Support of a very special kind for Manenberg's abused women

2016-04-26 21:11
Louise Mulligan, Shaheema McLeod and Margie Coetzee with the donated bras. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

Louise Mulligan, Shaheema McLeod and Margie Coetzee with the donated bras. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

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Cape Town – Women in the United Kingdom have shown their South African counterparts support of a different kind, by donating pre-loved bras to the needy.

The ZABRA-AfreeBra initiative, established last year by Jeanette Kruger and Nandi Msezane, donated underwear from the other side of the world to the women at the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children on Tuesday.

More than 300 frilly, lacy, strapless and even branded bras were handed over by "cup holders" Louise Mulligan and Margie Coetzee after they were delivered by a "cupbearer" who recently returned from London.

A cupbearer brings the donations to the country in their suitcase, and the cup holder collects them for distribution, as the initiative does not work with cash or expenses, Mulligan explained.

"It’s simple – if you have a gatjie [space] in your suitcase, we squeeze the bras in there. We ask travellers to donate their luggage space to get the underwear into the country," she said.

Over 7 000 bras distributed

More than 7 000 bras have been distributed in SA, Syria, Macedonia, the United Arab Emirates and Greece by almost 100 cup holders in the seven months since the initiative was launched.

And the only condition is that the underwear goes to a woman in need, as the donation is strictly not for resale.

Shaheema McLeod, director of the Saartjie Baartman Centre, said it was common for abused women to arrive at the Manenberg facility with nothing but the clothes on their backs, as they needed to escape quickly when the perpetrator wasn’t around.  

"That’s why we often encourage our clients to develop a safety plan and exit, so that when they leave they would have stashed some clothes, personal belongings and documents that they can pick up on their way," she explained.

But for those who make a desperate run for it, starting over means not having the luxury of clean underwear of their own.

Prized possession

Last year, the centre spent a much-needed R2 500 donation on buying underwear.

"We were running low on stock and, at a centre like this, you need to be catering for every conceivable size. This will come perfectly in handy and the women will have the ability to choose," she said. "A bra isn’t cheap. This will definitely become someone’s prized possession in her wardrobe."

Coetzee said the most important part of the initiative was to give dignity to the less privileged.

"It’s women helping other women. And restoring someone’s self-esteem can start with something as small as a pink, frilly gift from someone who cares," she said.

"There’s no red tape involved, only compassion from an unknown friend on the opposite end of the world."

To donate, like their page on Facebook or email

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