This Tuesday, March 8th, is International Women’s Day and people from around the world are coming together to pledge for parity with the goal of helping women and girls achieve their ambitions. At Mercy Ships we are working hard to empower women!
1) Giving women a second chance with the Women’s Health Program through physical healing
Fankjakely is an 18-year-old from a small village in Madagascar, who faced an intense four-day labor and was left with a Vesicovaginal fistula, a condition caused by an obstructed labor that creates an opening between the bladder and vagina, resulting in uncontrollable, continuous leakage of urine. With no money to pay for a surgery Fankjakely was left hopeless and housebound, rejected by many in her village and unable to work. After suffering for years with this condition, a radio advertisement introduced her to Mercy Ships where she received a free surgery to treat her condition.
In Madagascar there are over 50,000 women who have fistulas. Through the Women’s Health Program, Mercy Ships is giving women, like Fankjakerly, a second chance.
2) Restoring Hope through emotional healing
The Women’s Health Program is a holistic approach giving empowerment through surgery, love and acceptance. When Fankjakely came to the ship she had a constant frown. “Every day was really sad, and I worried that I would die. I was scared,” she recollects.
Emotional care can be as just as important as physical treatment. That is why Mercy Ships staff not only provide loving care, but build a sense of community so that patients often find a renewed sense of community within the hospital ward full of women who share their condition.
“There was a BIG transformation in Fanjakely’s personality. At screening, she was quiet and scared to be in the ward. Later, she made friends in the ward” stated Stephanie Fiduk, the Women’s Health team leader.
The Volunteers at Mercy Ships care for their patients throughout the 2-3 week healing process and aid both their physical and mental health. The final process of restoring hope for patients who have a successful surgery is a dress ceremony. After she was cured, Fankjakely was given new outfits for her new life and the day was celebrated with a makeover and Dress Ceremony complete with singing, dancing and stories to rejoice in her and many others restored hope.
3) Growing through Volunteerism
The Africa Mercy, the world’s largest civilian hospital ship, is crewed by over 400 volunteers. Stephanie Fiduk, is just one of the many volunteers onboard who uses her education in medicine to bring hope and healing to patients like Fankjakely and hundreds of thousands of others who could never have thought it could be possible. Without devoted volunteers many women would never receive the chance to succeed. Likewise, volunteers receive succeed in unimaginable ways while participating in a position with Mercy Ships.
4) Embrace transformation
Mercy Ships empowers women in rural areas to embrace the possibility of transformation and to recognize their undeniably important role in society. Beyond restoring the body physically and mentally, Mercy Ships offer women, like Fankjakely, the opportunity to participate in community development projects that teach women about health, agriculture, leadership, trade, commerce and much more.
When Frankjakely was a patient on the Africa Mercy, not only was she treated for her condition, but through the help of locally employed translators, she was educated about what was happening to her, how to prevent it, and other basic health education that will improve her life, as well as others in her village. Studies have shown that educating mothers can result in cutting the infant mortality rate in half. Mercy Ships empowers women in the the developing world through providing healthcare training, education and agriculture programs.