Ethiopian women “revived” by Denison alumni

If you are a woman in rural Ethiopia, chances are high that you have fistula. Although this hole that develops between a woman’s reproductive organs and excretory system, viewed as a curse, is a treatable condition, most women with fistula live without being treated medically and humanely.

Abdi Ali ‘13 and Shiyu “Amy” Huang ‘13 worked to fix this through the Davis Peace Project over this summer. Their goal was to “empower women and young girls who suffer from fistula in an effort to heal and bring peace to the minds of these ostracized women,” they explained in a presentation on Monday, Oct. 7. They aimed to provide maternal health education and transportation support to pregnant women in rural villages around Asella, Ethiopia in order to prevent fistula and other childbirth injuries.

According to Ali, fistula is a common medical condition in third world countries where women have to work heavily for long hours.

Ali and Huang spent most of their time at Asella’s Women and Health Alliance International (WAHA)’s Fistula Center, where they hosted maternal health workshops. With local medical staff support, they visited 16 health centers in rural villages around Asella and gathered over 150 pregnant women to talk about obstetric fistula and prevention of other childbirth injuries.

These sessions emphasized the importance of delivering at a health center or hospital, instead of at home like many women do for financial reasons. Only 10 percent of rural births are attended by skilled medical professionals, quoted Ali from UNICEF.

Ali and Huang pledged to provide transportation and a hospital service fee stipend to pregnant women who could not afford to go to the Asella Hospital at $30 per trip. Childbirth delivery is free, and the women only need to pay the hospital service fees.

With the Davis grant, they pledged to enable up to 31 pregnant women to deliver at the hospital. Two disadvantaged pregnant women were already able to deliver their babies at the hospital.

“Our support might be small, but it brought relief and joy to some women at our workshops, knowing that money would not be an issue for them to have their babies safely,” said Ali and Huang in their report.

The final stage of the project was to empower women who suffer from fistula. One of the main challenges facing fistula patients is lack of means to support themselves. Therefore, Ali and Huang pledged to support up to 14 women, giving each a new blanket and integration monetary support, in the form of four sheep or goats, “so they could generate income of their own,” said Huang.

“We have seen how much difference this small amount of monetary support (around 100 U.S. dollars) makes on the lives of these women,” said Huang. “One of the patients, who had suffered from fistula over 15 years and lived with her adopted son, was very excited to show us the four sheep she bought with the Davis fund and looked forward to her future life.”

One of the fistula patients said, “I never knew that there are so many people who care about me, and for you to come to my house and present me with these sheep alone gave me so much dignity, respect, and status.  Everyone who disowned me would be respectful now and developing fistula wasn’t a curse after all.”

Davis Projects for Peace is the vision of Kathryn Wasserman Davis, a lifelong philanthropist, who created the program “to help young people launch some immediate initiatives that could bring new thinking to the prospects for peace in the world.”

Ali and Huang’s project was Denison’s sixth project in the Davis Projects for Peace program since the first in the summer of 2008 by Ian Darrow ’10 and Kara Lemarie ’11.

Denison students are invited to submit proposals for Projects for Peace to be implemented during the summer of 2014. 100 projects will be funded at $10,000 each on 90 college campuses. Projects may be implemented anywhere in the world, and all undergraduate students, including graduating seniors, are eligible to apply as individuals and groups of students.

To apply, a draft proposal should be submitted by Nov. 15 to Cookie Sunkle in the Gilpatrick Center, at sunkle@denison.edu.

 

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If you are a woman in the rural areas of Ethiopia, chances are high that you catch fistula. Although a quick treatable medical condition, most women with fistula live without being treated medically and humanely.

“I first knew about this from my women’s studies class, and it sparked by interest when the application came out,” explained Abdi Ali ‘13 in his presentation about the project with his project partner Shiyu “Amy” Huang ‘13.

The goal of the project was to “empower women and young girls who suffer from fistula in an effort to heal and bring peace to the minds of these ostracized women,” the presentation explained. It also aimed to provide maternal health educational outreach programs and transportation support to pregnant women in rural villages around Asella, Ethiopia in order to prevent fistula and other childbirth injuries.

According to Ali, fistula is a common medical condition in third world countries where women have to work heavily for long hours. [MORE EXPLANATION COMING]

Ali and Huang spent most of their time at Asella’s Women and Health Alliance International (WAHA)’s newly established Fistula Center.

One of the main stages of the project was education: Ali and Huang hosted maternal health workshops. With local medical staff’s support, they visited sixteen health centers in rural villages around Asella and gathered over 150 pregnant women to talk about obstetric fistula and prevention of other childbirth injuries.

These sessions emphasized the importance of delivering at a health center or hospital, instead of at home like many women usually do, due to financial reasons. In rural Ethiopia, only 10 percent of births are attended by skilled medical professionals, such as doctors, nurses, or midwives in rural Ethiopia, quoted Ali from UNICEF, hence the need for this basic medical education.

Ali and Huang also pledged to provide transportation as well as a hospital service fee stipend to pregnant women who could not afford to go to the Asella Hospital in case of an emergency at $30 per trip. Childbirth delivery is free, and the women only need to pay the hospital service fees.

With Davis grant, they pledged to support up to 31 pregnant women with financial difficulties to deliver at the hospital. As of now, two disadvantaged pregnant women, who attended the workshops, were able to deliver their babies at the hospital ((break around here)) safely. In the long term, WAHA and local medical staff will manage this fund and identify pregnant women with financial difficulties.

“Our support might be small, but it brought relief and joy to some women at our workshops, knowing that money would not be an issue for them to have their babies safely,” said Ali and Huang in their report.

 

The third stage of project was to empower women and young girls who suffer from fistula. One of the main challenges that fistula patients face after treatment is that they have no means to support themselves. Therefore, Ali and Huang pledged to support up to 14 women and each woman would receive a new blanket and integration monetary support, which had been translated to at least four sheep or goats, “so they could generate income of their own,” said Huang.

“We have seen how much difference this small amount of monetary support (around 100 U.S. dollars) makes on the lives of these women,” said Huang. “One of the patients, who had suffered from fistula over 15 years and lived with her adopted son, was very excited to show us the four sheep she bought with the Davis fund and looked forward to her future life.”

One of the fistula patients who invited Ali and Huang to her house said, “I never knew that there are so many people who care about me, and for you to come to my house and present me with these sheep alone gave me so much dignity, respect, and status.  Everyone who disowned me would be respectful now and developing fistula wasn’t a curse after all.”

Davis Projects for Peace is the vision of Kathryn Wasserman Davis, a lifelong philanthropist. Upon her 100th birthday, Davis created and provided funding for the program “to help young people launch some immediate initiatives that could bring new thinking to the prospects for peace in the world.” Davis passed away this past April at the age of 106.

Ali and Huang’s project was Denison’s sixth project in the Davis Projects for Peace program since our first in the summer of 2008 by Ian Darrow ’10 and Kara Lemarie ’11.

Denison students are invited to submit proposals for Projects for Peace to be implemented during the summer of 2014. 100 projects will be funded at $10,000 each on 90 college campuses. Projects may be implemented anywhere in the world, and all undergraduate students, including graduating seniors, are eligible to apply. The program is open to individuals and to groups of students.

To apply, a draft proposal should be submitted electronically no later than November 15, 2013 to Cookie Sunkle in the Gilpatrick Center, sunkle@denison.edu. Final proposals will be due via e-mail by January 20, 2014.

You can hear directly from Ali and Huang from their blog at spreadinglovepeaceandhope.blogspot.com

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