Brassieres without borders

I never thought I’d be writing again about the controversial subject of underwear so soon. The last post, about an initiative to donate underwear to underprivileged Kenyans, generated some heat in the comments sections. Well, things have definitely gotten worse (hat tip to Solarafrica):

The group of nearly 2,000 women were attempting to break the record for the world’s biggest single donation of bras. They gathered outside the Wales Millennium Centre to deliver the brassieres to Oxfam, to help the charity’s ongoing fairtrade project in Africa.

New and used bras are the foundation of a thriving trade which helps women obtain bras for a fair price and supports and helps traders to develop their businesses

It was one thing for a TWACIB-sized NGO to be doing this with new underwear, but used bras? And OXFAM? To support a fair price? Really?

What defines a “fair price” for bras? I can imagine the only reason that bras might be expensive in Senegal is because:

  • import duties and transportation costs of imported bras (note that the latter doesn’t make a price unfair) and/or
  • the local market isn’t developed enough to start manufacturing its own bras.

Importing used underwear from the West doesn’t really help in either of these scenarios, does it?

4 thoughts on “Brassieres without borders

  1. Phil H

    November 2, 2009 at 6:38pm


    In fairness to Underwear for Africa, I did have a lengthy email exchange with them, and it’s a little unfair to write them off entirely.

    Looking at the old post, I may have to go back and make another comment…

  2. Ranil Dissanayake

    November 3, 2009 at 5:12am

    Really though, this is just another manifestation of a problem on a much larger scale: aid in kind. It only makes sense for disaster relief (and even then not always). Lack of bosom support doesn’t qualify as a disaster.

  3. Juliane Okot Bitek

    November 3, 2009 at 6:25pm

    Mind you, all the women that will finally be armed with enough affordable bras to burn when the time is right. To think what the second hand donations did to the textile industry in East Africa! There are always second hand bras to be bought in the second hand stores (as far as I’ve seen in Vancouver, Canada. Maybe this has no bearing anywhere else). First hand bras are $40.00+.. for good “support” … The trade, I think, is in intention, the good kind. When the well-meaning people in the west donate their “dollars a day” bras, what have you, they feel better about their own lives… They owe the sense of well being to the poor African women who could use some good bra support. Annoying to say the least, or as you say, mildly putting it.

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