Oregon Health & Science University
Self-funded. I also had to gain the trust of the medical surgeons so that I could be present during examinations and surgeries. Most importantly, it was vital that I engage with the Ethiopian people in a way that was non-exploitive and loving.
I documented the lifestyles of Ethiopian women who suffer from fistula and prolapse conditions, plus the surgeries that repaired them. In addition, I documented the near riotous conditions that occurred when rural Ethiopians heard that there was Western medical help at the hospital. People walked for days to get to the hospital, and the hospital doors were mobbed with people desperate to be seen. Much has been written and studied about fistula, but we saw that there is a silent epidemic of prolapse conditions.
The images and video footage were compiled into a book and short film and are currently being used for fundraising for upcoming medical rotations.
The most rewarding aspect of this project is watching a woman come to the hospital after suffering for many years, and see her walk away with glee and excitement for her new life. She can once again tend to her family and not be shunned by others.
It was also gratifying to see how my images and video can instill within others a desire to act. To know that my work is encouraging other medical professionals to get involved humbles me. And, it is exciting to know that this project is sustainable - the Western doctors are training local Ethiopian medical staff to perform these surgeries and also work with midwives to train them in preventative measures.
I have traveled to many developing countries, on my own and with aid organizations such as Mercy Corps, but this project touches my soul in a very intense manner due to the social and psychological effects, in addition to the medical conditions, these women face. I will be returning to Ethiopia within the next several months and I am in the process of determining which specific stories to focus upon to obtain deeper documentation of the lives of rural Ethiopian women. I am happy to be a part of Stirring The Fire. For many years, I have worked alone. It is exciting to know there are resources and support to encourage these projects!
The women in Ethiopia and many areas of our world suffer in silence. I would like to be a part of giving them an avenue for their voices to be heard, and for my images and video to be a conduit for raising awareness and support to help them.
A portfolio of images can be seen at www.jonikabana.com under the International link.
Learn more about Footsteps to Healing on Global Soul International’s website under Projects.
Find the Footsteps to Healing book here.