AFMW congratulates Dr Hamlin on receiving The Right Livelihood Award (the Alternate Nobel Prize) “for her fifty years dedicated to treating obstetric fistula patients, thereby restoring the health, hope and dignity of thousands of Africa’s poorest women”. Dr Hamlin, who is the first Australian woman to receive this prestigious international award, received the award in the Swedish Parliament on December 4, 2009.
Dr Catherine Hamlin was born in Sydney in January 1924. In 1959, she left Australia together with her husband Reginald in response to an advertisement to work as obstetrician/gynaecologist at a hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The couple was horrified by the prevalence of obstetric fistula, a condition arising from prolonged obstructed labour that leaves the affected woman incontinent of urine, with 20% suffering bowel incontinence as well. Permanently leaking bodily fluids, they often become social outcasts, without hope, and live in the most miserable conditions. Obstetric fistula, formerly common throughout the world, is now almost non-existent in industrialized countries, thanks to better obstetric care, but is still prevalent in developing countries.