An RMIT graduate is helping save the lives of Ethiopian mothers, through her leadership of a charity dedicated to health and education.
Ethiopian women who are victims of obstetric fistula - a serious birth complication that affects more than 40,000 women in the east African country - are known locally as "the walking dead".
Laura Bishop, a Bachelor of Arts (International Studies) graduate, is providing a second chance at life to those living with the debilitating condition through her work as national manager of EthiopiAid, which aims to improve health and education in Ethiopia.
"Women with obstetric fistula are excluded from the community," Ms Bishop said.
"Due to them becoming incontinent as part of the disease, often their husbands will leave them and they will lose their jobs. In many cases, their babies are stillborn. About 9,000 new cases of the disease emerge each year."
Through her involvement with EthiopiAid, Ms Bishop has worked tirelessly to raise funds for a maternal health program run by the Women and Health Alliance.
The program has now set up an obstetric fistula hospital in the Gondar region, one of Ethiopia's most isolated communities.
Ms Bishop has seen first-hand the incredible impact the hospital has had on some of Ethiopia's most vulnerable.
"Previous patients often stay on as staff and commit themselves to helping other women," she said.
"Many recover completely physically, successfully remarry and they have their first baby via caesarean section
"It's wonderful to see them getting a second chance at life."
The ratio of Australian physicians is 250 per 100,000 people but in Ethiopia it is just three per 100,000.
The likelihood of a woman dying during or soon after birth is 50 times higher than in Australia, with a skilled person in attendance for only one in 10 births.
"Hearing the statistics makes me more determined to start engaging the Australian public," Ms Bishop said.
"There is huge disparity between obscene wealth and absolute poverty in Ethiopia, that I was not prepared for."
Since graduating from RMIT in 2012, Ms Bishop has worked extensively overseas, including working alongside asylum seekers and refugees under threat of deportation in South Africa.
In that time, she also ran education and empowerment programs for young offenders in a maximum security prison in Cape Town.
Ms Bishop said the RMIT International Studies program encourages students to view their world with fresh eyes.
Her advice for current students?
"Be prepared to work hard, be prepared to argue your beliefs and be prepared to meet people who will change your opinion of the world. But most importantly, enter with an open mind."
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