Smalls for All is a Scottish charity which collects and distributes underwear to help women and children in Africa and the UK. It was founded by Maria McNamara MBE.
Maria worked as a volunteer in Africa and during her time there, recalled a priest in Zimbabwe speaking about the lack of underwear and the problems this can cause.
- It is a health and hygiene problem for many poor African communities, as women often only own one pair of tattered pants or have none at all.
- As underwear is seen as a status symbol it offers a degree of security, hence the desire to provide women with a bra and pants.
- Girls at school often miss up to a week each month as they cannot attend due to menstruation and not having the necessary items.
In Africa, the charity helps those living in orphanages, slums, IDP (internally displaced persons) camps and schools, as well as those in hospitals suffering from medical conditions like obstetric fistula.
It operates from the UK and support people and charitable organisations working on projects in Africa who are able to transport and distribute the pants and bras that have been collected. Their underwear has gone to many countries in Africa, including Cameroon, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Namibia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zanzibar.
They also help charities that focus on alleviating poverty in the UK by providing them with underwear.
SI Southport member Mary McDonagh was introduced to this small charity in the spring of 2015, as she was very concerned about the health and well-being of women and children across the world. She initially purchased items herself and then enlisted the assistance of family, friends, social groups, local businesses and SI Southport – no stone was left unturned!
Mary got a fantastic response and members of SI Southport embraced the project, fulfilling the Programme Action objectives for awareness, advocacy and action. Various garments of underwear turned up on her doorstep and even through her letter box. They then had to be sorted (unsuitable items discarded – say no more!) and packaged, ready for the first leg of their journey to the charity in Scotland. On receiving the bags, the charity re-sort them and allocate them to individual organisations in different parts of Africa.
Smalls for All works with other carefully scrutinised charitable organisations and NGOs who are trying to improve the health and security, and restore the dignity, of women and children in Africa.
To date, Mary and her team have collected and sent just under 4,000 items to Smalls for All, with postage expenses and incidental costs covered by SI Southport.