The first 5,000 hand-stitched MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY wristbands are now on sale in the UK. Wearing these hip new wristbands is not just the fashionable way to support this vital campaign, but means that the young people who make them will directly benefit.
The white wristband is the latest must-have accessory. In the last few weeks a host of celebrities have been spotted sporting their white wristband: Nelson Mandela at a MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY rally in Trafalgar Square, Claudia Schiffer wore hers to a meeting with Gordon Brown. And at the Brit Awards, Lemar, Jamelia, Chris Evans, Bob Geldof, and Minnie Driver all wore one too.
The hand-embroidered, cotton wristbands are all made at the Nari Maitree project, one of ActionAid’s partners in Bangladesh. Currently there are 125 girls aged 15 to 18 busy cutting, folding, ironing and stitching 460 bands a day to send to the UK as part of the MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY campaign. As well as training they receive a wage giving them independence in communities that too often see girls as a financial burden.
Nari Maitree was set up in 1983 to help deprived women and children who have migrated to the city from rural areas in search of opportunities to escape poverty. The women receive training in batik, embroidery, candle-making, electronics and driving – skills that enable them to earn a living. The project also provides a forum where girls meet every week to discuss problems, exchange ideas and learn about their rights.
Selina Hasan, 18, is one of the girls involved in the white band project. She lives in Mathertek, a slum area in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, with her parents, two sisters and a brother. Most of the men in the area are labourers or rickshaw-pullers earning around £20 a month and can’t afford to buy three meals a day for their families. There is no access to gas, electricity, water and sanitation.
Selina says, "For years I felt sorry that I couldn’t do anything to help my family. My mother scolded me every day. Sometimes I had the feeling that I should die." Since Selina started training classes at the Nari Maitree project she has helped to buy the family’s food and is contributing towards her siblings’ education.
Brendan O’Donnell, a campaigner for ActionAid said, "Earning a wage means that young women from the slums are less likely to be forced into early marriages. Nari Maitree provides young women with education and training which otherwise would be impossible. This project changes people’s lives. The whole ethos of it is not about us being charitable, but about enabling people to make their own way out of poverty.
"MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY is a huge campaign this year and ActionAid felt that as the wristbands are going to be worn by so many people in the UK they should also directly benefit the people for whom we are campaigning.
“MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY is one of the most positive campaigns yet. We are urging people to send ‘white band’ messages by post, email or text to Tony Blair and to join us at Gleneagles to ensure that the G8 listen to our demands and start to take some positive action to reduce global poverty.”