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Abbotsford-Mission Times

The Times

Published: Friday, September 12, 2008
 

Three months is all it has taken for a group of energetic students and community leaders and stitchers to make 600 washable sanitary pads, enough for all the female prisoners and guards in Juba, the capital city of war-torn and poverty-struck Southern Sudan.

"When a project makes sense, serves a need, and touches those who want to help, it can achieve anything," said Vivienne Chin, one of the organizers of the Pads for Prisons project.

The project was born out of a much wider prison reform project taking place in Southern Sudan, funded by the Government of Canada and being executed through the United Nations Office on drugs and crime, the International Centre for Criminal Law Reform and Criminal Justice Policy, the United Nations Mission in Sudan, and the University of the Fraser Valley to assist in building the capacity of prison leaders to manage the prison population more effectively and humanely.

The overall project involved an assessment of the situation of women in prison in Southern Sudan. One of the many findings of the assessment was the complete lack of sanitary pads leaving women to use old and dirty pieces of fabric, which were inadequate and non-hygienic.

Pads for Prisons began as an idea and now involves some 30 women in the community as well as a group of female prisoners at Alouette Correctional Centre for Women all making pads with donated funds and fabrics.

Sample pads have been tried and tested in Juba Central prison and the inmates are thrilled with their new pads.

About 400 pads will be taken down to Juba this month to be distributed to the female prisoners and guards.

They will next be given sewing machines and be taught how to make their own pads.

Other sewing skills are being planned in the future.

 

© Abbotsford Times 2008

 

Tuesday, 7/8/2008

By Vikki Hopes - Abbotsford News - July 05, 2008


NewS.38.20080704162611.PadsforPrisioners_SouthSudan_3_col_jvp_20080705.jpg
Dawn Fauteux, a member of the community, displays a sample cloth sanitary pad that she made as part of the Pads for Prisoners project. She was among those attending a meeting Thursday at University of the Fraser Valley.
JOHN VAN PUTTEN / The Abbotsford News

A new project based at University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) is designed to bring dignity back to female prisoners in Southern Sudan.

Nine women met at UFV Thursday to discuss how to proceed with the project, called Pads for Prisoners. It involves making reusable washable sanitary pads for female prisoners to use during their menstrual cycle.

Currently, these women have only a cloth to use or, in some cases, they are tied to a tree until their cycle is over.

The project is part of a bigger program called Building the Capacity of the Southern Sudan Prisons Service, which is looking at prison reform in the African nation, particularly as it relates to human rights.

Vivienne Chin, project coordinator with the International Centre for Criminal Law Reform and Criminal Justice Policy, has visited Southern Sudan several times and spoken with female prisoners.

She said two of the main issues they face are poor prison conditions and a lack of health care and sanitary facilities. She said she was “really struck” by the dehumanizing treatment of prisoners during their cycle.

“It just shows them that nobody cares; they’re worth nothing; no self-esteem; that having a period is the dirtiest thing you can have,” Chin said.

“It makes them feel degraded and worthless.”

Upon returning from one of her visits, Chin discussed the situation with two UFV criminology students – Mellissa Marlatt and Julie Pastiu.

The trio agreed that something needed to be done. Chin then e-mailed as many friends and colleagues as she could think of to see who would be interested in participating.

Several of those women – including UFV faculty and students, as well as community members – were moved by the plight of the prisoners. Some of them agreed to donate cash to help the cause, while others offered their sewing skills.

They found patterns on the Internet for cloth sanitary pads and set about making some samples. They presented their work during Thursday’s meeting and agreed on the best version.

Now, they’re looking for more community support to complete the 600 pads they want to send to the Central Women’s Prison in the capital city of Juba, which houses 100 female prisoners and guards. The project could later expand to other prisons, depending on its success.

The group requires donations of flannel and terry-cloth fabric, as well as volunteers to make the pads. Cash donations are also needed to help offset the costs of materials.

The first set of pads will be sent at the end of the month to a team in Vienna that is going to Southern Sudan.

Chin will then take more of them when she returns to Juba sometime in August or September.

In conjunction with the project, life skills training will be offered to the prisoners in which they – and the guards – will learn to make their own pads and, possibly, their own clothing. Two new sewing machines will be purchased and donated to them for this purpose.

Chin said the ultimate goal would be to give them a skill they could use to earn a living once they are released from prison, as many of them will not be accepted back into their families.

The women are imprisoned for things such as adultery (men do not go to prison for this), for their husband’s debt or because they are mentally ill and have nowhere else to go. Many of them have already been in jail for several years, with no indication of a release date. Their children often go with them.

One of the goals of the overall prison reform project is to help release these women from prison, if appropriate.

Meanwhile, the UFV group wants to make their living conditions as comfortable as possible.

The psychological benefits to the prisoners are significant, Chin said.

“It’s a huge boost to their morale that there’s someone in a far-off country doing this for them,” she said.

Those interested in making a donation or participating in Pads for Prisoners are asked to e-mail Mellissa.Marlatt@student.ucfv.ca or call 604-768-9268.

More information will also be available on the group’s website, padsforprisoners.com, which is expected to be complete in a few days. A pattern to make the pads will be posted there, so that anyone in the community can make them.

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