Kiwibag: a Social Enterprise Project

Stay away from discrimination, not masks.  

This was what four classmates had in mind when they got together to invent Kiwibag.

With the intention of raising awareness against face mask discrimination amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Linda, Clover, Zoe and Roxane turned their university group assignment into reality. 

The University of Melbourne students hoped to be able to create change in the community around them through the creation of Kiwibag. 

Photo: Courtesy of Kiwibag

Kiwibag is a tote bag made from canvas material with their Kiwibaby icon and tagline: Stay away from discrimination, not masks printed on the front of the bag. You can choose to customise your tote bag with the Kiwibaby iron-on patches of your choice. Fashionable and unique, you can also use it as a reusable shopping bag for your next trip to Woolies! 

Sparked from a Social Enterprise Incubator subject at their university, the post-graduate students took on a challenge to turn their project into an actual non-for-profit business. As part of this assessment, they were required to create a business plan with the purpose of solving a social issue.

They chose to try to resolve the ongoing racial discrimination from the use of face masks that arose due to the COVID-19 outbreak. When the pandemic first reached Australia, Linda recounted that it was mostly Asians who wore face masks in the heavily populated CBD. Politicians had condemned the Chinese Government for their handling of the COVID-19 situation, causing the Chinese residents in Australia to be caught in a crossfire between both countries .

The project idea came about during the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak in Australia. one of the group members Zoe, became a victim of racial discrimination while wearing a mask in the CBD. someone had made rude gestures to her and told her to “get out of Australia.” Her negative experience made them realise the severity of such racial discrimination as it does not only exist on TV like they once thought.  

As a result, the students felt obligated to speak up about this issue, hoping to be able to “downsize[e] the discriminative situation and publicis[e] how to protect ourselves in the coronavirus pandemic,” Linda said.

In a survey that the group carried out, they found more than half of the 115 international students surveyed had concerns about being discriminated against for wearing face masks and 42% of them have had such discriminatory experiences.

The team hopes that Kiwibag can convey the message of ‘freedom of wearing face masks’. This way, no one should be blamed or faced with discriminatory remarks when wearing face masks on the streets.

“Voices are weak while actions are strong,” Linda stressed. 

For the team, these tote bags serve as a way for people to present firm attitudes, a good way to release their mood and personality. Kiwibag is their first step in making the community kinder and more understanding towards others despite each other’s differences.

“Small actions can make a difference,” she added. Through the making of Kiwibag, Linda and her team hope that it will help people “express their mind and release their tension, align with the people who have strong emotional identification to stand with them and amplify their weak voice”.

How to Purchase?

You can find their online store on Gumtree here. Priced at $19, you will get a uniquely designed canvas tote bag with 3 iron-on patches. The pickup locations include QV, University of Melbourne and Clayton.

Follow Kiwibag’s Facebook page to stay updated! 

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