Charlotte Korte: a Woman of Influence

The 2018 Women of Influence Awards were held in Auckland on Tuesday the 18th of September. In its sixth year the Women of Influence programme recognises and celebrates women from all walks of life who make a positive difference in the lives of their fellow New Zealanders. This year Charlotte Korte, co-founder of Mesh Down Under was nominated for the Public Policy category for women working in the public sector at either a local or national level who use their influence to work towards better social inclusion and equality.

Charlotte Korte woman of influence

Charlotte Korte (centre) with her two co-founders of Mesh Down Under,
Patricia Sullivan (left) and Carmel Berry (right).

Those who nominated Charlotte Korte for the award wanted to nominate all three co-founders of Mesh Down Under – Charlotte, Carmel Berry and Patricia Sullivan – but could only nominate a single woman. When AWHC spoke to Charlotte about her nomination before the winners were announced she was adamant that the nomination was for all three, even if only she would be named.

In an interview with Stuff writer Leah McFall, Charlotte insisted that she’s unremarkable, but when her life was forever changed by what should have been a routine operation in 2010 she found herself starting the support and advocacy group Mesh Down Under with Carmel and Patricia. They began with six members; today, there are over 600 and they have “become the ardent patient voice in the public debate about mesh.”

In the interview Charlotte said:

“I’ve met so many amazing people through this.”

The horribly injured women, the suicides and the courage of survivors compels her to keep campaigning. She has become a lobbyist in the six-year battle to protect people from mesh harm, co-presenting a petition to a Parliamentary select committee; arguing with a surgeon on radio; speaking at the Australian Senate inquiry, and criticising politicians and health officials for failing to act decisively, and together with Carmel and Patricia sitting down with surgeons to improve patient information materials to support informed decisions about mesh procedures – a process that started in late 2017 and is still going on now.

“This is a really hard job,” she says. “There’s been many a time we wanted to give up. We’re tired. I’ve had enough of campaigning. I want to put some strategies in place to fix things.”

Winning the Public Policy category was welcome recognition of the thousands of hours that the three women have devoted to the cause, and tacit recognition of the extraordinary harm that many New Zealanders have experienced as a result of mesh. But the battle has not been won, and recent events in New Zealand, while showing that slow progress is being made, also illustrate that there is a long way to go before we can have any real expectation that all New Zealanders will be protected from mesh injury.