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Earlier this month, the SAIS Global Women in Leadership Conference held their second annual event in Washington, DC where the subject of technology as a force for positive change in women’s lives around the world was discussed and debated by a wide range of policy experts.

 “Technology in Action: Changing the Way Women Live and Work” gathered a group of development specialists from the private, public and non-profit sectors for a day-long conference to examine how technology is promoting women’s economic empowerment in the developing world.

 Kathy Calvin, President and CEO of the United Nations Foundation, spoke about the work that UNF is doing in the developing world. Their research shows that when women are economically empowered, entire communities benefit. Jobs increase women’s earnings, help boost self-confidence and bargaining power at home, and delay early marriage and pregnancy. When women earn, society as a whole benefits, through increased investments in children’s schooling and health, reduced poverty for all and enhanced aspirations for the next generation of girls and women, UNF’s research shows. Technology can help this process in myriad ways, Calvin said.

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Kathy Calvin kicks off annual conference with keynote speech 

Christopher Burns, a Senior Advisor and Team Lead for Mobile Access at USAID, said that issues around technology aren’t gender neutral in the developing world when it comes to women’s empowerment.

“We need to make sure access to mobile technology, and the services that they bring to rural women, are geared to the poor and readily available,” he said. Under this banner, he spoke about how rural women in regions as diverse as Sub-Saharan Africa and South America are using mobile phones for a wide range of services from banking to health care to which they had little access before the availability of mobile technology.  Cell phones – even the most basic models – are allowing women to transmit critical pregnancy data to regional health centers to make sure babies are developing on target and also allowing fairly sophisticated micro-finance programs to be conducted via mobile networks.

 Mayra Buvinic, Senior Fellow at UNF, said that basic cell phones are giving rural women the privacy they need to participate in microfinance schemes. In many societies and cultures, poor women are pressured into giving away hard-gotten profits from micro-finance schemes.  Studies have shown that men and women act differently when credit is allocated to poor individuals so business outcomes often are not as positive for women. But the mobile phone can change that.

 Jalak Jobanputra, Managing Partner at FuturePerfect Ventures, an impact investment venture capital firm, said she was very encouraged by the use of technology in general in the developing world, and mobile phones specifically for women. She said she has seen a significant increase in the use of mobile devices by women conducting a multitude of business transactions in Africa in a short period of time.  “This will only increase as mobile literacy flourishes,” she said, “and that’s a very good thing.”  She said the question of affordability still needs to be addressed while content has to be adapted to particular countries to make it locally relevant for women across the global.

 Most conference participants agreed that there is not a one-size-fits-all technology policy that is workable for women’s empowerment so that programs of support must be adjusted for individual markets to make it a success.  

 

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February is the month of love, although it might be difficult to love every aspect of it, especially the weather. Rather than hating on the current state of things, try to embrace the cold weather and recurring snowstorms by staying warm and keeping a positive attitude. 

Here’s what might help:

1)   Alpaca Shawl

2)   Hearts For Change Keychain

3)   White Fair Trade Felt Calla Lilly

4)   Hot Chocolate

5)   Beaded Heart Picture Stand

6)   Pastel Knotted Silk Necklace

7)   Recycled Sari Silk Tote

8)   Bold Brass Bangle

9)   Fair Trade Felt Flower

10) Hug Your Valentine

 

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Th(E) Bracelet

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What’s the story behind these beautiful bracelets? >> Th(E) bracelet is an initiative that aims to improve and provide educational opportunities for women in rural areas of Guatemala. The project came to be through a partnership between Global Goods Partners and Paola Pullin, a senior at Barnard College. A Guatemalan native, Paola had always been appalled by the significant levels of poverty and lack of education in her country, mainly among girls in the rural areas. Thus, she set about looking for contributors that would help her turn these girls’ dream of pursuing a proper education into a reality.

