“Teach this triple truth to all: A generous heart, kind speech, an a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.” -Hindu Prince Gautama Siddharta

  •  Newsletter # 4:
March 2010

Dear Pads for Prisons Supporters and Friends,

My big apologies for the lack of updates since the last newsletter of November 2008.  Our community coordinator, Mell moved to Spain, our webmaster, Preet, moved to London, and our financial coordinator Julie has had to take a step back from the project because there is too much on her plate including her wedding, so there’s only Dawn and me left!  We would welcome help!  For one thing our website needs updating so forgive us if it’s a little behind in the news.

Well, lots has happened in the last 15 months.  We are pleased to confirm that both the Alouette Correctional Centre for Women in Maple Ridge (BC Corrections), and the Fraser Valley Institution in Abbotsford (Correctional Service of Canada) are both fully involved in our project and they are making pads for the project.  We have held training sessions at each institution as well as presented the project explaining what it is all about.  The reaction of the women has been heartwarming and positive.  When they hear about the conditions in Southern Sudan, they never fail to express how lucky they feel to live in a country like Canada. They feel inspired to help women in South Sudanese prisons. I know that the urge to help others is a step in the right direction for those women because it creates a capacity to care, an essential component of living a good life in my view.

Dawn and I travelled to Southern Sudan last September and organized a training workshop for 38 female prison officers from all over Southern Sudan, and included management skills training, health and hygiene training as well as sewing lessons.  At the end of the workshop, the participants were themselves given the opportunity to train other prison officers as well as prisoners.  They were asked to relate what they had learned and were evaluated on their teaching skills.  They were all expected to teach others what they had learned once they got back to their respective prisons.  The workshop was a total success!  

In terms of supplies, we took down two large suitcases packed with donated sewing scissors, cones of thread, rulers and tape measures, fabric markers/crayons, needles, and practice pieces of flannel.  Each participant received their personal package of supplies but each institution received a bag with larger supplies of scissors, needles and other sewing necessities.  The main prison reform project financed the purchase of several sewing machines for the prisons.  At the workshop, participants learned how to thread and work the machines (manual).  Thank you to those who donated all those items.
Female prison officers learning how to use a sewing machine Children of female prisoners in Southern Sudan.  
Workshop participants learning about gender roles from a UN Gender Advisor Participants demonstrating to others what they have learned during the workshop

While we were in Southern Sudan we became aware of the need for panties and bras for the women in prisons there.  In most cases, women have only one panty and do not own bras.  They expressed a desire for underwear.  So, last December we launched a bra and panty drive in Abbotsford and Chilliwack, and have so far collected about 700 bras and over 900 pairs of panties.  We will take these down with us on our next trip.  Other items of need include children’s clothing and so we have started a collection of summer clothing for children (sizes from newborn to 4 years old.  Dawn and I are going down to Southern Sudan again in May to conduct a second workshop on lifeskills.  We will be travelling with a paediatrician to talk about infant/child health and pre/perinatal care.

A very exciting development of the Pads for Prisons Project has been its impact in Afghanistan.  Dianne Livesey, while on a year long secondment to Afghanistan with Correctional Service of Canada, heard about this project and contacted us to find out more.  On her own initiative and with the help of a small NGO who provided funding for fabric, Dianne implemented the Pads for Prisons Project in all prisons in Afghanistan!!  When I first heard about Dianne’s pads project in Afghanistan, I wanted so much to meet her and ask her how she did it.  We met for lunch and I asked if she’d do an article for our newsletter and she agreed.  Here is her story:



In late October 2008, I received a newsletter which described the Pads for Prisons project in the Sudan. This is a project where the women prisoners are provided with washable, re-useable menstrual pads. It twigged my interest not only because of the need within Afghanistan, but also because my alma mater, University of the Fraser Valley, and the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) were involved in the project. I immediately sent the newsletter to two counterparts, one with the Correctional Service of Canada at the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Kandahar and the other with the Corrections System Support Program (CSSP) in Kabul.  The response from both was “Lets do it!”

Over the next few months, I investigated how to go about getting the project underway.  It did not really fall under my mandate with the United Nations (UN), however, I took it on as an additional duty.  While the Sudan project had the pads made in Canada and delivered or shipped to the Sudan, I wanted to have the female prisoners in Afghanistan make the pads.  The Kabul Female Prison and Detention Centre (KFPDC) already had a sewing course provided by the Afghan Women’s Education Centre (AWEC) so sewing machines were not an issue.  

