Joan, co-founder of GGP, shares her story!

Get personal with Global Goods Partners! An intern sat down with co-founder Joan Shifrin and posed a couple of questions about GGP, fair trade, women empowerment, and lessons to be learned. Read and share Joan’s responses or ask some of your own by commenting on this blog post!

Co-founding GGP (or any non-profit organization) is an incredible endeavor. What was your biggest motivation to create this marketplace for fair trade goods?

More than anything, Catherine and I were inspired to create GGP by the women we met as we traveled in our previous positions with other mission-driven organizations.  In every community we visited, we spoke with women, the majority of whom were mothers. They wanted what we all want for our children—good health, education, safety and opportunity. Yet, in most cases, the women themselves had little to no opportunity to provide for their families despite being talented craftswomen or being eager to learn a craft. Even in communities with highly developed craft traditions, there often was no outlet to sell their products and, of course, no way to generate income.

We saw the chance to build a bridge between marginalized craft making communities around the world and the US marketplace that would serve as a sustainable means of income for the women producers. At the same time, GGP would raise awareness fair trade principles and practices while introducing the American consumer to rare, beautifully crafted products.

Living in D.C. do you see a different perspective of fair trade and/or women empowerment than other places such as New York?

Between the progressive organizations that are in DC to lobby policy makers and international institutions, the highly educated female labor force, the international media and the thousands of university students in and around Washington, awareness of fair trade and women’s empowerment is high.

That’s not to say that intractable views, paternalism and a lack of awareness aren’t a factor. Living in Washington I have the chance—and, I think, the obligation—to raise these issues and advocate for them whether at my children’s schools, in professional meetings or at social gatherings. Washington is often maligned for being behind the fashion curve but when it comes to conscious consumerism and awareness of marginalized women, we’re definitely gaining ground.

Is there a fact or quote (pertaining to GGP’s mission) that you’ve heard that you will never forget?

I love when a lot can be said with few words and the quote I think of often, especially when working with young people who aren’t sure how they can make a difference, is the one by Mahatma Gandhi: “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”

You formerly worked at a social-marketing firm that develops and implements public education campaigns on health-related issues. Do you see a strong connection between that type of work and the objective of GGP?

Effective communication is critical to all positive social change, whether you’re trying to change behaviors related to health (i.e., smoking, diet) or attitudes related human rights and equity. Beyond promoting our partners’ products, GGP’s mission is to alleviate poverty and promote social justice. Our approach to advancing this mission is based on an educational campaign that is integrated into every channel we use to communicate with our customers and audience—from our website and social media to our product tags.

Like any effective campaign, we are committed to maintaining the integrity of our communications and learning from experience and the feedback we receive.

What’s the main message you want to share with others? Is there a particular lesson you wish to pass along to your children?

The message I hope I’ve passed on to my two daughters is the same one I learned from my father, which is that everyone has the right to live a life with dignity and that we all have the responsibility to respect the dignity in others.

Visit Global Goods Partner’s website to learn more about GGP’s mission and opportunities to help women worldwide! You can also find ways to get involved and/or read about the impact of your purchase!

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