The British Red Cross is kicking off its 150th year with a campaign called #ItStartsWithHer to show how women in the UK can change the lives of women in one of the most disaster-prone places on the planet, simply by donating unwanted clothes.
Almost half of women in the UK have admitted to owning too many clothes according to a recent survey for the charity. The research revealed that most, woman claim to wear less than half of their wardrobe, with over a third admitting that the amount of clothes they no longer wear makes them feel guilty.
#ItStartsWithHer will run from January to April with a host of activity aimed at raising money to help women living in the slums of the bustling Bangladesh port of Barishal, known as ‘the Venice of the East’ for the canals and rivers that wind their way across the city.
The women here battle poverty, homelessness, violence, but are fighting back with the help of British Red Cross programmes that help them to build their own and others’ livelihoods.
It Starts With Her will fund women’s small businesses to thrive, through training and small cash grants, so that they can earn enough money to support their families, and build savings for the future – making them more resilient to cope with the everyday and during a crisis.
In Barishal in Bangladesh, people are under threat of monsoons and flooding too, which can lead to deadly illnesses spreading, especially in slum areas.
The risk is even greater for women and girls who are more likely to fall into poverty, lose their homes, have no reasonable way of making a living and miss out on getting an education.
An astounding 72% of women surveyed in Wales admitted that they have bought a piece of clothing and never worn it. However, for women in Barishal in Bangladesh, owning clothes you’ve never worn or can afford to cast aside is unimaginable.
Mim,19-year-old woman living in Barishal owns just four outfits but has just the same hopes, fears and passion for fashion as her counterparts anywhere in the world:
Mim said: “I own four every day outfits which I rotate, and I keep three outfits for special occasions like parties and weddings. Because my family and I can’t afford to buy new clothes often – usually one new salwar kameez a year – I customise my outfits by watching YouTube tutorials to learn about different embroidery techniques and stitch designs onto plain outfits.”
Mim has joined a Women’s Squad, a community group funded and set up by the British Red Cross to give women a platform to speak up about issues that directly affect them and their communities. Here, women stand together, have their voice heard and put forward solutions for issues in their society.
Gen De Jesus helps run the British Red Cross projects that #ItStartsWithHer will fund:
“Between January and March, all women’s clothes in our shops in the UK will be sold for #ItStartsWithHer. By dropping off your unwanted clothes or buying second-hand from one of our shops, you can support thousands of women in Bangladesh to build sustainable livelihoods. Help us to make strong women stronger and communities more resilient to disasters – simply by clearing out your wardrobe.”
Zoe Abrams, Executive Director of Communications and Advocacy, British Red Cross said:
“This year, the British Red Cross is 150 years old. During this time, we’ve learnt a lot about how conflict, natural disasters and other crises affect women.
“When women come together, they are powerful and in the wake of a crisis that strength is needed more than ever. When it comes to picking up the pieces, rebuilding lives and creating a sustainable future that reaches every single corner of a community in the aftermath, it starts with her. Which is why we think building women’s resilience is worth investing in.”
The British Red Cross has teamed up with the UK government, through UK Aid Match, so that every pound given, up to the value of £2m, will be doubled. With your help, the British Red Cross can turn £2m into £4m. That’s thousands of strong women – and, as a result, stronger communities – supported to be even stronger.
All of the money raised from women’s clothes and accessories donated between January and March will fund It Starts with her, making strong women stronger. To find out where your local British Red Cross shop is, visit www.redcross.org.uk/shop