My colleague from CSC Kandahar had left Afghanistan but Beth Presson from CSSP and I met to determine how to proceed.  We both had the vision of the women at the KFPDC making the pads and then distributing them throughout the prisons in Afghanistan through our contacts with CSSP and the PRTs.  We wanted to ensure that the pads were given to both the female inmates and the female staff and felt that 8 pads each should be sufficient.  

As time was getting short in regard to my leaving the Mission in a couple of months, and having had no success in getting the project off the ground, I decided to make some samples to show donors. My assistant, Farzana Mardomi, and I researched the issue on-line and came up with a pattern and list of materials. I gave my assistant $20 and she went to the local market and bought all the required materials.  She had a sewing machine and had agreed to sew the samples.  A week later, she brought the completed samples into the office and our excitement was evident.  They were just what we needed to shop the project around and estimated cost was 2 pads for $1.  We figured we would need about $2,800.00 to complete the project.  

Beth and I approached AWEC to ensure that they were interested in taking on the management of the project.  We wanted to ensure that along with being given the pads, the women would also receive education on menstrual health and hygiene. AWEC agreed to manage the project if we could find a donor.  

When shown the sample pads, donors were very excited and indicated what an excellent project it would be, but most came back stating that it was not within their mandate.  While the Canadian Embassy had shown interest, they were requesting permission from Ottawa to proceed with the project and it was taking a great deal of time.  

In the meantime, on March 30, 2009 while Beth was meeting with Women for Afghan Women in the Kabul Coffee House, Rosemary Stasek overheard Beth talking about our frustrations with finding funding.  Rosemary ran a small NGO called “A Little Help” and she approached Beth and told her to give her a call.  Beth set up a meeting with Rosemary, AWEC and I, and within 5 minutes of the meeting starting, Rosemary pledged the funds for the project.   There were hugs and smiles all around.  It was only two weeks from my leaving the Mission, but I knew I would be leaving something of me behind and also leaving the project in good hands with Beth from CSSP.  We were going to give Afghan women prisoners and staff a sense of dignity and increase their self-esteem. It was one of those things that was truly meant to be! 

I have received regular updates from Beth and Farzana and pads have now been distributed to all the female prisons in Afghanistan.  On a sad note, Rosemary passed away and it is uncertain at this time what will be happening with her NGO.  In order for the project to continue as pads need replacing and new inmates come into the system, funding will need to be found from another source.   I know that Beth will be actively involved in ensuring the continued success of this project.  If adequate funding is received, there is no reason why this project could not be expanded to include pad donations to indigent and homeless women in the community.  Thus, the female prisoners would be giving back to the community; doing their little bit to improve the lives of women like themselves.  

Dianne Livesey

Thanks so much Dianne!

We have had emails from Fiji, Australia and the US from women who want to help with the project.  I am optimistic that this project will spread to other countries if likeminded women get together and “do it!”.

Contact Dawn if you’re interested in making pads (Dawn Fauteux: Chief Tailor/ Pad Designer ( and if you are able to donate to the project, even $10 will buy enough flannel to supply at least two women with six pads each.  Anything would be appreciated.  With the funds we collect, we buy flannel @ $2/m and other sewing equipment like scissors, needles, thread, and take it down to Southern Sudan.  Dawn buys flannel when she finds a good deal (she is frugal!) and personally delivers the material to the prisons here.  As it costs money to open a bank account in the project name, simply send a cheque to Dawn as she buys all the supplies.  Payee:  Dawn Fauteux,  Address:  1886 McKenzie Rd., Abbotsford, B.C., V2S 3Z4.

Thank you so much for your support and do forward this newsletter to anyone you think might be interested in the project.  Equally, if you do not wish to receive this, let me know!  No offence taken.

With very warm regards,

Vivienne Chin
Project Coordinator (
  • Newsletter #3:

November 6th, 2008


Dear Pads for Prisons Supporters,

Just a quick update on how the project is progressing!

We are proud to announce that this is the fifth month of the Pads for Prison Project! The project is continuously growing and word is spreading to more and more individuals and organizations. We have previously informed you about the involvement of Allouette Correctional Centre for Women as well as the Fraser Valley Institution [for women]. I am pleased to inform you that recently:

• we presented the project to the Home Economics and Social Justice Classes at Mouat Secondary School in Abbotsford to get them involved in the project and also in international development in general;

• we met with someone from the quilting group at the University of the Fraser Valley and were encouraged that they are likely to start making pads early next year; and,

• we will be talking to the Soroptimists in Abbotsford to inform them about the project and attempt to involve more women in the project.

