PhD candidate Glory Gatwiri is determined to step up her campaign to relieve women’s suffering in her native Kenya after representing Flinders University at the Trans-Tasman Three Minute Thesis competition.
She will present her Stories of Kenyan women living with vaginal fistulas through her Through their eyes of shame three-minute thesis summary before hundreds of guests at the 3MT finals at the University of Queensland, Brisbane on Friday (2 October).
Glory’s family will not not there, but the School of Social and Policy Studies student is now fired up to complete her thesis this year and get some experience under her belt.
“I truly believe that I am here for a purpose and want to be a force of change and a voice of hope for many young African women and girls,” says Ms Gatwiri, aged 26.
“It would be great to establish some bilateral collaborations between Kenya and Australia in order to achieve zero rates for maternal injuries such as vaginal fistulas.
“Even with about $30,000, you could build a basic clinic in a remote area of Kenya to start raising awareness of this insidious affliction.”
Glory based her presentation on research at a special clinic in Eldoret, 300km west of Nairobi, where she interviewed 30 patients who were recruited from surrounding villages to undergo surgery for obstetric or vaginal fistulas (or holes).
One was a 22 year old woman who’d gone through agonising childbirth at the age of 11. Another was a 68-year-old woman who’d lost eight babies through inadequate medical intervention before living in isolation with a devastating fistula.
Without treatments to repair these pelvic region injuries, thousands of girls and women in developing countries face a life of physical, social, economic and psychological deprivation.
Ms Gatwiri, whose master and PhD scholarships have been financed by Melbourne philanthopist Mrs Gwen Waters, hopes her research recommendations will promote social policy reform and improved health care in Kenya – as well as encourage more debate that challenges retrogressive practices that put women at risk of developing vaginal fistulas through childbirth.
“My education has revolutionised my life and that of my family – and gotten me permanently out of poverty,” she says.
“I look forward becoming the first woman from my village to get a PhD, and to rejoin my family near Nairobi.”
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”.
Flinders will again call for entrants from all faculties in next year’s 3MT competition.