Donate a bra, and give a woman’s dignity a lift

17 Nov 2017

When being able to buy yourself a bra is a privilege

If they have money, they would prefer to buy rice than bra.” - Juvelyn Jomen of Mindanaw Poverty Relief Action

Here’s a slightly embarrassing, slightly TMI story – I sometimes forget to bring a clean bra to change into after I work out. This means I don’t have a clean, appropriate bra to change into before I go to work. 

So I wear a sweater over my clothes all day, regardless of temperature, and broil. Or I hunch and cross my hands over my chest, and hope no one notices.

I thought this was a pain, until Peh Zhengyang, director of marketing and business development for lingerie retailer D’Elegance, told me a story he had heard from Liz Baker, who spearheads an initiative to donate used bras to women in underprivileged societies. 

Liz had told him of a household in Africa where seven women shared one bra amongst themselves. “The one who is going for the most important social or business occasion gets to wear the bra,” explains Zhengyang, who is now coordinating efforts to collect and send bras to Mindanao, Philippines, in support of the project - called the Uplift Project. 

As a woman who gets to buy bras for fun whenever I want, this is the kind of story that strikes me dumb, and sadly, it isn’t a one-off example. 

It could be a teenager who’s still adjusting to her developing body, or a mother who’s nursing a baby and her breasts are leaking all the time. Maybe it’s a woman who labours away in a factory all day, and is stuck in a bra that doesn’t fit and digs into all the wrong places.

If they are also women of little means living in a conservative society, not having a bra could mean they can’t go out – to school or work for example – that day. 

This is where the Uplift Project – and you – come in. Founded by Liz, Uplift is a registered charity from Australia, and has been channelling bras to underprivileged women worldwide since 2005. 

 

Girls in Mindanao trying on the donated bras collected by the Uplift Project in 2016. Photo: Mindanaw Poverty Relief Action
Girls in Mindanao trying on the bras collected last year by the Uplift Project. Photo: Mindanaw Poverty Relief Action

 

D’Elegance stepped in to coordinate an Uplift collection in 2016, after Zhengyang saw how many women threw away bras in wearable condition due to poor fit. 

For 2017, D’Elegance has set up two drop-off points until November 28th. It is working with Mindanaw Poverty Relief Action, a Filipino non-governmental organisation, to deliver the bras to northern Mindanao.  

Zhengyang recalls how last year, he felt some of the bras donated were too risqué. But when he asked Liz about it, she pointed out to him that not only were bright colours and lace usually more popular, the bottom line is a simple one: “Is it better than nothing?”

In some regions, she added, the lack of a bra is a “badge of poverty”. “Please consider this before you reject any donation,” she warned. 

Aside from bras, Uplift also accepts donations of new underwear – in some societies, girls without underwear do not go to school when they are menstruating.

 

Colourful bras are often popular, and the most important part is that they fit well
Colourful bras are often popular, and the most important part is that they fit well. Photo: Mindanaw Poverty Relief Action

 

The good news is that women here are heeding the call: more than 9,000 bras have been collected and are being sorted and packed. 

Zhengyang also hopes to see the project grow into a regular, sustainable affair. To do this, he needs more partners onboard, such as volunteers to help with the collection and packing effort, and sponsors for services like transport.  

In the meantime, if you have bras in decent condition that you no longer wear, donate them. Give a girl or a woman a chance to lead her life with her head held high. I know I’ll be donating a few of my own. 

 

Volunteers sorting and packing the donated bras in Singapore in 2016
Volunteers sorting and packing the donated bras collected by D'Elegance in Singapore in 2016. Photo: D'Elegance

 

What to donate:

Details on the sizes needed can be found here, but in general, bras from Singaporean women will be the right sizes for the women in Philippines. Also welcome are nursing bras, E cup plus bras, mastectomy bras and breast forms (“like gold”, say the organisers), and new underpants. 

Where to donate them: 

D'Elegance Boutique
10 Anson Road 
#03-15/16 International Plaza
Mondays to Fridays: 12pm to 7pm
Saturdays 12pm to 4pm.
Sundays and Public Holidays: Closed

D'Elegance Admin Office
7030 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 5 
#09-86 Northstar @ AMK

Mondays to Sundays, any time.

Other ways in which you can contribute

  1. Volunteer your time, such as helping to coordinate collection efforts, or sorting and packing the bras.
  2. Donate cash via GIVEasia to help fund operations.
  3. Sponsorships-in-kind, especially for logistical services like space for storing, sorting and packing bras, cartons, and transport.
  4. Knowledge sharing from partners with expertise in other areas, like basic education, women’s health, and nutrition, to help communities in more ways.

More details about the project can be found here