Hi everyone! My name is Brittany Robles and I am President of IHEID Gender Dialogues at the Graduate Institute of Geneva. This May, our group is organizing a large-scale fundraising event inspired by the globally known ‘Walk a Mile in her Shoes’, where men (and women) dress up and show their dedication to stop rape, sexual assault, and gender violence.
Instead of marching a short distance, we will be running in the Geneva Marathon!!! My favorite part about this event is that I have an incredible opportunity as a runner to raise money for women who are in tremendous need of medical assistance and economic empowerment. Specifically, our running group - comprised of 72 IHEID students - is undertaking a tremendous fundraiser for the HEAL Africa hospital in Goma, DR Congo. This hospital performs fistula operations for women who have survived either traumatic sexual violence or obstructed labor in war-torn regions of DRC.
In case you're unfamiliar with the term "fistula": A fistula occurs when a woman survives brutal rape (in DR Congo, this is used as a weapon of war and many times involves sharp weapons, with the goal of tearing internal organs) or days of obstructed labor (where a baby's head is pushing against her pelvic bone during contractions, preventing blood flow and causing tissue to die). Both of these scenarios create a hole - or 'fistula' - between a woman's vagina and her bladder or rectum. If the woman lives through this experience, she will be leaking urine and sometimes feces, and she is commonly rejected by her husband and shunned by her village because of her foul smell and inability to bear additional children.
Although an estimated 2 million women live with untreated obstetric fistula, it's unlikely for these women to meet or hear of anyone else suffering from the same injuries, because of the lack of modern forms of communication in rural settings and a reluctance to discuss the condition due to its taboo nature. In most cases, a woman with a fistula does not know what a fistula is or that it is even treatable with surgery. And if she does know of her medical condition, she is often far from an equipped hospital and is not able to pay the $450 USD fee for fistula repair surgery and postoperative care.
To help women suffering from this debilitating condition, we have chosen to support the HEAL Africa hospital in Goma, DRC. Our vision is that each runner raises at least $100. With our group of 72 runners, this should translate into a total amount of $7,200, or 16 fistula repair operations.
Please consider supporting me in this worthwhile fundraiser. Every little bit counts! Be it $5 or $500, the impact your donation will have on the lives of women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is tremendous.
My sincerest thanks for your generosity.