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Restoring the Dignity of Women Who are Not Surgical Candidates


When surgery is not an option for some of the women who have fistula, we provide a waterproof panty and cloth diaper-inserts for each of them. The panty allows the woman to go out of the house, perhaps to market or to socialize, without the fear of urine or feces dripping down her legs or staining her clothing.

Shelley’s, an IOWD donor from Fernley, Nevada, created a number of designs before it was decided which would be best. A former patient, Josiane, was the one who made the final decision as she tried on the different styles. HankyPanky’s, the well-known lingerie company, made all the patterns of the chosen style in various sizes. Along with Shelley’s samples and HankyPanky’s patterns, we purchased the waterproof fabric here and brought everything to Rwanda. The Golden Hills Hotel, our home in Kigali, helped us locate a Rwandan woman, Adeline, who now sews all the panties for us!

Dr. Bethan Powell, Gynecologic Oncology specialist, talked with the women we could not operate on. She explained why surgery was not an option, but gave them hope that there might be a solution for some in the future. Through the tears, the women were very appreciative for the information.

Dr. Bethan put it best: “The patients who could not have surgery were overjoyed to have these; it seemed very important to them that they were given something and this made a great impact.”

The panties are obviously not a solution to the fistula problem, but at least, we are giving the women an article of clothing that helps to restore their dignity at home and in public.

In the below photographs, IOWD Executive Director gives out panties to a group of women. Dr. Saifuddin Mama talks to the women; Dr. Sadsocar and Dr. Ntwali translate in Kinyarwanda, and medical student Darlene gives specific instructions as to how to use the panties and the diapers. The pictures tell the story..

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