We are grateful for the kind and generous contributions made by all of you. Thank you all for donations of materials, funds, sewing supplies, and also for taking the time to sew the re-usable sanitary pads. A special thanks to Mrs. Sharon Fraser and WJ Mouat for donating a serger to the project. We were able to get it repaired and now it works very well in finishing the edges of the pads and the folded flannel sheets are inserted inside the pads.
We are now collecting the following to take down to Southern Sudan for the women in prison:

• sewing sheers
• cones of thread
• rulers and tape measures
• fabric markers or crayons
• needles
• flannel
• plastic pants for babies

We are also seeking further funding. We have collected some $800 so far and have now spent about $500 of those funds on fabric and materials for our sewing groups, the prisons, and individual seamstresses. We have found inexpensive flannel for $2 per metre. Our volunteers have gone all the way to Vancouver to find good deals on fabric and sewing equipment. Two metres of flannel can make six pads which is what each woman is receiving in Southern Sudan. In other words, it takes about $4 worth of flannel to meet the sanitary pad needs of one woman in prison. Your money is being used wisely and every penny can be accounted for. If anyone can spare any money it would be greatly appreciated. You could make your cheque out to “Iuliana Pastiu” and send it to: 46604-B Ramona Drive, Chilliwack BC V2P 8B4.

Thank you so much for your contributions.

Update in Sudan

A delivery of 600 pads has been made to the women’s prison in Juba and Torit! Each female inmate received a package of 6 re-usable sanitary pads. The guards were also offered pads but they felt that the prisoners needed them more. The extra pads were distributed to a second female prison in Torit, which is not far from Juba.


Female inmates in Juba having received their six pads. Sept 08.

Female inmates in Torit listen to the Southern Sudan Prisons Service officer telling them about the Pads for Prisons Project and waiting for their six pads.

Sept 08

The next batch of pads will be taken to the other State prisons in Southern Sudan in 2009.

The project also involves the purchase of sewing machines for the prisons. Juba now has three new machines. More machines have been ordered and will be delivered to the State prisons in the next month or two. The idea is to teach the women how to make the pads for themselves as well as teach them basic sewing skills so that they can make other clothing. As many of the women have babies with them, the project will also provide dry milk and re-usable diapers made from flannel. Mothers will be taught how to fold diapers the old fashioned way! As flannel is not available in Southern

Sudan, fabric will have to be taken down there initially. The dry milk will be purchased locally. The project will also involve liaising with the Southern Sudan Ministry of Education on how to provide some basic schooling to the older children in prisons. For the babies and under three year olds, we are hoping to design rag dolls from left over flannel and other cloth but right now the priority is the pad making. If anyone would like to start making dolls, please let us know. They must be all (pre-washed and well rinsed) fabric, nothing the children will choke on, nothing sharp or made of plastic please!

Vivienne Chin (project coordinator) and Dawn Fauteux (chief tailor/pad designer) are planning to head down to Southern Sudan in January 2009. Not only will they be delivering the pads from Canada, but they will also be organizing a workshop for prison guards from ten other State prisons on sewing skills, basic personal hygiene, basic child care, and the value of acquiring skills before being released back to society. Just a reminder that this project is part of an overall prison reform project which includes prison leadership and management, information management, policy development, and special attention to the treatment of vulnerable groups in prison.

If you have any completed pads or donated supplies, please drop them off at the Criminology Department at the University of the Fraser Valley [Building A, Room 203] by the 1st of December 2008. Please label the donation “Pads for Prison Project.” You can also email any of the contacts below and we can pick them up from you at your convenience.
We also encourage you to forward this newsletter to anyone you may think might be interested in it, even if it’s only for information.

Just a quick reminder in regards to contacts:

Mellissa Marlatt = Volunteer Coordinator (
Julie Pastiu = Treasurer (
Dawn Fauteux = Chief Tailor/ Pad Designer (
Vivienne Chin = Project Coordinator (



Mellissa Marlatt
Pads for Prison Project

  • Newsletter #2:

August 18th, 2008



Hello Everyone,

Thank you

First, thank you to everyone for supporting this project!  There is so much exciting news to tell you.  We now have over 450 pads made (only counting those we have received) so we are well placed to reach our goal of 600 pads which will supply the women and staff of the Women’s prison in Southern Sudan’s capital Juba.  Our thought is now to expand the project to other prisons in Southern Sudan and supply each inmate and staff member with 8 pads each, totally some 4,800 pads!   Don’t panic, we have a growing number of people joining including the Alouette Women’s Prison in Maple Ridge, which has jumped on board with great enthusiasm.


