“Dress a Girl” is a service project the members of Quota International of Whakatane, New Zealand started to support young girls, by hand sewing simple dresses that grow with the child. These Quotarians discovered that there was an extreme need for girls living in impoverished countries to have their own dresses to wear on a daily basis. When too many girls living in impoverished countries do not own more than a ragged t-shirt, these handmade dresses are invaluable, especially in the places where young girls are taken from their villages to be used as sex slaves every day.
By putting love, care, and energy into the “Dress a Girl” project, Whakatane Quotarians give these girls and others like them, their dignity back. The members ensure that the fabric is good quality cotton; when the dresses are complete they are sent in batches to the New Zealand distributor who places a ‘Dress a Girl’ label on the front hemline. This label is very obvious and indicates that an organization is looking into the well-being and safety of that young girl and just maybe, a predator will pass on without another glance. So far, more than 300,000 dresses have been made and passed on to mainly African countries but also India, Papua New Guinea, and Fiji.
For Whakatane’s first ‘sewing bee’ they encouraged participation through articles and ads in their local newspaper for unwanted cotton fabric, elastic, bias binding, trims, lace and buttons, and received a wonderful response. They set up their machines in their meeting room and created a production line. They found that even the non-sewers of their club enjoyed the fellowship and fulfillment that came with their efforts. Some of the members were responsible for dress design, others sewed, while some ironed. Many members and their families provided volunteers with morning and afternoon tea while they worked.
The club had been given a basic pattern and they made a variety of dresses to suit girls between the age of 6 months to 14 years. Their aim was to make the garments colourful and exciting. A pocket of course is essential. Every little girl likes a pocket to put things in, whether it’s a stone or shell.
When the Whakatane Quotarians produces 50 dresses they are sent to the New Zealand representative for “Dress a Girl,” and the dresses are shipped to countries where volunteers are on the ground providing humanitarian aid.
The club has decided to make the sewing of the dresses an ongoing task – it’s a great way for the club to work together, have fun and support a very worthwhile cause.