Women’s health is something Maria Myers is extremely passionate about.
From a young age, Maria started advocating for women. As the Founder of Pretty Purposeful, she uses her voice and actions to create change in a way that has impacted thousands of mothers around the world. I asked her some questions about her work.
HelloFlo: What is Pretty Purposeful?
Maria Myers: Pretty Purposeful is a nonprofit focused on empowering women through maternal healthcare in Kenya, Sierra Leone, and Malawi. We work with our partner organizations to raise awareness and funds for Obstetric Fistula Repair surgeries. We put on fundraising events, work with corporate sponsors, and sell products handmade by patients on our website to fundraise for surgeries.
HF: What inspired you to start this organization?
MM: My sister and I watched a documentary called a “A Walk to Beautiful” about this condition when we were 12 and 14 and were moved to do something to help. We started out with the goal of funding one surgery by putting on an event in our community called Camp Pretty Purposeful. We had over 10 speakers and 80 girls attend and raised enough for 5 repair surgeries! We then became an official nonprofit and focused on finding ways to fund more surgeries.
HF: What is Obstetric Fistula, who does it impact, and what are the effects?
MM: Obstetric Fistula is an extremely painful and debilitating childbirth condition caused by an obstructed labor that results in a fistula (perforation) in the birth canal. As a result, women leak blood, urine, and feces through their birth canal. Not only do they usually lose their child, but they are also rejected by their families and communities, resulting in extreme social isolation and stigma. Fistula affects an estimated 2 million women and girls in the developing world, and nearly half of these cases occur in girls between 10 and 19 years old. Obstetric fistula is completely preventable through increased awareness and better access to healthcare.
HF: Describe your experience traveling to Kenya and Malawi.
MM: My sister and I – through our partner organization, The Freedom from Fistula Foundation – were able to visit fistula clinics in Kenya and Malawi. After years of fundraising and researching the condition, it was amazing to connect with doctors, nurses, and patients in real life. We also got to visit an FGM rescue center and meet some amazing girls there who’d been rescued from the Masai cultural practice of female genital mutilation.
HF: What does “Purpose” mean to you?
MM: A dedication to something greater than yourself and a responsibility to care for your fellow humans.
HF: Why do you think it’s important to invest in girls?
MM: Girls are creative, empathetic, and vital. If we invest in the next generation of girls they will re-invest in their families, communities, and future generations. Girls have the power to end harmful cultural practices and envision a more equal and peaceful future.
HF: What have you learned from starting your organization?
MM: Empathy is never overrated. When we see suffering happening around the world and feel a connection to someone else’s pain, we have to ask ourselves what we can do to help. Everyone has the power to create change.
HF: What inspires you to keep making change?
MM: Envisioning the future. It would be amazing to one day live in a world where girls have equal opportunities and equal footage in society, and conditions like FGM and Obstetric Fistula are a thing of the past. And I believe that is possible.
HF: What advice do you have for a young girl wanting to make a difference?
MM: Research the issue you want to address, connect with others who share similar goals, find mentors, and don’t be afraid to share what you’re trying to do. Don’t give up on yourself!
For more information on Maria’s work, visit her website.