Pitching A Red Tent For Island Women

Jen Viets and Cherie Grousset

A chance meeting after 15 years leads two Kaua’i women to create a women’s fertility awareness service

When Jen Viets and Cherie Grousset met in Boulder, Colo., 15 years ago, they never could have imagined one day they’d run into each other at Papaya’s Natural Food store – one of those small-world coincidences.

That chance encounter would lead them to create a fertility awareness educational service organization.

Red Tent Kaua’i aims to partner with other nonprofits to offer workshops, seminars and a supportive forum for women of all ages interested in reproductive health and education.

“We believe the sharing of this knowledge should be free and available to the community. It’s our birthright as women to understand our cycle and celebrate it,” says Grousset.

“In naming this venture, we borrowed the term ‘Red Tent’ from the beautiful Anita Diamant novel to signify a space where women can come together to share wisdom, support and compassion for one another. We hope our activities can be a source of education, inspiration and kinship with our fellow ‘sisters,'” she adds.

The Red Tent is a retelling of the Biblical book of Genesis, Chapter 34: the story of Dinah.

“This episode, usually known as the ‘Rape of Dinah,’ has been a difficult passage for Bible readers for centuries because of the murderous behavior of Jacob’s sons. In Genesis, Dinah does not say a single word; what happens to her is recounted and characterized as rape by her brothers. In my retelling of the story, Dinah finds her voice. The Red Tent is told entirely from her perspective and the point of view of the women around her,” writes Diamant of her bestselling novel.

Grousset, a resident of Kilauea and certified clinical herbalist, is passionate about empowering local residents to understand natural fertility and family planning.

“I see a real need for women to take back the knowledge of their fertility and gain control over their bodies,” she says.

The main goal of the organization is to provide a resource and forum to help avoid “any unwanted pregnancy among the women, young and old, of Kaua’i.”

Red Tent Kaua’i has already touched hundreds of people. They’ve held two educational/sharing events over the past six months, setting up their tent and information tables at The Wellness Expo in January and at The Hawaiian Healing Garden Fair in June.

“This is our fourth tent day — planned to coincide with the quarter- and cross-quarter celestial calendar. We erect the tent as a safe and educational space where women can come to get information, a massage or just share stories,” Viets, a former midwife/doula and lomilomi massage therapist, describes their most recent event held Aug. 1 on Kalihiwai Ridge.

“Within this sacred space we share tea, chocolate, inspiration, stories and whatever else strikes our fancy. This is an opportunity to step out of the daily routine for a moment and be nourished,” she says.

Coming from backgrounds in holistic medicine, Grousset and Viets say that many women’s health issues have become taboo in our society. “It’s important that we are given information and knowledge that can help inform the most appropriate choices for the women living in our community.” They hope to establish working relationships with diverse island organizations such as the YWCA, Planned Parenthood (currently looking to establish a Kaua’i charter), Angeline’s Lomilomi Massage, local schools and other clubs/organizations.

“So far there has been incredible support for our efforts from women and men of all ages,” says Grousset, “but we hope to raise enough funds to commission a custom tent that can be erected at our events.”

The creation of a physical space “that is identified as a safe place for questions and sharing” is vital in what Red Tent hopes to offer the community.

“At the Hawaiian Healing Garden we had a temporary tent, and so many women came in to relax, recharge, just take a moment to reconnect. It was wonderful,” reflects Viets. Red Tent Kaua’i hopes to raise funds or find a sponsor to commission this portable classroom for women’s health forums.

“This is ancient knowledge that has been replaced by a dominant western medical perspective. We want women to be aware of alternatives to mainstream birth control and hormone medications — there are many natural ways to be in control of your cycle. This is about giving women resources for promoting or preventing pregnancies, as well as providing emotional support for our female community surrounding our health issues,” says Grousset.

Red Tent Kaua’i is intended to provide education and options, not advocate one method over another.

“I want our activities to raise the consciousness surrounding the divinity of the female reproductive cycle,” says Grousset. “We believe knowledge gives us choices, so we want to share this knowledge and support women in the choices that are most appropriate for them and their families.”

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