Publication Date
Publication Date: 
January 1, 2007

A Walk to Beautiful is a documentary film by Engel Entertainment that tells the stories of five Ethiopian women who suffer from long-term childbirth injuries resulting from obstetric fistula. In the film, they embark on a journey to reclaim their lost dignity through surgery at a hospital in the capital city. According to the documentary, women with obstetrical fistula are frequently rejected by their husbands and ostracised by their communities. These women are left to spend the rest of their lives in loneliness and shame. The trials they endure and their attempts to rebuild their lives are portrayed as a story of hope, courage, and transformation. The film also appeared in a shortened version on the United States public television network.


From the documentary description:


“Ayehu, Almaz, Zewdie, Yenenesh and Wubete suffered through prolonged, unrelieved obstructed labour in a country with few hospitals and even fewer roads to get to them. Although they survived the often-fatal childbirth experience, they were left with a stillborn baby and feeling, as Ayehu tells us, that ‘even death would be better than this.’ The obstructed labor has left each of them incontinent. In most of their cases, this is as a result of an obstetric fistula, a hole in the birth canal. We discover Ayehu, 25, living in a makeshift shack behind her mother's house where she's hidden for four years, shunned by siblings and neighbors alike. She hesitantly begins her journey on foot, and once she gets to the Fistula Hospital in Addis Ababa, she realizes for the first time that she isn't the only person in the world suffering from this problem. At the hospital we meet Almaz, a woman also in her 20s who was abducted by her now-husband in a village market and has suffered from double fistula for three years."


According to the producers, viewers share the experiences of the women and also learn a larger story of the seemingly intractable problems facing women in the developing world, including malnutrition, child marriage, and lack of obstetric care.


The DVD special features include two additional short films. The first, Fistula Worldwide: The Hidden Epidemic, gives a broader perspective of childbirth injuries, including obstetric fistula, as a global health crisis, with interviews from experts on fistula who are working around the world. The second short film, Wubete and Yenenesh: Three Years Later, visits two of the women featured in A Walk to Beautiful three years after their journey. The DVD also includes four additional scenes, as well as audio commentary tracks from Executive Producer/Producer Steven Engel, Director/Producer Mary Olive Smith, Field Producer/Director Amy Bucher, and Co-Producer Allison Shigo. A a downloadable "Take Action Guide" is available on the website below.


Pambazuka News, Issue 327, on November 9 2007; The Fistula Foundation website on December 6 2007 and June 12 2009; email from Allison Shigo to The Communication Initiative on June 18 2009; and email from Leah Rubin-Cadrain to The Communication Initiative on June 29 2009.