By Nate Moss ’22
Gender Beyond Borders led by Kate Grant, founding CEO of the Fistula Foundation was an interesting and informative session about gender inequalities around the world and the struggles that are faced by women in third-world countries who do not have the same medical care that is available here in America.
The session began with Ms. Grant speaking about herself and her background. Ms. Grant holds an MPA with a focus on International Development from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School, where she was elected chair of the school’s Graduate student body. Prior to attending Princeton, she was an advertising executive at two large agencies: Leo Burnett in Chicago and FCB in San Francisco, managing campaigns for Fortune 500 companies such as Levi Strauss, McDonald’s, and Clorox. She then realized that she wanted to help others and began her journey, serving on the House Foreign Affairs Committee Staff and as the Special Assistant and Deputy Chief of Staff at USAID and as a consultant to USAID’s Mission in Tanzania, the Rockefeller Foundation, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, and the Women’s Funding Network. In 2005, Ms. Grant joined as the founding CEO of the Fistula Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting obstetric fistula which is a complication with birth that can ruin the lives of many mothers who are unable to get treated.
After relating her background, Ms. Grant then discussed gender inequality around the world, showing various statistics and charts to the packed gym and spoke about what they meant and which countries were better than others. The charts were split into different categories including health, education, economics, and politics. To my surprise and the surprise of many others in the gym, the United States wasn’t even in the top 10 for some categories, only topping the list in education equality. The top three countries with the highest gender parity scores, tallying the scores in every category, were all Nordic countries with Iceland as 1st, Norway in 2nd, and Finland in 3rd. Seeing all these scores and how low most of the world was compared to the United States was both surprising and heartbreaking. Knowing that even the top countries on these lists are 15% away from full gender equality was disheartening, but thankfully more progress is being made every year. The United States and many other countries still need to improve, but each year many countries become closer to real equality between men and women.
The next part of the presentation focused on the Fistula Foundation, the condition they work hard to fight, fistula, and how they fight it. Fistula is a condition that occurs when a baby doesn’t make its way out of the womb and dies. Without treatment, which requires a skilled surgeon, this condition can cause constant leakage of bodily fluids and social ostracization of those with this condition. The Fistula Foundation works in third world countries to help women who deal with this condition and have no way to get treatment, women whose entire lives are taken away from them by fistula. Ms. Grant then showed the packed gym an emotional video showing the lives of women in Ethiopia who have this condition. These women are separated from their peers and are forced to waste their lives alone with this horrible condition. The video then explored the women’s journeys to the only hospital able to treat fistula in the capital, Addis Ababa, and their experiences in the hospital. We saw many happy women telling stories of how they were hopeless until the expert surgeons at the Fistula Foundation hospital helped them.
All in all, as the students asked Miss Grant questions and the presentation concluded, the influence of this presentation didn’t end. The important information given to us by Ms. Grant about gender inequality around the world and about the work of the Fistula Foundation will have many students reflecting on these issues for a long time.