V-day UMASS Amherst recently presented a benefit production of the Vagina Monologues to raise awareness for the Women and Girls of Haiti Campaign which focuses on the gender-based violence against females in Haiti that has been widely reported since the earthquake.
This year’s production was a success giving way to three sold out performances from March 3 to March 5 while raising awareness for pertinent issues facing women on campus and around the world. The production gave raw and personal, sometimes comical, sometimes dramatic, accounts from real women. It consisted of 30 women from the UMASS community, including students, faculty and staff.
The Vagina Monologues is an award winning play by Eve Ensler about women’s lives and sexuality. The Monologues are based on over 200 interviews conducted by Ensler from all over the world. The Vagina Monologues has been published in 45 languages and performed in over 120 countries. Ensler is also the founder and artistic director of V-Day. V-day is a global movement to end violence against women and girls. V-day is in its 13th year and to date it has raised over $60 million.
While the audience at UMass was composed of a slight female majority, many males were also in attendance. As stated by the stage manager, Kendra Dean, “this is a show for anyone that has a vagina, knows someone who has a vagina, or came out of a vagina.” The mood from the audience at the performances was giving, optimistic and supportive.
The production was held in conjunction with VOX and Everywoman’s Center located here on campus. VOX is an international organization that is allied with Planned Parenthood. Their mission at UMASS is to educate the university community about reproductive health and rights and promote activism on campus. Everywoman’s Center at UMASS is an outreach program that offers counseling, specialized training, support groups and much more to all students.
The Grace Episcopal Church was also at the production. They were there in the hopes of raising money to buy sanitary napkins for girls in Haiti, as well as accepting donations in the form of pads. Volunteers for the church explained the necessity these donations.
“The young girls in Haiti don’t have enough money to buy things like pads and because of that, when they have their periods, they can’t attend school,” they explained.
Other tables at the production were selling vagina shaped chocolates, and V-day t-shirts. There was also a table for the Everywoman’s Center offering support for anyone at the production.
“Often this play can bring up questions and/or feelings that people may want to talk about. We wanted to make ourselves availably for people to feel comfortable talking to before and after the production,” said Everywoman’s Center volunteer Sheela Haque.
Haque got involved with Everywoman’s Center in the hopes of helping women.
“There is so much sexuality and violence between women and men in society, that I wanted to get involved and do my part to help,” she said.
Women’s studies major Ashley Papineau shared a slightly different reason for volunteering.
“I tool a class on sexual assault, and I realized it was something that had happened to me,” she said. “I want to help educate and be a safe source that other girls can talk to if they need.”
The Everywoman’s Center has a rape crisis and violence prevention program that provides comprehensive support services to individuals of all genders and expressions. The Rape Crisis Hotline is available 24-hours a day. For more information call 413-545-0883.