Investigative journalist and host of Our America on the Oprah Winfrey Network, Lisa Ling teamed up with the UNFPA and the Campaign to End Fistula to support the work of Healing Hands of Joy, a non-profit working in Ethiopia to empower former fistula patients and prevent fistula.
Ms. Ling hosted a benefit on 23 September, featuring a special screening of Oxygen Network’s film The Bride Was Seven, in which she investigates child marriage in Ethiopia.
According to Healing Hands of Joy’s Founder and Executive Director, Allison Shigo, the NGO’s mission is to establish safe motherhood support and education networks throughout Ethiopia with the goal of eradicating obstetric fistula while providing a range of social reintegration services for women who have suffered from fistula.
“We also empower these women economically with income-generating skills training and start-up small business funds,” she explained. "We also engage communities through drama presentations throughout the region."
Ms. Shigo, along with HHOJ board member and producer of The Bride Was Seven, Amy Bucher, were on hand to introduce the organization’s work training former fistula patients as safe motherhood ambassadors to prevent fistula in their communities and lead sustainable lives.
Ms. Ling also read a moving poem she wrote while in Ethiopia about the devastating effects of child marriage on young girls, including childbirth injuries such as obstetric fistula. She emphasized that there are few organizations in the country filling the gap in providing social reintegration services for women who have suffered from fistula.
“Healing Hands of Joy gives former fistula patients a second chance, by providing them the life changing opportunity to improve their economic situation, as well as to save lives and prevent fistula, by training them as safe motherhood ambassadors,” said Gillian Slinger, coordinator of the Campaign to End Fistula.