Ok….so what does one say to all that?

My initial reaction was: “Wow, what a wonderful initiative!” Having worked in microfinance with indigenous Quechua women of Peru, I definitely understand the focus on girls because I witnessed it. Women are a segment of the population that remain invisible in the developing world. However, due to the inherent nature of being women (i.e.; future mothers, wives and caretakers), it is exactly this segment of the population that has the greatest potential to create change.

The girl effect makes its case of “why women,” powerfully. Don’t just take it from me, but check out some of the statistics they share:

•70% of the world’s 130 million out-of-school youth are girls
•75% of HIV-infected youth in Africa are girls
•When girls and women earn income, they reinvest 90% of it into their families, as compared to 30-40% for a man
•An extra year of primary school boosts girls’ future wage by 10-20%

girl_effect

hoyasmeg

In a nutshell, the girl effect is making the case that girls have a special role in the developing world. They become mothers and if a girl has no self worth and few skills, she will pass on her bad health and challenging financial situation to her children and hence the cyclical nature of poverty.

To keep this blog short and sweet, I would like to share two comments:

1) Although this video oversimplifies poverty, it has worth in its ability to reach everyone. You do not have to be a development scholar to understand the main point: girls overwhelmingly suffer from the effects of poverty and we must do something to change this.

I believe the girl effect is not saying: “hey, let’s give all girls in the developing world a cow and we will save the world.” I believe it is saying: let’s give girls access to capital, to the ability to labor for themselves as their own bosses, to manage, to make their own decisions and to choose their own paths and then….and only then can we create change. I cannot stress this word enough: choice. Let’s give them a choice because power lies in the ability to choose.

Choice and the success that can be attained from one making choices for oneself creates higher self-esteem and the acquisition of credibility within one’s community. This is the way these girls will become leaders and eventually “get invited to town councils.” This experience is what will change the way they interact with the world.

2) I love the fact that the girl effect is raising awareness on the plight women face around the world but I do have some concerns. My biggest concern is that it’s run by a large multinational which has a less than stellar history with human rights. I know, I know, how unforgiving of me. What if this multinational has gotten its act together, right?

Well, what I will say is that I have qualms with living within a system that oppresses women and then creates a foundation to try to help alleviate the problems it created. 90% of sweatshop laborers are women (ages 16-25…do you see any age alignment).  Here’s an idea: how about we lean towards business models that don’t oppress women so that they can be empowered everyday! I just think that not creating the problem may be a more successful way of solving it versus allowing businesses partake in the creation of the problem and then fundraising to combat it.

Don’t get me wrong, I do think this initiative is amazing, I just think that we cannot overlook the way we do business in the world and then feel better about foundations that address many of the problems created by these dominant business models. If we are serious about change, isn’t it our obligation to look at the big picture?

happy_girl

Aoife City Womanchile

Just as the temperatures begin to drop and our minds start to wander towards holiday gift-giving, our new organic cotton collections have arrived from Peru! Hand knit out of 100% Fair Trade-certified, organic cotton by our women’s coop in Piura, our new line of hats, scarves and fingerless gloves are soft, warm, stylish, and as always, ethical! Buy ‘em as a set, individually, or give them as the perfect gift this season.

Also make sure to stop by our Bags & Purses page to checkout 3 new styles of hand made from the same luxurious Fair Trade organic cotton. Chic, functional and beautifully-crafted, our new bags come in 3 naturally-dyed colors and include a new clutch style with a very cute wood button closure!

To officially kick off the season of giving, we’re pleased to offer you free shipping onall orders over $100! That’s right… any domestic order that subtotals over $100 gets free USPS Parcel, Priority or UPS Ground shipping completely on us. So visit us now, browse our new stuff, stock up on gifts, and save! We have many more exciting plans in the works, so happy shopping and we’ll see ya again soon!

Our hand bag collection and new winter accessories (coming soon this Fall!) are produced by a worker-owned cooperative in Peru called Northern Creations. The Co-op is comprised of 25 mothers that have joined together to improve the standard of living for their families. Located in rural Piura, a hot, desertlike area 3 hours north of Lima, steady employment is hard to come by – especially for women. The mothers of Northern Creations took matters into their own hands, did what they know best (knitting and crocheting), and decided to start their own Fair Trade business.

They started meeting informally in January 2007 and have since legalized their business, expanded their product line, and are busy filling orders for their US distributor, Autonomie Project! Indeed, their handiwork is beautiful and well-crafted. A true testament to the talent of these extraordinary women!

We thought it would be nice to highlight some of the women behind our products and get their perspective on how this cooperative has impacted their lives! These are interviews with a few key players of the coop conducted earlier this year.

Maria Dolores Febres Rivera (Loly), age 23
President
Children: Belen (age 2)

My biggest accomplishment so far as President has been getting to know myself. I have realized that I am able to make things happen through my talent for making crafts, which God has given me. In addition, I am learning how to operate more effectively as president. For example I am learning how to speak more directly and confidently which will ultimately help me and the rest of my coworkers. Also, I am learning how to better guide the association, specifically how to organize and complete quality products and do it with kindness. I am ready to continue facing challenges that appear, as President and as a member of the Association. My hope is that [Northern Creations] exists forever, that the Association grows in terms of its products and members, and that it is a source of employment for “Piuranos” with a stable market and consistent sales.

Magali, age 27
Treasurer
Children: Emmanuel (age 13), Paul (age 7)

I have learned that there is something inside of me that I did not know was there. It’s the ability to crochet and the knowledge that with my leadership I can help this association grow. I hope that everyone who started this association continues and achieves success. I hope to leave this association organized and well run. I hope that in the future [Northern Creations] is viewed as an example that anything is possible and that success can be achieved even by women.
Clara, age 52
Quality Control
Children: Lisby (age 28), Victor (age 27), Jaime (age 26), Lilian (age 23), Franco (age21)
2 grandchildren

I have formed new friendships. I have learned that my age should not prevent me from learning and improving my life. Due to my position I have learned that I need to set the example and produce quality work to be able to demand that from my coworkers. I hope that [Northern Creations] grows and that I am able to continuously give the best of myself.

Juli, age 24
Vice President
Children: Yasuri (age 5)

My biggest accomplishment so far is that I have become friends with people I did not know previously in my own neighborhood. I have learned from their experiences and seen other perspectives on life. I used to think that only men could work and maintain the home financially but that is not so. Women also have the ability to do so, maybe even more than men. I hope that we continue working and developing as an Association. I hope that this lasts. I hope that we are able to sell products not just in the United States but around the world. I hope it continues so that there is work for the women of La Florida. We are leading the development and improvement of our neighborhood.

We are very excited to continue working with these women and hope to assist them in any way we can to build their business and watch their community and families thrive and succeed!

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