Dr. Lewis Wall is the co-founder of Dignity Period, a nonprofit organization working to keep adolescent girls in school in Ethiopia. Wall, Selina Okin Kim Conner Professor in Arts and Sciences and Professor of Anthropology on the Danforth campus, is also Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology at the School of Medicine. He and his wife, Helen, started the organization after living in Mekelle, Ethiopia, for eight months as a Fulbright scholar. He’s also involved in medical aid work across the continent.
Dignity Period provides education to boys and girls and distributes sanitary products to teenage girls who normally wouldn’t have access to proper hygiene while menstruating and who then miss class or drop out of school. It has reached 350,000 students so far. Dignity Period works in partnership with Mekelle University and the Mariam Seba Sanitary Products Factory, which manufactures the kits (which last up to two years). Freweini Mebrahtu, the founder of the factory, was named CNN’s “Hero of the Year” for 2019 as a result of this project.
Wall’s work in Africa goes back even farther. He carried out anthropological field research on traditional medicine in northern Nigeria in his 20s, and has worked in numerous countries on problems related to maternal childbirth trauma. In 1995 he founded the Worldwide Fistula Fund, the oldest American charity working to end the affliction of obstetric fistula, an affliction of poor women suffering from prolonged obstructed labor in the world’s poorest countries. The Worldwide Fistula Fund has active projects in Ethiopia, Uganda, Niger, Kenya and Burkina Faso.
Keep girls in school longer, benefiting Ethiopia’s future broadly, and eradicate childbirth injuries from prolonged obstructed labor.