Saturday, July 26, 2008

Perky and pretty women in Vanua Levu

from w
The ABC radio gave us some good publicity for the Uplift Fiji project of Rotary International Donation in Kind. I was talking with a friend Joy Baxter - from Geelong - yesterday, who recently was in Dreketi, Vanua Levu, and she gave out over a thousand beautiful bras to women and teenage girls, even sports bras which will be great for the netball players. Way to go! 'Only in my dreams,' said one older lady when she saw the pretty garment. I won't ask Joy for photos of two grandmas in their finery because their granddaughters who might be on-line might not think that dignified!

Here's a transcript from the ABC radio program. And check out the Uplift Fiji website. A couple of pics here about other women who are involved in the uplift Fiji project - Liz Baker, and also Heather.

Not everything in the transcript if absolutely correct though. Fijian women do not buy most of their clothes from op shops. They mostly make them using their small sewing machines, mostly brightly coloured dresses or white for church.

Bra charity giving Fiji women a lift
PM - Thursday, 24 July , 2008 18:46:00
Reporter: Nance Haxton

MARK COLVIN: A bright idea for a charity project has become bigger than anyone imagined, by putting old bras to good use.

Rotary International's Uplift Fiji program has collected more than 12,000 second-hand bras in the last three months from South Australia. They're all going to women in Fiji. Low paid Indigenous women there couldn't afford bras and that was causing some of them causing health problems as well. Nance Haxton reports from the collection depot in Adelaide.

ANNOUNCER: There are a number of sizes. The things that they're most after are nursing bras, then we've got sports bras and the very large size bras.

NANCE HAXTON: It's not often you see a mountain of bras by a suburban roadside, but here in a church hall in Glenelg on Adelaide's seaside, it's all available hands on deck to get more than 12,000 bras in boxes ready to ship to Fiji.

Maxine Jones is the project's coordinator.

MAXINE JONES: This is a way of giving women dignity and some self-respect by helping them. And also too it's an issue of health. Basically they have an infection called intertrigo which is a rash or often abscesses will form between the breast and the chest wall. So effectively this is a way of lifting the breast, increasing air circulation and hopefully reducing the incidents of that.

FEMALE VOLUNTEER: I've never had so many bras of size and shapes (laughs).

NANCE HAXTON: Indigenous Fijian women get most of their clothing from second-hand Australian clothes shops. But bras are rare in these shops because most Australian women don't tend to put them in charity bins.

Maxine Jones says Uplift Fiji overcomes that problem, and for a very practical purpose.

(To Maxine Jones) So it's not just us western women imposing on them that they should be wearing a bra?

MAXINE JONES: No absolutely not. In fact that's one of the things that's quite amazing about this project, it actually allows women to have a lot more freedom and the ability to work; a lot of these women have quite hard lives, they often have to do farm work, so the reality is it allows them, and also too a lot of them work in resorts, where they're working with western people, so it allows them to have much more freedom.

NANCE HAXTON: Any size bra is suitable, although the more generous the better to reflect the Fijian build.

FEMALE VOLUNTEER: Maxine and I had one pair, they were so large that we had our photo taken. I had my head in one cup and she had the other.

NANCE HAXTON: Graham Tidswell, a retiree who worked in hospitals in Fiji in the 1950s, is one of 15 full-time volunteers working on today's collection.

GRAHAM TIDSWELL: This project is going to help because the cost of a bra for the local village lady, is very expensive. I think it's about $1.50 an hour they earn, I may be wrong on that, but you can imagine paying $30 or $40 for a bra.

So this project is going to help.

NANCE HAXTON: The Uplift project has been so successful that its been extended to Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Tonga, with more than 40,000 bras shipped from throughout Australia to these nations so far this year.

MALE VOLUNTEER: I didn't realise there was so many bras around (laughs).

NANCE HAXTON: Maxine Jones says the beauty of second-hand bras is that they don't attract import duty, and so are easy to ship to women overseas in need.

She's overseen the South Australian collection for the past three months, and says she's relieved the time has come to ship them on.

MAXINE JONES: Yes, there's a lot of relief. I think my husband is the one that will be relieved that the house is now empty and the garage will be empty hopefully shortly and also my neighbour will be very grateful because her garage will also be empty.

NANCE HAXTON: So you've had two houses taken over by bras?

MAXINE JONES: Effectively yes.

Women have really embraced it and I think they've embraced it because any woman would understand what life would be like if they didn't have a bra. And effectively, as soon as a woman gets connected with that, it's like oh my god! What would life be like if I didn't have a bra?

So women have been going through their bra and undies draws with gusto and clearing a lot of stuff out and also we've had not just individuals but a lot of organisations taking it on. A lot of charities have donated stock that have been unable to be sold but the reality is the need is so strong in all developing countries that we could keep going and just going and going and going.

MARK COLVIN: Uplift Fiji coordinator Maxine Jones ending Nance Haxton's report.

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