How it works >> All bracelets are produced by young artisanal craftswomen employed by GGP Partner, Kiej de los Bosques, in rural Guatemala. Every 16 bracelets sold will provide one year of education for a young girl in this region. The profits generated by the sale of Th(E) bracelet on the GGP website and elsewhere, are channeled back to the girls who made them as an educational scholarship that covers half of their annual tuition. The other half, the girls pay themselves with the income they receive from producing the bracelets.

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Girls Education and Impact of Project >> Th(E) bracelet’s main goal is to contribute to the common good by educating and simultaneously empowering women. The project seeks to create opportunities for these women so that next generations of Guatemalan women thrive and become active members of their society. With your help, Th(E) bracelet hopes to fund as many scholarships as possible to further the role of women in Guatemala and in the world.

Targeting education is so important to this project because it helps resolve other issues that stem from high levels of illiteracy and in turn, perpetuate the cycle of poverty and disease. When women are educated, their labor opportunities increase, as well as their quality of life. Th(E) bracelet not only provides them with an education, but also with the opportunity of having a stable source of income, which comes from the craftwork and labor production of the bracelet.

With a source of income, women’s purchasing power increases and parallel to it, their economic independence. Economic independence gives women autonomy within their households and helps alleviate the problem of male supremacy, which is predominant in the rural areas of Guatemala. Most importantly, women are found to reinvest back to their families more than men do. By empowering a woman and increasing her purchasing power, she is better able to provide for her children and seek the best opportunities for them. Thus, the benefits of helping one woman trickle down to her children and to the community they form a part of. Initiatives like these are key to producing sustainable change, not only in Guatemala, but in other developing countries as well.

SHOP TH(E) BRACELET >>> 

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Global Goods Partners has got everyone on your list covered! This year, try something new with meaningful gifts that will make a difference, not only to those who are receiving them, but also to those involved in the process of making them. Support fair trade and motivate others to do so as well. By giving these great gifts you are teaching your children, friends and other loved ones the value of ethical consumerism.

Here are some Global Goods Partners gift suggestions:

For your kids

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Felt Snowman Ornament, Felt Reindeer Ornament, Alpaca Baby Hat and Booties, Animal Bag for Kids, Handmade Holiday Teddy Bear, Felt Holiday Stockings

For your teenage daughter/niece 

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Purple Friendship Bracelet SetMidnight Beaded Wrap Bracelet, Purple Silk Scarf, Ikat Crossbody Bag with Leather Trim, Silver Beaded Double Wrap Bracelet, String Bracelet 

For you mother-in-law

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Aluminum Grass Weave Bowl, Green Floral Silk Journal, Indian Block Print Apron, Alpaca Shawl, Beaded Snowflake Holiday Ornaments, Hand Painted Star Ornament Set.

For your best friend 

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Bright Alpaca Shawl, Afghan Jewel Tone Chain Purse, Education Blossoms Gift Set, Bright Woven Grass Tray, Beaded Angel Ornament, Silk Knotted Necklaces.

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What does your perfect ethical shopping spree look like? A set of ethically sourced tea with a side of chocolate from Madagascar? A bangle from India and a handmade earrings from Kenya? Toys from Nepal and beautiful stationery Cambodia?

Pin away to show us your wish list of favorite ethically-produced items for a chance to win a full basket of fair goodies for the holidays, worth over $500. Enter before November 27, 2013 and follow the rules below. A panel of judges including Lauren Conrad (The Little Market), Hannah Skvarla (The Little Market & Hello Giggles), Haylie Duff (The Real Girl’s Kitchen), Rhea Alexander (Parsons The New School for Design & Digs.com) and Maureen Dunn (Mata Traders) will select one grand prize winner and five runners-up on Fair Tuesday (December 3, 2013).

Pin away so we can see what your perfect ethical world looks like!

Here are the rules:

  1. 1. To enter this contest, you must follow Fair Tuesday on Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/fairtuesday
  2. Create a board called “Fair Holiday Gifts”.

