Pussy Packs 

Pussy Packs

Chipo is still taking her family planning tablets. But she doesn’t think they’re doing the trick. In lieu of an illegal abortion, though, it seems maybe there are other solutions. Local AIDS organisations like SAfAIDS and The Centre are recommending that she goes back to the programme she was originally signed up with. They reckon that, having signed her up on 13th January when she wasn’t pregnant, these programmes have some obligation to either continue her on their programme or, if the requirements for the trials mean they cannot, they have to advise her about other clinical trials that will take her on. Of course, even if she does get onto one of these trials, the next challenge is whether the trials have any medicine. Apparently in Zimbabwe’s collapse, even the ARV trial programmes are running short of drugs.

Meanwhile, a group of Zimbabwean women are travelling to Botswana and Mozambique to perform the Vagina Monologues there and to encourage women to speak out and perform their own monologues about their experiences as women. The same group performed in Harare last year.

They are travelling with “pussy packs,” small rectangular black bags written “Vagina Monologues” on one side. The women’s relationships with the bags—about the right size for some tissue, a few sweets, and some money—shifts as they go through the monologues experience. At first, they wear their bags shyly, vagina side in. But by the end of the performances, the Botswana women were proudly sporting them vagina side out, no longer shy or embarrassed about “that word.”

Inside the bags are three male condoms, a femidom and a Vagina Monologues badge. Coming back into Zimbabwe with left over packs, they got stopped by customs. At first they wanted to confirm why the packs were re-entering the country, if they were for retail sale, etc. Eventually, it turned out what they really wanted was the contents. The female condoms in particular were a hit, and the female customs officers happily took a carton of those.

The pussy packs are a great start. But a few more femidoms might go a long way. Women are typically much more shy about buying condoms [male or female] than men are, and there is much more stigma associated with a women buying products like that. Many Zimbabwean men reject condom usage. “What’s the point of taking a shower in a raincoat?” they say, likening sex to a shower and a condom to the raincoat. Women are traditionally the subordinate partners in sex, and in Zimbabwean gender relations as a whole. While women might struggle to ask a partner to use a condom, the femidom gives them a different sort of autonomy. They are still much less readily available than male condoms, and more expensive. And until women are better able to protect themselves sexually, stories like Chipo’s, and much much worse, will remain all too commonplace.

The Centre
[link=http://www.vday.org ]Vagina Monologues[/link]
HIFA: A personal account - Performing The Vagina Monologues

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