Through her work as executive director of the nonprofit GAIA Vaccine Foundation, Textiles alum and faculty member Eliza Squibb 13 TX is continuing to help promote the importance of vaccinations in the West African nation of Mali.

Cancer epidemy

Human papillomavirus infection is an infection by human papillomavirus (HPV). Most HPV infections cause no symptoms and resolve spontaneously. In some people, an HPV infection persists and results in warts or precancerous lesions. Nearly all cervical cancer is due to HPV with two types, HPV16 and HPV18, accounting for 70% of cases.

HPV virus.

GAIA, founded by EpiVax CEO Annie De Groot, is committed to getting the word out among Malian women that a vaccine can prevent cervical cancer, which is caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV).

GAIA’s strategy – initially supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and now by Merck & Co. – involves educating women via “storytelling cloths” Squibb designs to convey a clear message. The initial design disseminated in 2014 featured brightly colored fabric with a pattern depicting healthy cervixes and text with empowering phrases in French (the country’s official language) that read: “I protect myself, I take care of myself and I immunize myself.”

HPV virus vaccines.

GAIA’s new campaign, Our Daughters, Ourselves, focuses on passing life-saving advice about the importance of vaccinating to the next generation of young Malian women. With this new audience in mind, Squibb’s colorful textile presents geometric flowering patterns based on mathematical multiples of six (the number of recommended months between the first and second dose of the vaccine) and 12 (the number of months recommended before scheduling a follow-up screening).

Anti-HPV campaign

“Visual education using the storytelling cloth is an effective tool used by women, for women, to raise awareness and share health information.”, Squibb says.

Eliza Squibb promoting anti-HPV campaign.

In the first month of the recently launched, yearlong campaign, more than 1,600 women were screened for cervical cancer and 200 girls vaccinated for HPV. “Our experience in Mali,” says Squibb – a Textiles alumna who now also teaches in the Textiles department – “demonstrates that visual education using the storytelling cloth is an effective tool used by women, for women, to raise awareness and share health information.”

Eliza Squibb 13 TX continues to design colorful “storytelling cloths” to convey life-saving healthcare messages to West African women.


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