essays • stories • interviews • poetry • art
essays • stories
interviews • poetry • art

Working in prisons

Working in prisons

One event which has stayed in my mind since we began our work with Panties with Purpose, is the day when we did our first distribution at the Langata Prison, in Nairobi.

It was a long drawn out process to gain permission to enter the prison, because the authorities had never had a donor who wanted to give pants and sanitary pads. Finally we received approval and taking enough underpants to help 1000 inmates, we went to the prison on the appointed day.

To enhance the impact of the day, we had arranged a musical and poetry performance by famous Kenyan artists. We gave each inmate four pairs of pants and a packets of pads.

The event was going smoothly until I noticed the inmates arguing. I asked the warden what the matter was. She explained  the women were fighting over the colour of the underpants, many of them wanted black with lace and there weren’t enough to go around. Others were saying two packets of pads was too little. They had ‘heavy days’ so what were they supposed to do?

The heartbreaking scene of women shouting at each other, over a pair of underpants and a packet o pads made me realise that women everywhere were the same.

Incarcerated in here, or out there in the world, all want to feel comfortable and feminine whether it be in black lace or white cotton.

I also began to appreciate that every person had their own unique experience of menstruation- and no two person’s ‘heavy days’ were the same.

After that I couldn’t look at my drawer filled with underpants of every colour without thinking of those women squabbling  over a pair of black, lace underpants.

Working in prisons