Our initiative launched on 21 May 2020, but the story reaches back to 2015 when I began researching girls’ rights for my novel, I Am Change.
I was inspired to write about girls’ rights after learning of the 2014 terrorist abduction of 200 Nigerian schoolgirls and, needing to learn more, flew to Uganda. I didn't know what it felt like to be a poor African girl without shoes or schoolbooks. I needed to speak to girls who did.
The thirty girls I met through organisations like Concern for the Girl-Child and Girls Not Brides told me about forgoing meals to pay for textbooks and trading their bodies for school fees. Some had been given as wives in exchange for cattle. None of the girls I interviewed had both their parents. They lived in concrete boxes in the city's slums or in remote villages without running water or electricity. A lucky few were in secondary school, on scholarships, the only girls in their class.
I shared these stories with good friend and co-founder of Executive Edge Travel, Yvonne Verstandig and, inspired by my work to champion girls' rights, she asked if I'd co-host a women’s-only tour to Uganda in May 2020. Our focus was to create real change and help improve the lives of girls through authentic giving. We planned to do this by meeting with female leaders of change and taking part in Girl’s Empowerment Clubs. We were going to spend time with the girls I wrote about and arm them with the tools they need to shape their own lives including scholarships, school supplies, food and sanitary pads.
Then Covid-19 hit and we had to postpone our plans. We hope to take the tour in May 2021 but wanted to help girls now, when they most need it. Girls already face so many challenges, especially once they develop curves; the sexual advances by teachers, harassment by male schoolmates and the expectation that once they bleed, they’ll stop school to marry. And it's even worse for the girls living in Uganda's slums.
When I asked my friend Christine Adero of Girl Child Network, Uganda how we could help, she asked if we could provide bras for the vulnerable girls in the Soweto Namuwongo slum in Uganda.
The slum - the second biggest and poorest in Kampala and home to 30,000 people - is sandwiched between a railway line and a channel that takes Kampala's sewerage to Lake Victoria. Most families are crowded into small single-room mud houses without toilets or clean water and struggle to earn a living. Girls and women survive by selling vegetables, washing clothes or selling home cooked food, earning as little as 23 cents a week.
Christine told me: “Most girls can barely afford a meal, so they can't afford bras. Too many girls put themselves into compromising situations to afford one. Providing these girls and women with bras would help keep them out of danger and avoid the need to resort to sexual transactions.”
You can hear more from Christine here.
We’ve already collected over 1000 bras and would love you to spread the word. We’re accepting new and pre-loved bras at our growing number of collection points (listed below) between now and 12 June. If anyone can’t get to a location, they can post or courier their bras to:
Fella Hamilton Head Office
Uganda Bra Donations
306 Chesterville Road
We also need to raise funds to pay for the cost of shipping the bras from Australia to Uganda. If anyone wants to support this cause please pass on this link. Any contribution will be deeply appreciated.
2 Kanooka Avenue Ashwood Before 8 pm
24 Aroona road North Caulfield Before 8 pm
9 Dean Avenue East St. Kilda Before 8 pm
Victorian Children’s Clinic 149 Wattletree Road Malvern 9 - 5 Mon-Fri
Fella Hamilton Head Office 306 Chesterville Road Moorabbin 9 – 6 Mon-Fri
Natuzzi 483 Church Street Richmond 10 – 4 Mon-Sat
Lulu Belle Bellevue Hill
LPN Design Unit 16, 23 Narabang Way, Belrose, NSW 9 - 4 Mon-Fri
Fella Hamilton, Shop T58 Harbour Town Outlet
727 Tapleys Hill Road, Adelaide Airport. 10-4 Mon-Sat
29 Allen Street East, Fremantle Before 8 pm