Director/Producer Mary Olive Smith
An Engel Entertainment production in association with NOVA
Filmed in Ethiopia
The setting is beautiful, breathtaking. the hardship endured by the native women excruciating to see, to learn about and their illness is unimaginable for those who have never seen it nor smelled an incontinent woman
Imagine being a five to ten year old girl, married. Imagine getting pregnant and giving birth at 13 or 14 years of age. Imagine being in labor not for 24 hours but for a week because the birthing canal is too small to enable the fetus passage. Imagine the damage to your body, the puncture of the thin wall between the birthing canal and the blather.
Imagine the reversal of all you know about and feel about being toilet trained, about being part of a civilized, loving nurturing community. Imagine being ostracized, having to live in a separate space from everyone, Imagine being totally alone, rejected, at thirteen, fourteen years of age. That is the plight ,the central premise of the film Walk to Beautiful:. a six mile or more lonely walk in search of help.
But it isn't only in Ethiopia. I was a social worker in Sunset Park Brooklyn when a young woman's 's brother brought her to my office. Everyone in the vicinity ran from where we sat, she by the side of my desk.
The brother said, everything in the house is ruined. Every chair, the sofa. she can't go outside and we can't live with her in the house. The smell coming from her person was overpowering.
But it wasn't the first time I had smelled the sustained odor of urine.
The hallway in the then poverty stricken Harlem were my training ground for walking up and down the long flight of stairs with that order filling my nostrils. But I learned, as did my fellow workers, to breath without smelling, without gaging or being overly repulsed. Even the smell of feces is a human order. We are not as clean nor sweet as we might like to think
As she sat by my desk one of the fellow workers started to wash the floor near us with strong smelling ammonia which i found more distasteful than her odor and i experienced the commotion that her very presence brought to the fore. with trepidation.
How could I help her? I racked my brain to find something to say, My task was to decathex the embarrassment of her condition to allow this distraught adult brother to take her to the hospital for help. She was convinced her condition was beyond medical intervention.
From the depth of my personal ignorance I looked at her and I thought, sex. Tell me about your sex life i said. Have you had sex, did you enjoy it. And her face lit up. We were two woman sitting next to each other, one the surviver of two normal child births , the other a long suffering victim of a sexual event beyond her control What we had in common was our state of being a woman. And in that moment of our shared essence she found the courage to seek help.
Brooklyn is an ugly industrialized city. We have so much civilized help available and so much knowledge of what to do, when, but the pathos that this woman instilled in me, albeit many many years ago is part of my knowledge base, my understanding of the travails of womanhood that I thankfully do not have to endure.
That doesn't mean that we should live in ignorance. This film must be seen, must be part of our experience our knowledge of the perils of being adults because there is such a compelling base for empathy that it enriches our consciousness, the core of our being.
I recommend this beautiful, compelling, documentary and encourage everyone to imagine the odor, the horror with which each afflicted woman and those close to her must endure.