bladder or rectum. 93% of obstetric fistula survivors give birth to a stillborn baby and unfortunately, the nightmare doesn’t end there - as these women are then ostracised and neglected by their society.
Together the Hamlin's strived to transform the maternal health environment for Ethiopian women, and after Reg’s death in 1993 Catherine refused to leave or give up hope on eradicating obstetric fistula, leading the Hamlin Fistula Hospital and five other regional hospitals.
Treatment extends far beyond repairing the injury, also focusing on restoring dignity. Patients coming to the Hamlin Fistula Hospital receive a customised program that includes nutrition, physiotherapy, counselling, and rehabilitation.
To this day, at 96 years old, Catherine still lives at the hospital in Ethiopia. Her work has seen the treatment of more than 60,000 women and has continued uninterrupted for more than half a century.
Catherine is a champion for these women who have traditionally had little to no supporters to help improve their lives.
This life changing surgery restores health and dignity!
birdsnest X Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation
The Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation relies entirely on philanthropic donations - which is why we had no hesitation in adding the Hamlin Shea Butter to our “Rewards for Good” program. Not only do we get to share this 100% natural product with our customers, in doing so we are making a direct impact on the lives of the brave and beautiful fistula patients at Dr Catherine Hamlin’s Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital at the same time as supporting the female farmers in Ghana who handpick the shea nuts, sun-dry them and extract the shea butter using traditional methods.
The flow-on effect that the Hamlin Shea Butter has is simply amazing, and we hope that by adding this A grade butter to our program we can generate awareness around this fantastic foundation which continues to make a tremendous impact to the lives of so many women in need.
Shop For A Cause
We are also thrilled to collaborate with Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation as an exclusive retail partner for their stunning range of Fair Trade scarves and wraps with proceeds of all items supporting the Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation, the suppliers and makers of these beautiful items, and the continuation of our partnership.
By shopping from this collection, you are providing the opportunity for recovered fistula patients to find work in a safe and supportive environment, as well as supporting the work of the Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation.
More Than Just Scarves
The gorgeous scarves are handmade by SABAHAR fairtrade textiles in Ethiopia using hand-spun cotton and weaving techniques inspired by ancient weaving traditions. Using entirely eco-friendly dyes made from local plants and herbs, the Sabahar scarves are made through such an intricate process, that one weaver may only make 3 scarves a day.
By purchasing any of the Sabahar Fair Trade scarves, you are not only providing support for the Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation but also allowing recovered fistula patients to have the opportunity to secure an income spinning these gorgeous scarves. Sabahar is a member of the World Fair Trade Organisation and ensures their employees operate in a safe, supportive and comfortable environment.
The foundation is currently able to provide full-time employment for five weavers and five spinners, with your support, we are hoping to greatly increase this impact. Shop here.
Brave & Beautiful Wrap
These beautiful chunky-knit wraps are hand crafted at Desta Mender by recovering Hamlin patients. It is knitted from raw Ethiopian cotton which is full of character and very soft to the touch. Perfect for draping around your shoulders on a cool evening, wearing as a chunky scarf or a lounge blanket, each wrap is supplied with the name of the patient who made it.
Desta Mender, which translates to Joy Village, is a place where long-term obstetric fistula patients can learn skills and gain independence so they can return to village life. By purchasing this wrap, you are supporting both the patient who made it and the work of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia.
Get yours here.
- 1,000 women received surgery to repair their fistula injury in FY2019
- 30,004 babies were delivered by Hamlin midwives in FY2019
- 673 patients completed education courses in FY2019
Dr Hamlin stands as a source of courage, support and inspiration to all of us.
Photos by Kate Geraghty, Joni Kabana and Martha Tadesse.