Women get active to help women around the world

March 2, 2009

By Chantelle Lusebrink

Siwema Renatus (right), a fistula survivor from the Mwanza area of Tanzania, smiles as she visits friends while she awaits surgery at Bugando Medical Center. By Women's Dignity Project

Siwema Renatus (right), a fistula survivor from the Mwanza area of Tanzania, smiles as she visits friends while she awaits surgery at Bugando Medical Center. By Women's Dignity Project

Two Issaquah High School graduates are hosting local yoga and Pilates classes next week to help women around the world. 

Katya Matanovic, a 1996 graduate, and Taran Collis, a 1997 graduate, are hosting the classes as a part of International Women’s Day, March 8. Donations raised will benefit Matanovic’s nonprofit, One By One, which raises money and awareness for women suffering from obstetric fistula.

“It’s just an awesome event to give back to women,” Collis, a studio coordinator at The Yoga Barn, said. “This event for obstetric fistula is in honor of women and mothers and what they do in their lives to give birth, literally, to the next generation. Unfortunately, not all are fortunate enough to have medical facilities to help them live a healthy life after.”

Matanovic formed One by One in 2004 after having dinner with a friend. “One of my dear friends Heidi Breeze-Harris, who was pregnant at the time, was watching daytime television and caught a segment on ‘Oprah,’ one about dowry burning and one on obstetric fistula,” Matanovic, director of the Pomegranate Center, said.  “When she told me about it at dinner, we had a heated conversation about how women’s issues get so little attention.” 

When the pair found out it costs $300 to restore a woman’s health, they created One By One, Matanovic said. 

Obstetric fistula is a disorder as a consequence of childbirth, occurring most often in rural and developing countries with inadequate health care systems.

“These women endure childbirth, hard childbirth, for two, three and four days, and in 90 percent of the cases, the baby dies,” Matanovic said. “Not only do their children die, but the result for the woman is chronic incontinence.” 

The women are also ostracized by their villages, husbands and families because of their disorder, and many try to drink or eat as little as possible, causing malnutrition and dehydration, she said. 

Although it is rare in the U.S., obstetric fistula was very common here until medical breakthroughs of the late 1800s, she said.

The grant money One By One dispenses to several organizations has helped provide restorative surgeries to hundreds of women, as well as the supplies, facilities and employees needed to perform them. 

Still, the number is a drop in the bucket, since conservative estimates report two million women suffer from the disorder, Matanovic said.

This year, she said she hopes to use some money to provide traveling nurses with mobile ultrasounds, which will help detect pregnancy and any medical problems earlier, and a women’s rights program.

“Apart from teaching a free yoga class for donations, it also allows people to come and take care of themselves,” Collis said.


Pilates mat class

9 a.m. March 12

Active Body Pilates

317 N.W. Gilman Blvd., Suite 2

206-229-5103 to register 

(space is limited)


Yoga class by donation

8:30 a.m. March 8

The Yoga Barn

660 N.W. Gilman Blvd., Suite C-6

www.yogabarn.com for registration information

Reach Reporter Chantelle Lusebrink at 392-6434, ext. 241, or clusebrink@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com. 

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