Disease of poverty spurs research

Glory Gatwiri with Flinders Dean of Graduate Research Professor Jeri Kroll after the 3MT final.

The agony of an 11-year-old African girl giving birth without medical care is the focus of postgraduate research by Flinders student Glory Gatwiri. But delivering a stillborn, macerated baby after six days of labour does not end this sad tale, Glory tells the 3 Minute Thesis (3MT) final at Flinders University.

The girl, with immature pelvis and no hospital intervention, becomes another statistic – a victim of a devastating obstetric or vaginal fistula (or hole). Without an operation to repair these pelvic region injuries, the young girl – like thousands of other girls and women in developing countries – faces a life of physical, social, economic and psychological deprivation. “With continuous fouling, these women remain social pariahs in their own families and communities – unwanted and ostracised,” she says.

Social sciences student Glory Gatwiri is focusing on a caseload of data collected in her native Kenya earlier this year to promote improved treatment for similarly affected girls and women in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Her work adds to a global campaign inspired by the United Nations and dedicated individuals such as Australian doctor Dr Catherine Hamlin, who Glory says has laid a foundation for positive change in Ethiopia.

Ms Gatwiri hopes her research recommendations will advocate for social policy reforms and improved health care in Kenya, as well as encourage debate that challenges retrogressive practices that put women at risk of developing vaginal fistulas.

Glory will represent Flinders at the Trans-Tasman competition in Queensland on 2 October. As well as prizes from the University final, she has a chance to win $5,000 or $2,000 in travel grants in the national final to support their research.

The 3 Minute Thesis competition aims to cultivate students’ academic presentation and research communication skills and support their ability to effectively explain their research in just three minutes in “language appropriate to a non-specialist audience”.

The Flinders 3MT runner-up was School of Medicine PhD student Katherine Morel while clinical psychology student Jeremy Stevenson was People’s Choice winner at the well-attended final event on 28 August.

Emily Davis, the 3MT coordinator, thanked all of the school and faculty participants at Flinders and encouraged others to enquire for next year’s event. Coaching and further public speaking development is offered to all Flinders participants.

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