July 11, 2014, by Nicole Lee
A Little About Me
My name is Nicole. At 18 and still am until next March, I founded the Malaysian branch for the Uplift Project known locally as Uplift Malaysia. Hailing from the lion city next door, I currently study at the Alice Smith School of Kuala Lumpur where I am doing My A Level. I take History, Geography, Economics, and Government and Politics for my A Level subjects. Apart from Uplift, I campaign against poverty in Singapore and write reviews on marathons in Malaysia and Singapore for Run Society. Nonetheless, I’m really like any other teenager - I love to eat, run marathons, play basketball and table tennis, travelling and going out with friends.
Inspired by this novel and pioneering project, I decided to get involved in this by starting up a branch in Malaysia called Uplift Malaysia. I wanted to do something that made a difference in other people’s lives and this seemed like the perfect fit. However, I never imagined the response in Malaysia to be so positive and for my little community project to grow so much bigger than it first started. So far, I have donated more than 500 bras to verified NGOs in Cambodia, India, and Nepal.
It has really become one of my greatest passions. Running this project has opened so many opportunities for me to learn more about the world, the people in it and myself. I realize this when I lived in a village in Luang Prabang during my latest trip to Laos and donated 700 bras. I never realized how much we took simple things like bras and sanitary pads for granted when people in impoverished communities pay a bomb just to have them.
Uplift and Markets
I approached Markets a month before the project had really set off because I saw this as an opportunity to not just collect bras but also educate people more about our aims in our fight against sec trafficking and to really hammer home how a bra can make a difference in a woman’s life, particularly in these impoverished communities. I thought it tied in with Markets equally unique SWAP event. It also complemented the celebration of Merdeka in August- to help others and to be selfless. Thus, Uplift Malaysia will be the apex of the next Markets’ special Merdeka SWAP event and everyone behind the project in Malaysia is really excited for this.
The bras collected during this two-day collaboration will be sent off to the Asha Foundation in nepal. I will be personally donating the bras since AirAsia X has kindly sponsored flights for my project to and from Nepal. I chose the Asha Foundation because it is a charity caring mainly for women and girls. It is a shelter but also a home to many women and girls affected by human trafficking. The Foundation has even approached Uplift Malaysia for bras so I saw this was only appropriate.
Extra bras will go to villages in both Cambodia and Laos where we have donate to before but are willing to still accept more.
The Uplift Project and its Ethos
Liz Baker from Melbourne, Australia founded the Uplift Project in 2005. Since then, she has donated over 10,000 bras to Fiji with the help of the Rotary Club of Australia. The ‘Uplift Project’ aims to improve the lives of women and girls in impoverished communities and the environment by donating bras (and other undergarments or sanitary pads occasionally) in these five ways:
1. Recycling pre-loved bras saves the environment.
About 80% of women (according to statistics provided by Neubodi) buy wrong bra sizes and these ill-fitting bras end up shoved in the corner of the wardrobe. By donating the unused bras to women who would be happy to use them, donors play an active role in
1) reducing wastage of materials that went into manufacturing and
2) reducing pollution caused during production, thereby improving our environment.
2. Pre-loved bras create flexible jobs.
Many women and girls who receive our donations are victims of sex trafficking. Most were sex trafficked when they were aged 8-10 and did not get a chance to go to school. Pre-loved bras are sought after items in these communities as the recipients of bra donations can sell them, and in turn, they then have food on their tables, roofs over their heads, earn themselves almost three to five times the minimum wage in these communities (especially in Africa). The girls can sell the bras as and when their school schedule permits, thus giving them a chance to catch up on their education.
3. Pre-loved bras help victims socially re-integrate into society.
Selling bras enables victims of sex trafficking and abuse to interact with other women and girls who may have been through the same things they have; these girls are then ale to form friendships again and reintegrate into society.
4. Pre-love bras do not disrupt the local market.
According to Andrew Brooks (‘Riches from Rags or Persistent Poverty? A Critical Discussion of the Urban Livelihoods of Used-Clothing Traders in Mozambique’), you can’t destroy a market if there was not one in the first place. In these countries, bras are not produced despite the obvious demand and if they were, could women and girls in these communities afford it? Bras are a luxury to these women and girls when they constantly worry about basic necessities like food and shelter.
5. Pre-loved bras instill dignity and empower women and girls.
The feeling of getting your first bra is indescribable–ask any girl, she’ll know! Bras make girls and women feel like a woman, if that makes sense. It makes women and girls feel dignified, confident, empowered, strong, and happy. This is important for recovering victims and just spreads happiness wherever they are, one step at a time.