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The Geelong Copywriting Blog is blessed by several clients.  I love doing these famous women posts because I learn so much and they give me a greater appreciation of what real struggle means.



Doctor Catherine Hamlin.

Have you ever suffered from a feeling of feebleness so overpowering as to banish your hopes and dreams?  Ever had to weather a relentless storm of humiliating hissings cast at you because your cultural ties forced a life of shame upon you?  No?  Well how would you cope with catching a vision of your reflection and finding it so repulsive that you become physically ill?

After answering an advertisement in The Lancet in 1958,Dr. Catherine Hamlin could not stand idly by and allow the curse of obstetric fistula to ruin the lives of the young women of Ethiopia in these ways anymore.  So she and her husband, Reg, were drawn to that poorest of nations and by 1974 had established the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital specifically to treat obstetric fistula.  The prevalence of the disease results from women as young as 5 years old being betrothed and, therefore, becoming pregnant well before their bodies are physically able to cope.

Obstetric fistula does not exist in the western world.  However, in Ethiopia, Catherine Hamlin has performed, or been involved in, more than 34,000 surgeries for this disease which, if untreated, results in young girls having to live with a constant flow of urine and faeces streaming down their legs and becoming outcasts.  You see, obstetric fistulas are holes which develop in the rectum and vagina because of long labour periods and birthing difficulties.  It is considered a disease of poverty and leaves victims publicly humiliated every day of their lives.

Dr. Reg Hamlin died in 1993 and Catherine’s work has continued ever since.  With a single-minded focus on the task at hand, she has lived a life of paucity when one of plenty could easily have been hers.  She established a charity to receive the donations necessary to fund the operations and a supply chain so the medical necessities could find their way to the hospital where this vital work is performed.  Regional centres are now available to assist women in remote communities and a midwifery school has been established to help prevent obstetric fistula occurring in the first place.  In a land where poverty, poor sanitation and malnutrition lead to a life expectancy around 50 years, Dr. Catherine Hamlin has overcome the obstacles to provide a safe haven for the young women this disease would otherwise have had no mercy for.  As a result, she has received the Companion of the Order of Australia, been nominated twice for Nobel Peace Prizes and been named a National Living Treasure.


Dr. Catherine Hamlin’s ability to manage her emotions in the face of horrendous difficulties and use her deepest desires to advance the interests of her patients in a completely selfless manner are hallmarks of a woman with superior emotional intelligence and spirit.  Her dedication, drive, desire to live amongst the women she assists and inner need to take action while others merely bear witness make her a truly great Australian woman.