Update Aug 09 – The HOTmilk campaign has now finished but Knickers4Africa still need your help. If you have underwear that you would like to donate please contact Emma at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.knickers4africa.org.uk to find out more.
The other day my mum told me about a scheme which helps protect women and girls from sexual abuse by donating underwear.
This scheme was set up by Zimbabwe ex-pat Morag Roy who, on a return trip there, was told by a friend that sexual abuse and rape of young girls was rife. A local priest explained however that having underwear could help prevent this. He said that underwear is expensive and owning these items gives a woman prestige and shows they have money. Women with underwear are considered to be more independent and assertive, so men are less likely to assault them.
Morag and her colleague Corrie Peterson had previously set up a course for sexual assault victims and when she told Corrie what she’d learned they decided to ask women to donate their bras.
I’ve looked this scheme up online and found various references to it (some of which are listed at the bottom of this article). One article says that bras are needed primarily and preferably in dark colours for modesty reasons but another says that knickers and other underwear is wanted too.
I’ve also seen some disparaging comments online saying it is patronising and unhygienic to expect these women to take hand-me-down underwear. I personally feel strongly about the value of second-hand. Surely it is a positive thing if the underwear is clean and if the women are not offended and most importantly if this plays a role in helping them. Rather than throw away your perfectly good undies, recycle them and potentially keep a girl or woman safe from abuse.
Maternity lingerie company HOTmilk and their regular freight company Express Logistics are participating in the scheme and have taken thousands of pairs of underwear to Zimbabwe. If you’d like to join HOTmilk and help too then you can see a list of outlets in various countries who will pass on your underwear donation to the next “Knickers for Africa” shipment.
I shall be dropping off my mum’s, my sisters’ and my donations to the Nottingham outlet next week.
References & Resources:
HOTmilk – ‘Knickers for Africa‘
Hotmilk – Find participating Knickers for Africa outlets near you
Yahoo Lifestyle – ‘Your Bra can Make a Difference‘
Townsville Bulletin – ‘Black Bra Day helps women‘
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