When Sarah Gladstone (Wellesley Class of 2020) was 12, she was encouraged by her synagogue to develop a social justice project in honor of her forthcoming bat mitzvah.She soon discovered the plight of young girls in Ethiopia who, forced to marry and bear children, are left with a fistula, a medical condition that isolates them from their communities and leaves them physically and psychologically broken. Sarah committed herself to educating her community about this issue, and to raising the money to pay for one girl’s medical costs. She has since raised $10,000 to help many young women.

Tracy Gladstone, Ph.D., Sarah’s mother, a senior research scientist at the Wellesley Centers for Women and director of the Stone Primary Prevention Initiatives, soon began considering ways her clinical research focused on depression prevention and treatment, could also benefit women recovering from fistula repair surgery. Working with colleagues in Ethiopia and the U.S., Tracy co-designed Project COFFEE, a program delivered to women while they are recovering from fistula repair surgery in the hospital, that aims to promote mental health and support re-integration. An open trial of this intervention conducted in Gondar, Ethiopia, showed promising results for women who participated.

Tracy and Sarah discuss their five-year journey working on obstetric fistula in Ethiopia during this special presentation in honor of Mother’s Day, moderated by Layli Maparyan, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Wellesley Centers for Women.

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