written by Natalie Pattillo

Body Banter

Our 2016 Giveback Impact Recap

As a female-led & run company, Icon is wholeheartedly dedicated to changing lives with beautiful, innovative, eco-friendly, and leak-proof undies (that aren't disposables piling up in landfills). We're fierce advocates for women's health with a mission to share *whizdom* (aka info/resources in plain English + humor and sass) about pee-related topics and the power of the pelvic floor. It's legit part of our job descriptions to constantly find new ways to lightheartedly normalize these so-called "taboo" conversations about our amazing bodies. We're basically channeling our inner Maya Angelou to "do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style."

Social impact is our DNA, so when we first opened up shop, it was vital to go beyond selling underwear and blogging about women's health. For us, it's equally important to help out our sisters around the globe suffering from fistula—a condition caused by prolonged/obstructed labor. Fistula leaves women with a hole between the vagina and rectum or bladder and, without access to medical resources, it can leave a woman incontinent of urine or feces or both. In fact, about 1,000,000 women in developing countries are living with fistula, but fewer than 20,000 are treated each year. To those stats, we said nope, not on our watch, which is why we have an ongoing partnership with the Fistula Foundation.

Over the past year (woohoo Icon turned 1 last month 🎂), a portion of every pair of Icon sold helped fund life-changing surgeries for women in developing countries. Having a giveback built into the heart of our company means we're all in this together. The more lives we can change with amazing absorbent underwear, the more life-changing surgeries we can provide to women in the developing world. We're thrilled to share that, thanks to you, our beautiful community, this year we funded fistula repair surgeries for 71 women!

If you ordered Icon this year, you helped women like Elizabeth, a 60 year-old mother of 10 children. She was fortunate that all her children's deliveries were healthy. But later on, she developed an iatrogenic fistula (an injury that can be caused unintentionally by a health care provider) that she believes was caused by a doctor who operated on a cyst in her stomach. 

For about a year, Elizabeth dealt with uncontrollable leakage alone. Even when she did seek medical help, a doctor misdiagnosed her condition as a urinary tract infection. She kept her injury a secret from her loved ones because she was too embarrassed. One day, though, her neighbors saw her throwing away a diaper and hurtful rumors about her spread throughout her village. 

Then, Elizabeth's close friend (💪🏾 sisterhood 💪🏾) came to the rescue with a life-changing lead! Her friend had learned from other women at her church about a program that provided free surgeries for women who were incontinent. Elizabeth made the trek to the hospital and received a free reparative surgery. She's ecstatic that her days of hiding and leaking in physical and emotional pain are over! 

As we know, incontinence can strike at any age. Take for instance, Tahinomenjanahary, who was 17 when she experienced her excruciating 3-day labor. In the midst of coping with the loss of her baby, she developed fistula and was so ashamed of the odor from her leakage that she stopped spending time with her friends.

After a year of suffering in silence, she serendipitously heard a radio ad from a Fistula Foundation partner that mentioned the free fistula repair surgeries provided to women enduring the same symptoms she experienced. Tahinomenjanahary received the surgery recently. Now, she plans on throwing a party with her family to celebrate her restored health! 🎉

Photo courtesy of Sam Biddle/Fistula Foundation

Tahinomenjanahary isn't the only woman singing 🎤"happy days are dry again!"🎤. About 3 years ago, Marivelo—who was 17 at the time—went into a 4-day labor with her first child. Like Tahinomenjanahary, Marivelo's baby didn't survive and she developed obstetric fistula. Shortly after, her husband left her because he claimed that her smell was too difficult to bear (good riddance, right?!). 

Marivelo didn't want to leave the house. She didn't have any visitors either. When she finally mustered up the courage to step outside, Marivelo's friends noticed that her clothes were completely soaked. She had no choice but to tell them that she had been leaking uncontrollably for the past year. When her village caught wind of what happened to her, they didn't shame her. Instead, they united to support her by raising money to help her pay for a doctor. Then, all that good energy led her to learning about the Fistula Foundation's free surgeries. She traveled to the hospital and her fistula was finally treated. After the surgery, she “danced the whole way home” from the hospital, and had a huge party to celebrate with her family. 🎉

Oh, what happened to her estranged husband? Marivelo doesn't care. She's going to find a new one. 💁🏿

From the bottom of our fiercely feminist hearts, we say thank you! We couldn't have helped these women (and 68 others!) without all of you. Next year's goal: DOUBLE the amount of fistula surgeries we can fund for our sisters around the globe! 

**Special thanks to Sam Biddle for these beautiful photos.**