Thursday, March 28, 2013

Help A Woman's Health and Teach Her How to Sew

Yesterday, I got an interesting pamphlet in the mail. It was a request for donations to Ethiopiaid Canada. What caught my attention with it was the "sewing pattern" included (good marketing strategy, eh?).



The pamphlet was advertising Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia - a charitable organization that provides treatment for fistula. Fistula is a hole in the bladder that is caused by prolonged labour. Basically, women in Ethiopia have very limited help when giving birth and many end up with fistula: incontinent and in cronic pain. Donations to the organization help pay for the surgeries.

The sewing pattern (well, a small scale representation of a dress sewing pattern) is a demonstration of the dresses that the women learn to make when they are recovering for their operations. According to the pamphlet:

"As many women come to us dressed in nothing but rags or wrapped in dirty blankets, the dress means they have something clean to wear when they leave us. (...) The tailoring skills the women learn can also earn them a living when they return home."

Women's health has always been an important issue for me. When I think about it, I'm shocked that in 2013, maternal and infant death rates are still so high in many places in the world (and climbing in some countries, I'm looking at you USA*), and that many women still can't choose if and when they want to get pregnant. So many women die needlessly - society has failed them.

Furthermore, Ethiopia has a very troubled past - there have been massive famines and war. But the most shocking thing I have just learned (thanks to Wikipedia), is that marriage by abduction accounted for 69% of all marriages in 2003. So depressing...

Because of this, I would like to donate to such a charity. At the same time, however, I am skeptical of the whole "teach them a trade and the poor people will be better" idea. I think it is because it paints the people receiving the aid as either lazy or stupid - we say "if only those people would..." instead of fixing the roots of the problems they face, which are often external.


Source: Ethiopiaid Canada's Facebook page

But, having gotten back into sewing myself, I can see the joy an individual can have from making their own clothing. It has already boosted my self-confidence and just generally made me feel better. As the pamphlet says about the patients,

"Putting on a new dress with fresh confidence is life-changing for women with fistula. It's this moment more than any other when they feel their dignity and health have been restored."
Anyways, I think I'll donate to this charity this year (I try to pick at least one a year). Does anyone else know of any other good charities/programs out there deserving some attention?

* The maternal death rate in the USA was 21/100,000 live births in 2010, compared to only 12/100,000 in Canada! Although, not as bad as Ethiopia at 350/100,000. Which, is not as bad as those at the top of the list: Chad at 1,100/100,000 and Somalia at 1,000/100,000!!!

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