Feedback on the pads

The feedback from Southern Sudan has been very good.  The women love the sample pads and are incredibly grateful and touched.  The following message was received by Vivienne by Ruth, the UN Correctional Adviser in Juba:

Dear all,

                  Below is the feedback I got today from 3 inmates who have used the pads throughout their flow. They really appreciate the pads and the rest of the women are eager asking when they will get some while others are asking for someone to train them in making this pads. There are no complaints at all but a lot of awe at how thoughtful you people have been. Meanwhile three wardresses [guards] are being trained in sewing started classes today and we hope that they will gather enough in 2 months to start classes with the inmates. We got 2 rolls of white cotton material which they will use to practice making the female inmates uniform. There are 4 sewing machines though all are for the straight stitch only and none can do zigzag. This would be a challenge since some of the pads parts are made with the zigzag stitch and maybe we would require such a machine if we were to do it here.

  • The thickness of the pads is good – the separate loose additional pads inside the outer pad are a good idea and make it easier to dry them
  • It takes one sunny day to dry all parts and two days if there is no sun
  • The length and shape of them is great
  • The winged pads are better than wingless pads
  • They can use the current pads but it would be useful to have an impermeable layer to prevent leaks on heavy flow days
  • The flannel material is better than cotton as it is more absorbent and more comfortable
  • Each women really needs 8 pads as a minimum but they are happy with anything they receive

We will take whatever pads you have made but if you can consider these comments in future pads we would be grateful.



As a result of the Abbotsford News story, we were immediately contacted by the Mental Health Programs Office at BC Corrections Alouette Correctional Centre for Women in Maple Ridge.  We were told that the women she supervised and who were on a work program in a specialized part of the institution were interested in helping and becoming involved in the project.  They have two industrial size sewing machines and three sergers.  The women expressed interest in having the opportunity to "give back" and help other incarcerated women.  Currently, they have sewn 300 pads!!  Vivienne, Julie and Dawn visited the prison on Thursday 14th August and were overwhelmed by the enthusiastic response of the staff, management and inmates at Alouette.  The inmates want to continue to make more pads and were so keen to find other ways to help!  For now they are focusing on more pads! 


The website is in the final stages of revision.  Thank you for your patience with the website and the information/resources you will find.  Once the site is up and running we will email the URL to everyone. 



Some of you have asked “Why are you making sanitary pads for women in prison, while other women and girls, who are not in prison, often do not have anything to use?  Furthermore, why are you addressing this issue, lack of sanitary pads, while there are much bigger problems in the country?” 


These are fair questions to ask.  The answer is that those issues are being addressed by all kinds of other projects by other organizations in Southern Sudan and we are just a part of the solution to the larger problems.  In order that projects yield meaningful results, they must be somewhat specific with particular activities and goals.  Taking on an issue can only be successful if it’s manageable and doable.  Because this is part of a prison reform project, we are dealing only with women in prison but our discussions with UNIFEM and UNICEF in Juba include what they can do for women outside prison.

The idea is to make a “first batch” of pads for these women and at the same time teach them how to make them so that they can start supplying other women, their family members and members of their community.  The sewing skills from this project will be expanded to making clothes and other necessities which they can use to earn an income while in prison but also after they are released into the community. 


Although making pads may seem like a small gesture addressing what many people do not even consider as a problem for poor women let alone women in prison in developing countries, the impact has, is and will be enormous:

