Celebrating the Heroic Women Working to End Fistula
An all-female team performing a fistula surgery in Kabul, Afghanistan

Celebrating the Heroic Women Working to End Fistula

Fistula Foundation supports brave female surgeons, nurses, and health workers across Africa and Asia. These heroines dedicate their lives to healing other women who are suffering with obstetric fistula—a terrible childbirth injury that leaves a woman leaking urine and/or stool uncontrollably. Surgery is the only cure. 

In honor of International Women’s Day on March 8th, meet a few of these female doctors who are changing lives:

Edna Adan—Giving Hope to Women in Somaliland 

Edna Adan, Founder of the Edna Adan Hospital and University in Somaliland

Edna Adan is a woman of many firsts: the first woman in Somalia to drive a car, the country’s first female qualified midwife, and the former first lady of Somaliland. Her career led her to a top post at the World Health Organization, where she stayed until retirement. 

After retiring, Edna fulfilled a lifelong dream of opening a hospital that could address health problems facing women and children in the Horn of Africa. Life in this part of the world can be extremely difficult for women, who face cultural expectations to bear a large number of children with too few doctors to meet the need. As a result, this region suffers one of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the world. 

But thanks to Enda Adan, women in Somaliland now have more access to healthcare than ever. Fistula Foundation has funded fistula treatment at her facility, the Edna Adan University Hospital, since 2009. “When I see how much our people have suffered, that has been the biggest motivation for me,” Edna said. “And the multiplication of what I have put in has been so encouraging. This is the least I could do.”

Dr. Hema Pradhan—Helping Nepal’s “Forgotten” Women

Dr. Hema Pradhan, a fistula surgeon from Nepal

Dr. Hema Pradhan goes out of her way to provide compassionate care to her fistula patients in Nepal. “They are not only underprivileged—they are forgotten by everyone,” Dr. Hema said, her voice filled with emotion.  

One patient’s story in particular continues to haunt her: a woman who had been suffering with fistula for nearly four decades. “When I saw her, I just felt like crying,” she said. “She was just skin and bones.” The patient said she would rather die than continue living on the way that she was—alone, starving, and ashamed. At home, everyone considered her dirty and stinking, and she was completely outcast. But Dr. Hema sees the humanity in her patients. “We don’t feel that they are dirty,” she said. “Whenever they come, we just hug them, and we just sit with them.”

After surgery, however, everything changes. Dr. Hema is delighted to share in the women’s joy when they realize they are dry for the first time. “That is the most rewarding part of my life, [celebrating] with every patient.”

Dr. Homa Dost—Leading an All-Female Fistula Team in Afghanistan

Dr. Homa Dost, a fistula surgeon from Afghanistan

In Afghan culture, it is widely considered improper for a woman to be treated by a male doctor. If there are no female doctors available, a woman with fistula may be forced to suffer for the rest of her life. 

Amidst continuing violence and political struggle in Afghanistan, a heroic team of fistula surgeons is taking a stand. To address the need for more female doctors, Fistula Foundation supports this team of all-female fistula surgeons and nurses—women helping other women. The doctors also run an OB/GYN training program to equip even more female fistula professionals. 

This year, the team welcomed a new head surgeon: Dr. Homa Dost. Dr. Homa began her career as a trainee at Fistula Foundation’s partner hospital—the same program she will now step in to lead. 

You Can Help Support These Women’s Vital Work

These female health professionals all work on behalf of women suffering with obstetric fistula—but their work is far from finished. There are still at least a million women suffering needlessly from obstetric fistula worldwide, for want of a single repair surgery that could transform their lives. 

Your gift to Fistula Foundation can support these women’s important work in Africa and Asia. Please consider making a gift here before International Women’s Day on March 8th. 


One Australian supporter, Kate Tapping, has chosen a creative way to give back this year. She is the creative force behind Write the World notebooks—and in honor of International Women’s Day, Kate will be donating all proceeds for this quarter (March – May) to Fistula Foundation. She also created a new notebook design for the occasion, with a dynamic cover design and this inside inscription: Fearless Girls: dignity, respect and justice for all—silence is not an option. You can order the notebooks here.

Share this story:

Next stories:

About the author:

Fistula Foundation

Fistula Foundation is a recommended charity of The Life You Can Save. Fistula Foundation provides funding for fistula surgery and treatment worldwide. Obstetric fistula is a preventable injury that can occur during complicated childbirth, with often devastating consequences for women and their families.

Related stories:

The views expressed in blog posts are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Peter Singer or The Life You Can Save.