Article and Photo by Arabella Stewart


Ranging in age from 15 to 94, and from more than 60 countries, the BBC 100 Women of 2018 list includes leaders, trailblazers and everyday heroes.

The BBC 100 Women of 2018 includes Ethiopian Mamitu Gashe, 72 – Senior nurse aide/fistula surgeon, Ethiopia. Mamitu is now an internationally certified fistula surgeon, after being treated for fistula (an injury which can occur in childbirth) herself.


Like so many staff and patients, to Mamitu, Dr. Catherine Hamlin is family (now in her mid 90ies and although no longer operating, she resides in the grounds of her beloved hospital and still visits the patients); Mamitu affectionately calls her Emaye (mother).  Mamitu herself also lives in the grounds of the hospital and is a beloved companion and friend to Catherine Hamlin in her latter years.  They spend time together every day.


Mamitu first came to hospital as a patient in 1962 at the age of 16 with a horrific obstetric fistula injury but after several operations she was cured. Mamitu was so grateful that she dedicated her life to helping other women with obstetric fistula.


Doctors Catherine and Reg Hamlin recognized early on that Mamitu was truly somebody special. They took her under their wing. She started by simply helping to make the beds and talking to the patients but it was not long before she graduated to assisting the Doctors in theatre. It was clear that not only did Mamitu have a special love and empathy for the patients but an aptitude for surgery itself! Before long Mamitu was observing and learning on the spot how to operate without any formal training!!  Despite never even graduating from primary school, Mamitu is now regarded as one of the world’s most skilled fistula surgeons.


More than 50 years later, Mamitu remains an integral and much beloved member of the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital which is clearly the place she calls home having dedicated her life to helping countless fistula patients over the decades.

To learn more about Fistula and the work of the Hamlin Fistula hospital –