December 18, 2009

For a Good Cause

(Image from and The Wisconsin Pink Shawl Initiative)

Recently I came across an article on Inmates sewing Pink Shawls for breast cancer survivors, and it reminded me of one of my favorite aspects of fashion: philanthropy.

Several fashion designers participate in events - such as fundraisers or awareness projects - for good causes - such as youth programs, AIDS awareness, women's shelters, etc. For example, in 2005, First Nations fashion designers collaborated to create a show that would benefit young Aboriginal children in need. This act of giving back draws from both Native American concepts of community betterment, but also the fashion industry's sense of philanthropy.

One major goal of the Pink Shawl Project is to spread awareness about breast cancer, and this is important to do: Melissa Spotted Bear said cancer is the second-leading cause of death among American Indians, who are often diagnosed later in life than other segments of the population.

The project aims to create a forum for Native Women to raise breast health awareness and education issues in a non invasive and culturally sensitive way, to bring multi-generational teachings together, to reduce mistrust issues with western medicine, and to decrease negative issues with body image for all age groups.

The pink shawl idea started in the Great Lakes region in 2003. Creators of the shawl say breast cancer wasn't as common among Native American Women until pollution and modern foods made them vulnerable. While the rate of breast cancer isn't higher than the national average for Native American women, the death rate is much higher. The pink shawl is a reminder about early detection using an ancient symbol.

Most of the inmates working on the shawls were of American Indian descent and have been touched by breast cancer. This article was a reminder that even within the confines of a state prison, women aren't shielded from cancer and the impact it can have on the loved ones of those who are diagnosed.

(Image from and The Wisconsin Pink Shawl Initiative)