Elland shop Anon Lingerie helping women in Uganda fit donated bras via Zoom
An Elland shop is helping women in Uganda fit their bras which have been donated by a UK charity.
Ugandan women as old as 40 are being given their first bras and getting a professional fitting thanks to a UK-based charity and lingerie business via Zoom.
Second hand bras are collected in a small lingerie shop, Anon Lingerie, by Rebecca Sedgewick and her team.
Sometimes such a massive pile of donated bras comes through her shop door Rebecca can't open it.
Next Yasmine Benalkadi lugs suitcase loads of the donated bras to Uganda as part of her work for the charity Sustainably Empowering Women, SEW, she set up.
Ugandan mums taking part in employment training with SEW are given their bras in a community centre owned by the charity.
Rebecca helps them to get the right fitting bra via Zoom, with help from SEW's translator and Uganda-based Manager Jess Agolo.
Having a bra will help the Ugandan women to find jobs, and may protect them from sexual violence, Rebecca and Yasmine say.
The project has been such a success they are opening a charitable branch of Anon Lingerie in Uganda.
Rebecca said: "One of the ladies started crying at the last fitting, she felt such gratitude and kept thanking me for this second-hand bra.
"Me and my sister, who works with me, both started crying too.
"There is so much more to owning a bra than we realise.
"A bra is a sign of status and respect in Africa, I have heard, women wearing a bra are less likely to be raped, and most of them don't own a bra.
"The women have all been so grateful for the bras we have given them.
"They all say they will keep them for best, but I said they need to be wearing them all the time.
"so I've made it my mission that each of them will have six bras.
"I also want to be able to donate bras to people who need them all over the world.
"We get so many bras, it's amazing, me and my friend Victoria spend hours sorting through thousands of them.
"Sometimes I can't open the shop door because there is a massive pile of bras that have been posted through.
"getting the bras can be very emotional too, one man gave all his wife's bras after she passed away recently.""
The project is going so well Rebecca and Yasmine are opening a branch of Anon Lingerie in Uganda too.
Rebecca said: "Come October we will have a branch of Anon Langerie in Uganda, I am so excited I may burst.
"I will take absolutely no money from this new branch.
"I will train two of the ladies on SEW's project to fit bras, and Anon UK will fundraise to cover the costs of the shop rent and organise the donated bras.
"The ladies will draw a wage from the shop and this should enable them to support their families long term."
Rebecca, 30, opened her lingerie shop, Anon Lingerie, in Elland, near Halifax, when she was 20, her sister Amanda, now 27, joined her two years later.
Rebecca first became involved with the bra project when SEW owner Yasmin Benalkadi did a social-media shout out for donated bras.
SEW is a charity that helps single mums in Uganda get onto skill-building training courses and puts their children into school while they are training.
Yasmine, 22, works as a carer in Leeds, and started the charity in October 2019, she goes over to Uganda about twice a year.
Rebecca said: "Bra fitting is so important, and so much harder than you think.
"Even after eleven years working in lingerie I still don't know all there is to know about bras.
"I didn't just want these women to be given a bra, I wanted them to have multiple bras to wear that all really worked for them."
Rebecca started teaching Yasmine to fit the bras, but when the community centre in Uganda got wifi they decided to fit bras over Zoom.
She explained it works pretty well, but involves A bit more trial and error than a bra fitting in the shop.
She said: " because the bras are warn you can't tell as easily how they will fit.
"I can usually fit a bra by eye with about 99.5% accuracy in the shop, but on Zoom women have to try on a series of bras so I can see what is the best fit for them."
She added: "There are a lot of single mums in Uganda for various reasons.
"The women working with SEW live quite far from the Capital, Kampala, so it is hard for them to access the clothes drop offs that most charities make.
"What Yasmine is doing will set these women up for life, and I want the bras to be a part of that.
"The women are so happy when they get their bras, it really puts things into perspective.
"We are having a hard time in the UK at the moment with Covid, but when you look at these women and the lives they lead you realise how easy we have it.
"We have very little idea of what it is to go without."
Rebecca explained it's hard to take loads of bras out to Uganda.
Yasmine has taken them in massive suitcases, and they use social media to build contacts who can help.