Fearless Girls: dignity, respect and justice for all


At the Effective Altruism conference in Sydney last year I had a conversation with a new friend about our ‘favourite effective charities’. Her favourite was the Fistula Foundation. Her reason was because for a set amount of money you could be 100 per cent confident you could restore quality of life to a woman who would otherwise suffer enormously and endlessly.

Honestly, I have to admit that although I’d vaguely heard of the Fistula Foundation, I didn’t really know what they did. I nodded along politely as my new friend talked about the great work they do and went home and googled them.

Turns out the Fistula Foundation provides treatment for ‘obstetric fistula’ – a childbirth injury that can destroy a woman’s life. An obstetric fistula occurs when a mother has a prolonged obstructed labour, but doesn’t have access to emergency medical care, such as a c-section. She often labours in excruciating pain for days.

Tragically her baby usually dies.

But it gets worse…

During the prolonged labour, the mother’s contractions continually push the baby’s head against her pelvis. Soft tissues caught between the baby’s head and her pelvic bone become compressed, restricting the normal flow of blood.

Without adequate blood supply, sections of tissue soon die, leaving holes – known as ‘fistulae’ – between the mother’s vagina and her bladder or rectum. It’s these holes that cause incontinence.

If untreated, the woman will uncontrollably leak urine, stool, or sometimes both, for the rest of her life.

Obstetric fistula leaves women incontinent, humiliated and often shunned by their community.

Surgery is the only cure.

And that’s where the Fistula Foundation come in. In their own words – they do one thing, and they do it well – they treat obstetric fistula. Few investments in human health have been proven to yield such a dramatic impact on a woman, her family and her community.

Today, right now, at least one million women in Africa and Asia are needlessly suffering from untreated fistula. They are generally voiceless – young, female, poor, rural and ostracised.

Especially as a woman, especially as a mother, it is enough to make you cry.

So when we were looking for an effective charity to donate our March to May Write the World notebook sales to – especially our new Fearless Girls notebook, designed to coincide with International Women’s Day on 8 March – we couldn’t think of a better effective charity to support.

Fearless Girls: dignity, respect and justice for all – silence is not an option

Purchase online in our Write the World notebook store now – every $10 notebook purchase = $10 to Fistula Foundation from March to May 2020.

July 2019: Launching our love project – Write the World

Earlier this year I had an idea. In the shower. Which is often where the best ideas happen, I reckon.

It was a little niggly idea at first. But it grew and grew, until before I knew it the idea was a project. Which is now happening. The idea in a nutshell: Write the World notebooks, unique notebooks designed to make the world a better place. Our point of difference: 100% of the $10 purchase price of every single Write the World notebook sold goes to The Life You Can Save to direct towards effective charities. That’s right, 100%.

I jokingly call it the love project. It’s such an apt name for it. I love so much about it…

Selfishly, I love that it allows me to use my skills – working with specialists like designers and printers, creating, writing, implementing, organising. Oh yes, I’m an organiser!

I love that it’s increasing my horizons, allowing me to talk to and meet interesting people I wouldn’t have otherwise come across. It’s broadening my own world.

I love that the whole family is engaged in the project, offering ideas and suggestions and ever so patiently listening to my constant updates and latest Write the World thoughts.

I love that the idea has been so positively embraced by every single person I’ve told about it. It’s a project that seems to bring out the best in people.

And I love that The Life You Can Save has agreed to be our project’s donor charity. It means the project is totally aligned to where our family has been putting our effective altruism efforts for the past 24 months.

Our family will be directing our monthly effective altruism donations to Write the World for the next few months. We are funding the design and printing of the first six hundred notebooks ourselves. For an initial outlay of $3,500 – which we would have donated to effective charities anyway over the course of the coming months – we will eventually be able to direct $6,000 in notebook sales to The Life You Can Save. Almost twice what we would have otherwise being able to donate.

Because that is another thing I love about the love project. It has this magical multiplier thing going on. The more we print, the less the notebooks cost. The more we sell, the more we donate. Say, for example, we increase our print quantities in the future – with economies of scale, the notebook production price goes down and for a $5,000 initial investment, we’d see $30,000 donated to The Life You Can Save in notebook sales.

How magic is that?

We will be looking for generous effective altruists to sponsor future design and print runs. We’d love to hear from you if you’re interested in having your donation magically multiplied through the Write the World notebook love project – drop us a line at savinglives@writetheworldnotebooks.org to start a conversation about how we can work together.

The Write the World website will be launching in September 2019. In the meantime, you can follow our journey to launch on Facebook (http://fb.me/writetheworldnotebooks) or Instagram (@write_the_world_notebooks)

January 2019: Back to school

Where we live, in Australia, the end of January is synonymous with hot weather and kids going back to school. First day back at school for both of our kids was a stinking hot day – 35 degrees. But they both rode off to the local high school, perfectly situated right next to the beach. And rode home, able to jump into our pool to cool off.  Living the life.

They also both had their pick of school lunches to take with them.

My son, a stereotypical ‘growing lad’ of 14 who tucks away an extraordinary amount of food and is still skinny as a rake, opted for three roast beef and salad rolls and two apples. He likes food he can hold in hands and eat while he plays soccer. Why waste lunch time sitting around eating, right?

My daughter, embarking on her first year of high school, chose to take her primary school lunch box with its little compartments that can be filled with sandwiches, fruit and a ‘treat’ for her sweet tooth. But no yoghurt – as apparently this year yoghurt is embarrassing. Go figure, poor yoghurt will need to employ a PR agent for the pre-teen demographic it seems.

Once again, their privilege – simply in being able to choose what they’d have for their school lunches – was apparent.

And talking about it was a good reminder for us as a family that in some countries the incentive of a school lunch is enough to get kids to school – increasing their opportunity for learning. Vice versa, if you’re at school and you haven’t eaten, your ability to learn is compromised.  

In July 2017, one of our first effective altruism monthly donations went to Oxfam, donating school meals for 23 children for a year. We backed this up with our January 2019 donation. Due to me not working for half of January, and perhaps the price of supplying school lunches increasing, our commitment to donating 5% of our income translates to school lunches for 12 children every day for the next year.