April 24th, 2008
A Walk to Beautiful - a film about Ethiopian women suffering from childbirth injuries
The award winning feature-length documentary “A Walk to Beautiful” tells the stories of five Ethiopian women who suffer from devastating childbirth injuries and embark on a journey to reclaim their lost dignity. Rejected by their husbands and ostracized by their communities, these women are left to spend the rest of their lives in loneliness and shame. They make the choice to take the long and arduous journey to the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in search of a cure and a new life. The film has a New Zealand connection in that it features an interview with Dr Catherine Hamlin who along with her New Zealand born husband helped set up and worked in the hospitals. Most recently Dr Hamlin has been in New Zealand raising funds for their Hamlin Charitable Fistula Hospitals Trust.
Bellow is a short trailer of the film.
Boston Walks to Beautiful in A Walk to Beautiful
Boston, Massachusetts, USA – The Boston Branch of the Ethiopian American Youth Initiative proudly held a screening of the award-winning documentary A Walk to Beautiful on Saturday, April 5, 2008 at Boston University. The event was filled with enthusiasm and motivation, especially after the screening of the documentary.
The event began with welcoming remarks by Professor James Pritchett of the Boston University African Studies Center (BU ASC), the event’s sponsor. In his remarks, Professor Pritchett underscored the value and importance of EAYI as a youth organization of Ethiopians and Americans helping Ethiopia. “Usually, it is us that reach to community organizations, but this time they sought after us,” Dr. Pritchett stated, in expressing that BU ASC is looking forward to more partnerships with EAYI.
Following Professor Pritchett’s remarks, the documentary, A Walk to Beautiful was screened. At times the audience laughed, at other times the audience cried; however, the message of “Tesfa” (“hope” in Amharic) was still there for the victims of fistula and the audience. Sister Manna Heshe, a Registered Nurse as Children’s Hospital Boston and former nurse at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital took the stage and eloquently portrayed her first experience at Fistula Hospital as a student, “I asked why a specific girl was not sociable and I frowned upon it, but Dr. Reginald Hamlin [the late co-founder] told me simply that she had fistula, explained that to me, and once she was repaired this girl was an amazing, beautiful young lady.” She passionately ended by saying “I am still a student of fistula today.”
EAYI Chairman and Founder Samuel Gebru welcomed the audience and shared his experience visiting the hospital as well as he talked about EAYI and our project, The Fistula Project, designed to help the women of Ethiopia with fistula by covering their medical expenses. Samuel stressed that it is the obligation of Ethiopians to help their own country before seeking others to help. “We are committed to helping women with fistula not because we want to but because we have a promise to our mothers, sisters, daughters, aunts and grandmothers.”
The event’s Keynote Speaker, Mrs. Abaynesh Asrat, Board Director of The Fistula Foundation and Founder of Nation to Nation Networking, who came from New York City, poignantly spoke about the efforts of the American and Ethiopian communities in the US that helped build a hospital in Harrar, Ethiopia. “It is important that we rise up to the challenge because building the Harrar Fistula Hospital gave us a sense of ownership in Ethiopia’s development. It is our duty to help Ethiopia progress.” Mrs. Abaynesh Asrat’s speech focused on three specific topics which helped portray how effective the film is.
First, Abaynesh pointed out how genuine the documentary is in portraying the energy and power of the women to change their lives after fistula repair surgery. The “Tesfa Ineste” (“lets give them hope” in Amharic) Campaign of the Fistula Foundation is a program which Abaynesh Asrat heads. Tesfa Ineste was created by Abaynesh to build the Harrar Fistula Hospital as a response to the other regional fistula hospitals being built by Australians, Germans, etc. Abaynesh stressed the importance of volunteerism to give Ethiopians a sense of ownership in helping women restore their dignity. She explained the advantages to volunteering and how the United States is built on volunteers.
The speakers engaged the audience in a discussion session where many questions were posed to the panel. The energy in the room reflected a common consensus amongst the audience that “awareness and enforcement of laws promoting women’s rights should be implemented,” as a guest said. The main question of the discussion was “Is Ethiopia’s Government doing anything currently to promote women’s rights in the fight to end fistula? If so, what can Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia do to complement the efforts?” The issues of globalization and the “brain-drain” of Ethiopian medical professionals were discussed as well as civic advocacy in Ethiopia to promote the issues of women’s rights.
A major comment by a high school student was what put the room in thinking: “What are you [adults] doing to help include us youth in the volunteerism and leadership process? One day you all will pass away and I fear that we won’t be able to rise to the occasion,” said young Seble. She also asked Chairman Samuel to have youth networking events where youth would be able to develop leadership. Following that, the audience literally demanded that EAYI conduct another screening of A Walk to Beautiful.
A lively reception was followed in which the audience was able to discuss in depth with the speakers. Abaynesh Asrat and Samuel Gebru conducted the auction where an Ethiopian traditional dress, two Ethiopian Airlines Ethiopian Millennium Calendars and “Himbasha” (Ethiopian traditional bread) were sold by an excited crowd. The audience was inspired by the youth initiative’s determination to promote youth initiation and leadership and developing Ethiopia.
The Ethiopian American Youth Initiative wishes to thank the Boston University African Studies Center for sponsoring the event, Engel Entertainment for giving us the rights to screen the documentary before its world premiere, the Fistula Foundation and the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association for providing us with knowledge and experience about obstetric fistula and Ethiopian women. We also wish to recognize Professor James Pritchett, Sister Manna Heshe, Mr. Samuel Gebru and Mrs. Abaynesh Asrat for their enthusiasm and dedication to our efforts.