Wednesday, 23 November 2016

The Sisterhood

“Women are going to form a chain, a greater sisterhood than the world has ever known.”
                                                                                                                                   Nellie L McClung

In her shoes

I’m ashamed to say I had never heard of fistula until I read a novel about a decade ago.   The doctor in the story referred to a particular case of a young girl making her way to the hospital after having been cast out by her village and eventually, her own family.  Incontinent as a result of an obstetric fistula, with each step she would be leaking urine but she was driven on by the knowledge that this hospital offered hope and with a simple operation, she would be able to live a normal life again.  She would be able to return to her home, work and even choose to have children again in the future.  

A few years ago I met someone who reignited my passion for women’s issues.  I had transitioned from a hopeful young adult ready to change the world, to a battle hardened (almost middle aged) mother of three children.  On the way I had lost some of that hope that I could make a difference.  I now know we have to make the difference.

It was only when I read ‘Half the Sky’ by Kristof and WuDunn that I appreciated how common fistula still is in parts of the world.  Every 2 seconds a woman is seriously injured or disabled through giving birth and an estimated 2 million women and girls in Africa are suffering from obstetric fistula caused by prolonged, obstructed childbirth and lack of access to maternity care. Due to their associated incontinence, they are often subjected to a life of isolation.

In the UK we take for granted that we will be offered a caesarean should the life of our baby or the life of the mother be at risk due to complications of childbirth.  In other parts of the world, an obstructed childbirth will often lead to the death of the baby and long term complications for the mother.

Hope in action

There are several charities already tackling this problem both in terms of prevention, through good maternity and healthcare and in terms of a cure, through surgery.  As part of my 40th birthday celebrations, I have chosen to support Freedom from Fistula Foundation partly because all their administrative costs are met by The Gloag Foundation meaning all donations directly help those who need it most. 

The charity helps these women and girls by providing free surgeries to heal their fistulas and free maternity care to prevent fistulas and ensure safe childbirth.  They also train local healthcare workers and help thousands of women every year.  I have set up a Just Giving page for any donations you may wish to give to support this charity (  For more information on the charity, please have a look at their website

The Fortycubed Plan

Fundraising in earnest starts next year when I hit the milestone birthday.  Rather than seeking sponsorship or straightforward donations, I intend to organise a year of fundraising events and activities from October 2017-October 2018.  I have launched this blog a year in advance as friends and family had already started making donations and I wanted to make sure the money got to the charities as quickly as possible so it can be put to good use. 

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

40,000 Reasons

Still 39!
40 is worth celebrating although so is 42 being ‘the meaning of life, the universe and everything’.

I had considered a big party where groups of friends who haven’t seen each other since our wedding 15 years ago would mill around checking out who can still be recognised after years of parenting, toiling and far too many weekend trips to the tip.

Accepting that I’d end up having short and pointless conversations with each individual in that setting I decided to stagger the celebrations and have 40 separate gatherings with one or more friends at each. 

Mind the Ego
But in the last few years my faith has thankfully helped me recognise an ego trip when I might be initiating one. 

So I had a thought whispering through my mind about doing something worthwhile to celebrate.  Something I might enjoy but would show a degree of thanks for my 40 years on this planet; for all the people I have loved and have shown love, loyalty and friendship to me. 

The idea of raising £40,000 across 40 charities over the course of my 40th year was born.

And then I ended up telling someone...and then a few more people...until I was completely committed to the success of the project without having given much thought as to how I would achieve it. 

But then friends and family have stepped up and offered support and more than anything, a universal belief that it can be done!

Fundraising in earnest begins a year from now but the charities I have chosen need help right now so I am committing this year to planning the 40 for 40 at 40 and also raising awareness of the 40 charities I have chosen.  Several of them have supported people I love through challenging times in their lives, some have supported me directly and others, we may all rely on in the future.

Keeping Mum
And why the Silver Birch trees?  They remind me of my mum who will always be my biggest cheerleader. Turning 40 marks the year that I will have spent half my life on this planet without her physically by my side.