  • The women of Juba central prison have had their spirits uplifted knowing we are trying to help them
  • Menstrual cycles and related pain are stigmatized in many countries and this project has all allowed women to talk about what they need and what they experience
  • Providing pads gives these women a tangible thing they can call their own, a simple but vital need which reduces worrying about how they will deal with the next period
  • The training in how to sew pads will be expanded to other things like underwear and dresses/uniforms and provide a much need skill which may enable them to earn an income and get a job when they are released
  • Knowing how to make pads and other things gives these women knowledge and knowledge gives them a sense of confidence
  • Making the pads will teach them how to work together, how to be resourceful about sourcing materials; it will also encourage leadership and cooperation as well as friendship and responsibility
  • This point is also relevant here in BC especially among women prisoners at Alouette prison – the sense of accomplishment of inmates making those pads is huge and they are filled with joy at being able to help and care for someone else, which helps their own healing and worthiness (the impact is so amazing to see)
  • The women in Alouette feel a special connection with their peers in Southern Sudan and for most of them they have never ever thought of other prisoners in poor countries let alone other women prisoners.  The inmates here just want so much to help and give and the management is fully supportive and encouraging of their wish to do so.  The program officer there has been collecting materials and fabric donations from all kinds of sources in Maple Ridge and are running dry so we will either purchase large rolls for them or source donations from somewhere.
  • Those involved in the broader prison reform project are thrilled with this activity and are surprised at how successful it has become even though it was not envisioned in the beginning of the project. 

Supplies and funding


We have some material at the University of the Fraser Valley that was donated by the fashion design department.  If you would like to use any of this material please let us know and we can make arrangements for pick-up.  Contact Mellissa Marlatt at If you would like to donate fabrics, such as flannel, toweling, absorbent cotton fleece, and water-proof materials, please also contact Mellissa.


Thanks to the kind donations the Pads for Prisons Project has a modest budget which allows us to provide some financial support to those who are sewing the pads.  Material can be quite expensive and we do not want anyone spending an excessive amount of their own money on materials and supplies.  Therefore, we are able to provide a reimbursement of up to $50.  Please contact Julie Pastiu at


Most useful design

Although all the pads made so far can and will be used, we are also interested in gathering information about the best design used to sew the pads.  We would like to create a sewing kit containing a set of stencils and instructions on how to make a cloth pad.  If you have any comments, ideas, or suggestions on the making of the pads we would love to hear any feedback!  Please contact


We will soon organize a get together/demonstration class day for everyone interested in this project.  We will let you know when and where it will take place.    


Again, we would like to extend our gratitude and appreciation to everyone involved with the Pads for Prisons Project.  None of this would be possible without all of your generosity and support.  Please keep in touch and do not hesitate to contact us if you have any comments or questions (


Kind regards,


Mellissa Marlatt


PS. Finished pads can be dropped off in the criminology department at the University of the Fraser Valley (building A, room 203).  Please can you drop off all finished pads by the 30th of August so they can be taken to Southern Sudan. 



  • Newsletter #1:


July 3rd, 2008


        Hello Hope you are having an excellent weekend!  I would like to thank you all for your interest in the Pads for Prisons Project.  We had a great meeting last Thursday, at UFV, and I would like to discuss what we talked about at that meeting. First, thank you for working so hard on the pads.  We were fortunate enough to have some pads already completed!  There were a few different patterns and materials used which resulted in a few different styles. This was excellent because we saw pads with wings, some without, thin pads, thick pads, pads with inserts, and lots of different colors.  I believe we came to the conclusion that it would be best to have wings on the pads, as the underwear for the women in the prisons may sometimes be loose, baggy, and old, which can result in leakage.


  Some of the women who are involved in the project have donated funds. Julie Pastiu, the treasurer, will be the individual responsible for the funds.  If you are needing some money for materials please let me know and I will have her either send cash or make a cheque out to you, which can be picked up in the criminology department at UFV.  For groups, we are going to send out a maximum of $50. We are currently in the process of setting up a website.  On the website we plan to have patterns for pads that have been used by women. These patterns and instructions will be simple to follow and step-by-step. We will also have current information about the project, up coming events (sewathon), pictures, media, and links to other reusable sanitary pads.  The site is projected to be up within the week.  As soon as the site is up and running I will email everyone with the name of the site.  If you have any ideas about useful information I should put on the site, that is not listed above.  I welcome all your wonderful suggestions!


I have attached the official letter describing the Pads for Prisons Project.  Please send this letter around to anyone, or groups, you feel would be interested in the project. The local news paper, Abbotsford Times, was at the meeting as well. The editor, Vikki Hopes, wrote a piece in the paper about the Pads for Prisons Project.  She put it in the Abbotsford News today, July 5th 2008.  Please check it out! I will be the person to contact if you have any questions or concerns. Please feel free to contact me anytime!  I check my email throughout

the day, ,which is probably the best

method to reach me. 

I am so pleased that you all have shown an interest about this

incredibly important project.  Let’s have fun and see how many pads we can make!


Thank you


Mellissa Marlatt