  3. Fill that board with at least 15 pins, but feel free to add more if you’d like! Make sure that at least 5 of those pins are from Fair Tuesday partners (see full list of partners on www.fairtuesday.org).

  4. Add the hashtag #FairTuesdayGifts to each pin, with a description of why the item would make a great gift, or who it could be given to (your older sister, a teacher, grandpa, etc.)

  5. To enter, post a link to your board in the comments section of this blog post. We’ll announce the winners on Fair Tuesday, December 3, 2013.

GRAND PRIZE: Mata Traders Cupcake dress and Crown Point Necklace, One Mango Tree Convertible Bucket Bag, Sambazon Wood Bowl & Spoon, Recipe Book, Açaí Seed Necklace and Case of Freshies, Numi Tea World Of Tea Collection, Greenola Style Chadwick Hat, The Little Market Alpaca Knit Beanie, Rising Tide Fair Trade Thembela Shoulder Tote, Nakate Brown Songa Necklace, Azizi LIfe Teardrop Basket and a Woven Bowls Set, One Degree South Diani Necklace in Ice.

5 RUNNERS-UP: Mata Traders Sylvia blouse and Rule the Roost earring, Sambazon Açaí Seed Necklace and Bracelet (alternatives: Sambazon Wood Bowl and Spoon, Sambazon Recipe Book,  Sambazon Case of Freshies, Sambazon Etched Drinking glass), One Mango Tree Everyday Hobo (alternatives: One Mango Tree napkin set (4 kiting napkins), One Mango Tree Apron, One Mango Tree Scarf), Numi Tea Holiday Tea, Greenola Style El Greco Earrings and Nakate Muwanvu Treeless Paper Necklace in Banana (only the first runner-up), Azizi LIfe Banana Twin Purse and Two Woven Bowls or Woven Bowl and Banana Leaf Placemat and one of the following: One Degree South Rainbow Drop Earrings, Black and Red Fishbone Earrings, Upendo Bracelet in Ice, Toggle Bracelet in Aqua/Gold, Tana Turquoise Stone Bracelet.

Get to know our judges in the next blog post!

*Official rules: This contest runs from 8am AM ET on November 6, 2013 to 11.59PM ET on November 27, 2013 and is open to individuals who, at the time of entry, are legal residents of the United States and are 18 years or older. One grand prize winner and five runners-up will be selected by the panel of judges (Lauren Conrad, Hannah Skvarla, Haylie Duff, Rhea Alexander and Maureen Dunn). The prizes are described above and are valued at at least $700 for the grand prize winner, and $230 for the runners-up. The winners will be contacted within two weeks after November 27, 2013.

Nolubabalo  Komsana is a thoroughly modern woman—she Facebooks, Tweets, works a fulltime job while raising three children as a single mother, and does it all with aplomb. It’s a far cry from her life growing up in the rural Eastern Cape town of Cala. South Africa. Nobs, as she is fondly known by her colleagues, came to Cape Town, as did many of her generation, looking for work opportunities. In 2007, Nobs responded to an advertisement, placed by GGP partner, Streetwires, looking to recruit candidates to be trained in the craft of bead and wire art. Once she joined the training program, Nob’s showed a natural talent for beading and in 2009 when Streetwires once again held workshops for aspirant artists, Nobs was a natural choice as an instructor. In wire art speak, beading or “plastering” refers to the application of beads to the wire framework of a piece, the skill of the beader contributing greatly to the quality of the finished product.

ImageNobs soon became what is known as a “master beader,” someone who can apply a number of techniques, ranging from the simple to the complex, in order to produce the highest quality finish. She was soon promoted once again and became a sample beader at the company. The Streetwires sample team is made up of the best of the best, according to production manager Riaan Hanekom. “They are responsible for developing both new range designs as well as customized samples for our corporate clients. It is also their responsibility to audit materials and assist with costing the products,” he explains. As it turns out, Nobs was just getting started!

