A Walk to Beautiful
November 2, 2009 12:35 PM   Subscribe

The documentary A Walk to Beautiful, follows five women in Ethiopia suffering from fistula, isolated from their villages and some from their families, seeking treatment at one of the few charity clinics. It can be viewed online at the PBS NOVA site. Dr. Catherine Hamlin, who runs the hospital in Addis Ababa, is interviewed here. There's also been a couple of recent articles on fistula: one from Nicholas Kristof who's been one of the most prominent voices on this issue, a piece by Kate Harding, and an older piece where Abby Frucht describes living with fistula in a developed country with a supportive family. For those inclined to donate, links to charities can be found in the Kristof op-ed. Other Metafilter posts on fistula: 1, 2
posted by BigSky (13 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Thanks for this, BigSky. The Fistula Foundation, one of the organizations Kristof mentions, indeed does amazing work for these women.
posted by scody at 12:56 PM on November 2, 2009

Thank you BigSky for posting about this little-known horror that so many women are living with. I would also like to note the alarming rise of fistula in the Democratic Republic of Congo, usually as a result of horrific sexual violence, including brutal gang rapes and the forceful introduction of pipes, sticks and even gun barrels into women's vaginas, which causes the tears in the walls of the bladder or rectum. This is happening in girls as young as 12 months old and burdens the victims with not only the feeling of shame from the fistula, but the shame and degredation caused by the rape. Really and truly heartbreaking. Thank you for posting this, I look forward to watching the documentary.

Here is info on hospitals in DRC, which treat fistula cases and victims of sexual violence.

And - extra props to Nicholas Kristof, who speaks up for women everywhere.
posted by triggerfinger at 1:09 PM on November 2, 2009

jesus, that is one of the most horrible things I've ever heard of. oh god.
posted by shmegegge at 1:48 PM on November 2, 2009

"But he concluded that the world needed doctors more than it needed anthropologists, so at age 27 he went to medical school."

This is awesome to read. It is from the Nicholas Kristof article.
posted by fuq at 1:53 PM on November 2, 2009

thanks bigsky, though I think the linked PBS video is only viewable in the US. This You Tube HQ version seems to work in other territories.
posted by johnny novak at 1:59 PM on November 2, 2009

One of the previous posts compelled me to write them a check. What these women endure puts my petty concerns to shame. Thank you for posting this.
posted by theora55 at 2:13 PM on November 2, 2009

The Abby Frucht link in the FPP isn't working for me (directs to salon.com main page instead). I found the article here.
posted by availablelight at 2:25 PM on November 2, 2009

Dr. Wall really is a fantastic guy, and a great professor as well. I know several people who have taken his anthropology courses, and they only have great things to say about him. He teaches in both the anthropology department and the medical school.

I hope this gets more attention and funding. Not only do the procedures offer tremendous benefit for the cost, but improving the status of women in developing countries is one of the best ways to simultaneously spur economic growth and reduce population growth. Really it's a win-win-win for everyone.
posted by jedicus at 4:20 PM on November 2, 2009

I want so badly to take Wubete in my arms and hold her and rock her and let her cry for as long as she wants. But, joyfully, it seems she no longer needs comfort so badly, and she is doing some holding and rocking of her own now.

And when the anesthesiologist said to Ayehu "You are brave," I couldn't help thinking, "Failing to blink during an epidural is the least evidence of her bravery. Choosing not to kill herself when her family shunned her, and traveling so far from her home, alone and terrified and ostracized in the hope of a cure proves she is brave." But then, the doctor knows that. And who knows, maybe that's what he was really saying. He and his colleagues and the nurses and staff of this hospital are angels. They are all angels.

Wow. Thank you, BigSky.
posted by philotes at 5:55 PM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have seen this documentary, and it is incredibly heartbreaking...this is now one of the charities we donate to.
posted by Wavelet at 7:18 PM on November 2, 2009

Absolutely horrible.

Oh, and:

"[in 2002] President Bush, upset by abortions in China, cut off all $34 million in U.S. funds to the U.N. Population Fund, which sponsors programs to prevent fistulas." [here.]

Fuck you, Dubya.

"UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid welcomed President Obama's decision to restore funding." [here.]

Thank you, Mr. Obama.
posted by Ratio at 10:35 PM on November 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

I don't have it in me to click the links to check for dupes. But I recently watched Sienna Miller's mini-documentary Eight Minutes on the plight of the Congolese women, as triggerfinger mentioned.

Want a super bummer for your Tuesday morning? This violence is largely fueled by our craving for raw minerals with which to make our various electronic devices. Cell phones and iPods and such.
posted by ErikaB at 10:11 AM on November 3, 2009


I agree. In this 2003 essay, Kristof compares her to Mother Teresa. He probably does so to give his readers a point of reference. But it's a poor match; Hitchen's criticisms of Mother Teresa are largely on target. Dr. Hamlin (and her late husband as well) on the other hand, is the real deal.

This Kristof essay is also noteworthy for briefly sketching the story of Mahabouba Mohammed whose ordeal (left to be eaten by hyenas at the age of 12) was particularly appalling.
posted by BigSky at 10:48 AM on November 3, 2009

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