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Girls & Women

This Woman Is Using 'Capsule Wardrobes' to Help Domestic Abuse Survivors


Why Global Citizens Should Care
The UN’s Global Goals call for an end to violence everywhere, including an end to all violence against and exploitation of women and girls. Rachael Bews survived domestic abuse, and is now using her learnings to support other people too. You can join us by taking action here to support women and girls around the world. 

Sometimes when fleeing situations of domestic abuse, people aren’t able to take belongings with them. They might escape with only the clothes they’re wearing, and nothing else. 

That’s why Rachael Bews, herself a survivor of domestic abuse, founded ALICAS, a new social enterprise to support domestic abuse survivors — by providing them with capsule wardrobes to help them get back on their feet. 

Capsule wardrobes are a small number of essential items of clothing, and 25-year-old Bews takes into account the size, religious, and cultural needs when providing people with clothing. 

Take Action: Tell the UK Government: Help Create a World Where #SheIsEqual

“I saw there was a big gap between the thousands of women we have in clothing crisis, and the enormous quantity of surplus fashion stock being sent to landfill and incineration,” Bews told the Independent. 

“It is my ultimate desire to bridge this gap and empower women to retain their dignity, identity, and confidence in the process,” she said. “Not only does providing a capsule wardrobe give a woman the ability to choose to wear what she feels most comfortable in, it boosts her self-esteem.” 

For Bews, the way to make women feel better about themselves isn't to give them bags of used clothing that, while donated well-meaningly, aren't necessarily the best quality. 

That's why ALICAS, which launched in February, supplies women with 30 essential items of clothing — and Bews has already been able to create 300 clothing packs, according to the Independent, by sourcing clothes from friends, retailers, and the public. 

"It is all new and unworn, the vast majority with the tags still on," Bews told BBC Scotland's Mornings with Kaye Adams. "We are saying to folk that if they are out doing their shopping and can pop an extra packet in their basket and send it on to us we will make sure it gets into the hands of women who really need it." 

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The name of the organisation was inspired by a woman called Alison Grant, a survivor from Inverness, who Bews met as a teenager. Grant had left her home with her three children, and very little else. 

“It was a simple coat and pair of shoes that helped Ali retain her dignity, identity, and confidence after fleeing an abuse partner,” according to the organisation website. 

That’s why ALICAS stands for Ali’s Coats & Shoes. 

The UK government’s definition of domestic violence is “any incident or patter of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence, or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality.” 

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It can include, physical, sexual, or financial abuse; coercive control or emotional abuse; digital or online abuse; forced marriage, female genital mutilation, or so-called “honour-based” violence. 

In 2017, police recorded over 460,000 cases of domestic abuse in England and Wales — up 10% compared to the previous year, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Some 13.6% of men and 26.3% of women aged 16 to 59 have experienced domestic abuse since the age of 16. 

ALICAS is supported by Scottish Women's Aid and Shakti Women's Aid, which will distribute the parcels, according to the BBC.

You can also help support ALICAS, which is asking for donations of new clothing with tags, rails on wheels, and coat hangers. Contact hello@alicas.co.uk to find out more, or visit the website here.

If you've been affected by any of the issues addressed in this article, you can find resources for support here