8 Aug 2019

NZ women donate bras to support Pacific sisters

From Checkpoint, 5:46 pm on 8 August 2019

Forget about burning them - bras donated by New Zealand women are giving their sisters in the Pacific a new sense of freedom.

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More than 1500 bras collected by women's networks in two government departments have been donated to The Uplift Project. Photo: 123RF

More than 1500 bras collected by women's networks in two government departments have been donated to The Uplift Project, supporting women of the Pacific Islands who've never owned a bra.

The room was full of countless boxes packed full of bras, ready to go to Fiji - for women eager to holster "the girls".

A charity called The Uplift Project has been collecting and distributing bras and underwear to women in remote areas - giving them access to a properly fitted, good quality bra.  

For many women in the Pacific, a bra can be their ticket to freedom.

Women's networks at the Ministry of Justice and ACC set themselves a goal of collecting 1000 bras - but they racked up hundreds more.

The final numbers equalled 1821 items - 1549 bras, 188 items of swimwear, 74 new pairs of underwear, seven nursing pads and three bra extenders.

The Ministry of Justice's Belinda Waters said the idea to start the collection was sparked by something many women would identify with - a wardrobe full of new or barely used bras.

"The thing that really got me, was that a lot of these women will never own another bra in their life, this is the only one they will ever get.

"For us we have so many, to just realise there are people out there that really need it and we can help with that - it's just amazing," she said.

Ms Waters said she was amazed with the mountain of donations and the efforts which people went to - one man even gave them money to buy some new ones because he didn't fancy braving the world of lingerie but wanted to be involved.

The Uplift Project's New Zealand co-ordinator Pauline Watson said since 2012, New Zealand women had sent about 50,000 bras to Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and Vanuatu, but the demand was always growing.

She said without a bra - some women of the Pacific Islands couldn't be employed, nursing mothers didn't leave the house because they were leaking, and school girls stopped playing sport without the support.

"In some households in the Islands they have one bra between five women. Whoever has the appointment or has to go to town that day gets the bra.

"They have to share it, so forget about sizing. So often, Uplift is the only bra they've ever had in their life," she said.

Ms Watson said the bras gave women an important sense of freedom and empowerment.

Mary Kalsrap works in Vanuatu, visiting remote villages to re-home the bras.

She said the women who received them were extremely happy and overwhelmed with their new-found freedom.

"They can go to church [with their] new bra, or they can go out to public meetings to share their ideas,

"When they didn't have a bra, they were afraid to go out [into the] communities, and to do community work. But when they had a good bra they could go and do community work, go to church on Sunday,  and meetings with other groups of women in the community," she said.