Pads and empowerment

We don’t have any photos of the remarkable conversations I had with the women’s literacy classes at Rhumathoi Community Center about whether they would be interested in a project of making their own menstrual pads. It took a little diplomacy to get my translators (both married men, fortunately) to understand what I wanted to discuss. But they said it was important topic and went to talk to the women. They came right out from the class and said, “They want to see them now.”

I didn’t bring any pads, just one sample made from a pattern we had worked on years ago with my friend Liz Ging. (Back then, we were thinking about the girls at Wunlang School. But now it seemed logical to start with our organized class of women at Rhumathoi.) The men didn’t want to come in, so I had brought over my supplies, and with our cook, Ayak, as my translator (her English is about at the level of my Dinka!) and my demonstration underwear, we all managed to communicate well.

Here's a pad made of terrycloth to guide the ladies in the Rhumathoi Community Center is making their own.

Here’s a pad made of terrycloth to guide the ladies in the Rhumathoi Community Center is making their own.

It’s an easy pattern to make up.

One afternoon I sat in the cool of the guesthouse and sewed some up by hand myself, thinking the women were at their literacy class. It turned out that the ladies had arrived for class only to find that their teachers were busy making funeral arrangements for a

The finished product that snaps around one's underwear.

The finished product that snaps around one’s underwear.

leader in the local market. They were chatting outside. So I showed the details of hand stitching, turning both pieces rightside out, sewing them shut, and sewing on the snaps. I brought patterns, lots of terrycloth, needles, and scissors, some thread (which I knew was easy to get) and I’ve been assured that some fasteners are available in the market — even buttons and buttonholes would work.)

The ladies were also interested in making these for post-partum women, and turning some of the terrycloth into diapers. I left all the supplies in a big flowered bag. They said they soon would be organizing themselves. I’m looking forward to learning how they do!