A PRINCESS CAME TO TOWN

One famous Australian woman met another in Ethiopia recently, when Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary of Denmark met Dr Catherine Hamlin AC on her home turf in Addis Ababa. Princess Mary was on her second and longest visit to Ethiopia as part of a three-day humanitarian trip. She chose to make time to visit legendary Australian obstetrician-gynaecologist Dr Catherine Hamlin, the staff and patients at Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital. Both women, recognised and known across the globe for their grace, humility, compassion and style forged a natural bond over a cup of Ethiopian tea and home-made biscuits on the verandah of Catherine Hamlin’s home for the last 56 years.

Visiting the fistula hospital and meeting the patients was an emotional experience for Princess Mary as she was moved by the life-changing work of Dr Catherine Hamlin and her dedicated staff. No clearer example of the critical work being undertaken by the hospital was the newborn baby girl whom the princess was able. Princess Mary’s natural warmth and graciousness was praised by Feven Haddis, Deputy CEO and Global Communications Director of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia, “We were delighted the Princess was able to shine a light on the work of Dr Catherine Hamlin and her team here in Ethiopia. Princess Mary was very knowledgeable about obstetric fistula and the challenges we have ahead of us to eradicate this terrible childbirth injury.”

Princess Mary was taken on a tour of the main ward of the fistula hospital where she was able to meet local Ethiopian staff and the patients. She left the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital that day not only with gifts of jewellery from the patients but also an ongoing admiration for Dr Catherine Hamlin and the Ethiopian staff for their dedication and care to improving the lives of Ethiopian women.

The Princess remarked, “I have met so many angels here in Ethiopia and one of them is 91-year-old Dr Catherine Hamlin. She has done so much for the women of Ethiopia and it was a great experience to meet and talk to her today”.

Princess Mary’s trip to Ethiopia was an intensive three days with a focus on the enhancement and improvement of women and children’s health care and humanitarian rights, an ongoing passion of hers. Her trip began with a visit to the refugee camp in Gambella, where she opened a youth centre and was delighted to watch the refugees perform singing and dancing. In what is known as hottest inhabited place on earth, the Afar region, Princess Mary met women and children staying at a safe house who had been affected by violence and abuse and was moved by their stories of survival.

Travelling to Ethiopia to meet the local people, hear their stories and witness the inspirational work of committed individuals and agencies first hand was a reflection of Princess Mary’s unflagging charitable and advocacy work for improved health care and humanitarian rights for women and children around the world. Since becoming a member of the Danish Royal family, Princess Mary has championed many causes that are close to her heart and in 2007 she established The Mary Foundation to improve the lives of people who are isolated and excluded from society. She has been recognised for her exhaustive humanitarian work and in 2014 received The Bambi Charity Award in Berlin for her social engagement and focus on domestic violence. As Patron of the United Nations Population Fund, she is committed to the work of the United Nations in promoting maternal health and safer motherhood in more than 150 developing nations.

Her ability to easily relate to local people may be a reflection of her own simple life. Princess Mary was not born into royalty but was originally born in Tasmania, Australia, the youngest of four children. She studied law and commerce and moved into managing real estate in Sydney. She met her husband to be, Crown Prince Frederik, whilst he was in Australia for the Sydney Olympic Games. They married in 2003. Mary won the hearts of the Danish people by learning what is acknowledged as a difficult language, Danish. She and Prince Frederik now have four children and together they have continued to actively support a range of organisations and charities across the world.