A couple of days ago Ben and I watched the documentary "A Walk to Beautiful" which is set in rural Ethiopia and Addis Ababa. It is about the Fistula Hospital in Addis Ababa which is right by the hotel where we will be staying.
The movie tells the story of a few rural women who developed fistulas while in childbirth. This is not a phenomenon you hear much about in the United States, where most women have access to an emergency room at which to give birth if need be. Needless to say, because of our privilege, Ben and I had not heard of the high rates of fistulas for women from developing countries. But we were astounded.
For the most part, these women were sent away from their husbands, or their husbands left them because of their problem with leakage, which is constant for a woman with a fistula. The women who are "lucky" get to return to their families but are still often humiliated and isolated. Because they live in rural parts of Ethiopia, it can often take days for them to make the trip to the Fistula Hospital if they are aware of it's existence. Some of these women lived with their fistulas for 10 years or more. Let me say again...Some of these women live with tears between their bladder and vagina or their rectum and vagina for 10 YEARS.
To say that this movie had an impact on Ben and me is an understatement. We are not ignorant about the lack of access to health care in the world. As a medical social worker I'm pretty familiar with the lack of access to health care in our own country but no one is suppose to get turned away from the emergency room in the US so "access" is relative. Having gone to Haiti to work with a medical team my eyes were opened to what the lack of access to care can develop into and I know what a drop in the ocean it is to have teams volunteer, teams who can only reach a limited number of patients.
"A Walk to Beautiful" showed such personal stories, stories of such determination and strength of spirit which bolstered me. But it also angered me. Angered me because, in most countries, women are relegated to having to live with horrific conditions until those conditions eventually kill them. Angered me because there are so many resource rich countries and still women all over the world do not have access, never even see, a doctor or health care professional. Angered me because politicians speak of family values the world over yet when women are injured giving birth there is no one and nothing available to help them. In our patriarchal society, where women are still viewed as second class citizens and rich, white men make the laws that govern over our bodies and rich, white men decide which countries get our aid and what that aid is comprised of nothing makes me more furious and frustrated than the suffering of women and children.