In 2012, Nobs filled in as shop manager, at the same time holding her position as sample beader while the regular shop manager was on maternity leave.  In the shop, other facets of Nob’s special talents were revealed—she is very, very organized and fantastic with people. According to Streetwires sales consultant Lauren-Joy Rosenbach, “Nobs is just such an all-rounder. She continues to surprise me every day as she becomes more and more invaluable to the team.”

Today, Nolubabalo Kumsana from rural Cala is permanently employed as Streetwires Sales Administrator. Her responsibilities include running a complex Access-based database system, managing stock control, cataloguing, customer liaison, production/sales liaison and ‘general trouble shooting’ according to Lauren-Joy. Her fluency in English, isiXhosa and Shona is a tremendous asset, making it possible for her to communicate easily with both Streetwires’ artists and customers. “Dealing with people requires a very special skills set, it requires patience, enthusiasm, a thirst for knowledge and a genuine desire to provide clients with the very best service. Nolubabalo proves the value of investing in people. She proves that education doesn’t always equal wisdom and she is an example of how attitude determines altitude.

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Find Streetwires products at http://www.globalgoodspartners.org.

Asked for a quote, Nobs shyly shakes her head and says “When I came to Cape Town, I didn’t know what I would do to survive. I never thought I would be able to master beading, now I am doing many more things. I am happy because I know I am setting a good example for my children and teaching them that hard work and a good attitude means success in life.”

With autumn already here and winter right around the corner, it is crucial to start prepping up for those icy-cold months the right way, the alpaca way. Of course it’s important to purchase a thick, chunky coat for this time of year but many people don’t realize the importance of covering up your chest and neck. Interestingly enough, the neck is one of the most overlooked sources of heat loss, considering that around 40 percent of our body heat can be lost from the surface of our head and neck. If you really want to keep warm and avoid the common cold or the flu this season, you should definitely get in the habit of wearing a scarf, a proper scarf.

Have you ever bought a cute scarf but then realized it was the most impractical garment in your closet? Well, it happened to me quite frequently as a college student, basing my scarf selection process solely on aesthetic appeal and low pricing. The end result: discomfort, slight itching, and multiple common colds.  Everything changed when I discovered the Alpaca Scarf on Global Goods Partners.

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From personal experience I can honestly tell you, alpaca scarves are one of the best investments you’ll make. What it all boils down to is material and quality. The alpaca fiber strength is superior to any other material such as cotton or wool, making these scarves durable and less likely to tear or rip. And what I mean by durable is a couple of decades, if not more.  Moreover, each of these scarves are intricately hand-woven in Bolivia and dyed in brilliant colors using natural herbs, walnuts, and cochineal. This is huge! Natural processing results in a hypoallergenic product, meaning that these scarves will not irritate your skin or contribute to any other skin conditions, as opposed to the cheaper scarves I mentioned previously.

Check out this multifunctional Alpaca Shawl-Scarf: wear it as a scarf for a more casual, chic look or as a shawl for a more classy and refined look. 

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It is important that you take into consideration health issues associated with the clothes you buy, specifically scarves. Look at the tags on you, your friend’s, your daughter’s H&M or Forever 21 scarf: 22% nylon, 78% acrylic, or something along those lines. Did you know that chemically treated natural and synthetic fabrics are a source of toxins that adversely affect your health and the health of the planet? It is vital for us to learn more about where our everyday clothes come from and how they are being made. Not only will this benefit us as individuals, but it will also benefit those involved in the process.

What I mean by this is that for instance, alpaca scarves are not only a good individual investment for the consumer, but also for the amazing women who produce these products. By purchasing these scarves and a whole other range of fair trade products, you are making a social investment to significantly improve the lives of impoverished female artisans all over the globe.

Shop wisely this season. Stay warm without compromising your style, health, or the opportunity of a better life for impoverished women all over the world.

http://www.globalgoodspartners.org/cart/results.cfm?cat=s64

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