written by Natalie Pattillo

Body Banter

How You Changed These Women's Lives

As a women-led & run company, Icon is wholeheartedly dedicated to changing lives with beautiful, eco-friendly, and leak-proof undies (that aren't disposables piling up in landfills). We're fierce advocates for women's health. Our mission is to share info/resources in plain English (+ humor and sass) about women's health and the power of the pelvic floor. It's legit part of our job descriptions to lightheartedly decimate shame about bodies and their functions. 

Social impact is our DNA, so when we first opened up shop 2 years ago, 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, 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 hell no, not on our watch, which is why we have an ongoing partnership with the Fistula Foundation.

Since our company launched (woohoo Icon turned 2 this November🎂), a percentage 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 magical 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 powerful community, we funded fistula repair surgeries for 157 women this year! That's over double what we funded last year, which means that, over the past 2 years, 228 life-changing surgeries have been provided for women in need! Are you as (pelvic) floored and moved as we are?!

If you purchased Icon undies this year, you helped women like Blandine, a mother of five from the small rural village in Madagascar. After giving birth, she developed a fistula, which led her to leak uncontrollably. This year, with the help of The Fistula Foundation, Blandine received a free surgery. As you can imagine, she's now singing the praises of the Fistula Foundation and is spreading the word about the amazing resources other women in her community.

fistula foundation

As we know, incontinence can strike at any age. Take for instance, Francine, who became pregnant with her first child at 17. She spent three days in labor until she was taken to a hospital where her baby was delivered through C-section. Unfortunately, because of her lengthy obstructed labor, Francine developed a fistula. For three years, she was plagued with the anxiety and shame of living with the condition while working tending rice farms.

fistula foundation

To hide her leakage, she changed cloths constantly throughout the day. One day, while at the market, Francine's friend (praise the sisterhood! 🙌🏾 ) was raving about surgical services. By the summer of 2016, Francine courtesy of Icon's partnership (and your purchases) with The Fistula Foundation. She is living freely without fear of leaking! 

Francie isn't the only woman singing 🎤"bye, bye, bye"🎤 to damp days!  

Ndatasaha, 30, is a mother from the village of Manja. When she was pregnant with her third, Ndatasaha had a traditional birth attendant by her side. But when she went into labor, things went awry. Like Blandie and Francie, Ndatasaha's labor was excruciatingly painful.

fistula foundation

A month later, Ndatasaha started leaking. When she went to local health provider in her village, he gave her medicine, injections, and tablets. Nothing worked. After two years of trial and error, she quit looking for a cure and figured she'd live with leakage for the rest of her life.

Because of the deep stigma that comes with fistula and extreme leakage, most of her friends rejected her. While her fam was supportive, members of her community would tell her to go away because she was visibly leaking. Because it was challenging for her to move with the fistula and feeling scared about leaving her home, Ndatasaha stayed in her house most days. With fistula, she learned to wear long skirts to conceal the trickle of urine that leaked down her legs. 

Eventually, she learned from neighbors about The Fistula Foundation and care they provided to women like her. As she healed from surgery, Ndatasaha found herself sitting with four other women recovering in the fistula ward. They shared their stories with each other, and decided that they needed to tell other women about their experience and the help they had received. That day, they knew their calling was to to become fistula ambassadors.

Today, she is known as one of the hospital’s best ambassadors, having referred more than 5 women for treatment.

From the bottom of our fiercely feminist hearts and pelvic floors, we say thank you! We couldn't have helped these resilient women (and 154 others!) without each and every one of you.

Photos courtesy of Georgina Goodwin/Fistula Foundation

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