Hundreds of fundraisers will take to the streets in their underwear next month as they get ready for the Big Knicker Walk.
Men and women will wear their best pair of pants as they walk along the seafront from Southend-on-Sea Pier to Bell Wharf in Leigh Old Town on October 9.
The event has been organised by Anita Philpott, known locally as The Knicker Lady, in aid of the Empowering Women Sanitary Towel Project.
She hopes to raise £6,000 to build a small factory and buy machinery that will make sanitary towels for women living in Mpongwe, a rural village in Zambia.
The walk will start at 11am and the walker with the best decorated knickers will get a prize.
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The Knicker Lady has also made it her mission to collect new knickers for the women of Zambia.
“In my job I work with people to improve their self esteem by removing unwanted hair and blemishes, as well as advising on skin camouflage for pigmentation, scarring and self harm. I found out that the women in Zambia have nothing that is their own and certainly do not have underwear. They avoid going to the hospital because they have no knickers and menstruation is a real issue,” she explained.
“I decided that I would make it my mission to collect new knickers. Women here have been wonderful and gradually all sorts of knickers have appeared. A few hundred pairs have gone to the village and the women have been overwhelmed by their gifts. I now am called The Knicker Lady!”
Philpott decided to set up the Empowering Women Sanitary Towel Project after travelling to India to meet Arunachalam Murunganantham, a man who has devised a simple low-cost machine, which manufactures sanitary towels for rural communities.
“I needed to see it for myself and so I went to India for four days last month, to visit Muruganantham. I saw the whole process and even made some sanitary towels when I was there. I decided that I should buy a machine for the women of Mpongwe,” said Philpott.
The Knicker Lady is also a volunteer for a small charity called Mumba Children’s Project.
Hildah Mulenga, a Zambian nurse living in England, set up and runs the charity. Its aim is to build a school and support the community in Mpongwe. The running of the school is being helped financially by the Winning Women in Essex run by Rosemary Cunningham.