Living in one of the wealthiest nations in the world ideally means full-access to core tenants of liberty – democracy and freedom. Indeed, American citizens exercise their freedom in a multitude of manners, quite notably exercising their freedom to consume.

Women, in particular, dole out about $370 per year, adding up to approximately $25,000 spent on footwear in a lifetime. Additionally, the average woman owns up to 469 pairs of shoes within a 67 year period, averaging about seven pairs per year.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, $146 is an adequate budget in order to feed a family of four a healthy diet per week. Thus, the amount of money that a women, on average, spends a year on shoes is enough to feed a family of four for almost three weeks. Furthermore, the amount of money a woman invests in footwear over the course of her lifetime could have sustained a family of four for 171 weeks, or over three years.

The amount of money that Western women spend on shoes could also have been used to purchase a first-hand car or invested in higher-education. A study by Mintel indicates that men surprisingly spend more money on shoes than women do. Why is this? Although women may purchase more shoes, Colin Chapman of The Guardian decrees that “[…] men’s fashion items are often investments — a good suit, a great overcoat, and a decent pair of shoes have never been cheap to buy, but were built to last season upon season.” Therefore, this statistic does not imply that men buy more than women, but that perhaps men are more concerned with higher-priced durability as opposed to quantity.

Collectively, Americans annually spend about $100 billion on shoes, jewelry, and watches, while $99 billion is allocated towards obtaining a higher education. Furthermore, Westerners annually allocate $100 billion toward purchasing shoes, while the United States designates $50 billion for foreign aid – half of the amount that people spend on footwear yearly.

Perhaps Western spending tactics on footwear gives a glimpse into the massive global wealth inequality that is very much extant in modern times. While 50% of the world survives on less than $2.50 a day to garner food, shelter, clothing, and medical assistance, Westerners collectively spend billions of dollars on luxuries such as footwear and accessories.

Phoebe Pradham

Sources: World Bank, Huffington Post, Psychology Today, The Guardian, Glamour, USA Today, Sodahead, TIME
Photo: Web Stock Pro

Qani Abdi Alin is an entrepreneur and the founder of Dheeman Enterprise, a small textile business operating in Hargeisa, Somalia. Beginning in 2009 Alin and two of her closest friends, in an act of supreme courage, opened a dress-making shop in downtown Hargeisa with no prior knowledge of tailoring. The women had never worked with a sowing machine, and the one that they did invest in did not contain an instruction booklet in a language they were familiar with. After wrestling with the indecipherable handbook for days, Alin and her colleagues were able to teach themselves to sow using the only understandable part of the manual:  the visual diagrams. Luckily, the diagrams were clear enough to teach Alin basic sowing skills, allowing her to start production on a line of dresses which she describes as “dresses designed by women for women.”

In 2012, Dheeman Enterprises was one of thirteen small businesses selected from a pool of 300 in Somalia to be the recipient of a matching grant from USAID’s Partnership for Economic Growth. The grant provided a total of $1 million in funding to the recipients, a portion of which was delegated to Alin and her partners.  In a poverty-stricken area like Somalia, this type of backing is virtually nonexistent. The USAID assistance has helped Alin expand her staff and diversify the services of her company in unimaginable ways.

Today, Dheeman produces hospital gowns and wedding dresses in addition to the more commonplace “fashion dresses” that she began making in 2009. The grant has truly broadened the scope of Alin’s initial vision; from a small shop offering one specific commodity, to a larger and more efficient corporation with the potential to become a significant business power in Hargeisa.

Lastly, Adin and her associates are women operating competitively in a place where men dominate the culture as well as the textile industry.  This reflects a more global problem in which women are at a gross disadvantage in the business arena. In the words of the Global Poverty Project, “[w]omen make up half the world’s population and yet represent a staggering 70% of the world’s poor. We live in a world in which women living in poverty face gross inequalities and injustice from birth to death. From poor education to poor nutrition to vulnerable and low pay employment, the sequence of discrimination that a woman may suffer during her entire life is unacceptable but all too common.”

In supporting entrepreneurs like Alin, the United States is taking a progressive stance on the rights of women, communicating the importance of female empowerment to the economic development of Somalia and the whole of East Africa.

– Josh Forgét

Sources: USAID: Somali Small-Business Boom, USAID: Somaliland Private Sector Grant, The Global Poverty Project, The Guardian

Whether they are glossing over fashion magazines, going to the mall, or simply shopping for clothes online, people are always looking the latest trend in the fashion world. This propensity for fashion ends up creating a big waste in the economy.

According to The Magazine of Santa Clarita, every “American throws away 68 pounds of clothes on average per year.” However, Americans are neglecting the bigger issue, global poverty.

Many people see clothing as a way to express themselves, however, in the modern day, fashion trends come and go at an extremely fast pace. Americans spends on average about $82 million on clothes every year, even though these clothes are soon after discarded for “the next best thing.”

Even if clothing items are recyclable, the recycling rate is extremely low, at around 14 percent. In fact, taking discarded and non-recycled clothes into consideration, more than $70 million are wasted every year.

In comparison, the total spending of USAID for health issues in the country of Uganda is $157 million. Although the waste of clothing in the U.S. is half of the USAID’s spending, one might ask oneself, “is it really necessary?” Even though global poverty is a bigger problem and needs to be addressed, people seem to choose to ignore it. On the other hand, U.S. companies such as Tom’s Shoes and have actively focused on global poverty through various supporting programs. It is time U.S. citizens pay attention to the bigger picture rather than just the latest trends in fashion.

– Phong Duc Pham

Sources: The Magazine of Santa Clarita, National Center for Biotechnology Information
Photo: The Paris Apartment

Bazaar Stars
The Bazaar Stars Charity Night (BSCN) is the first charity auction party in China and also goes far in illustrating a new mode of charity in China, which integrates fashion, charity, celebrities and the media while doing fundraising in the form of auctions.

Many national celebrities, including famous singers, actors, entrepreneurs and artists, attend the auction party and bid on luxury items each year, the funds of which go to those in need. The media and merchandise brand names are also very supportive.

Over the last 10 years, BSCN has collected about $25 million, sponsored 13 charity organizations and supported people and families in need. Moreover, in 2007, this event was the only charity event awarded with National Charity Award in China.

As more and more celebrities join the event, BSCN has become the biggest and most influential, non-governmental charity event in China.

Mang Su, the executive publisher of Harper’s Bazaar, initiated the event in 2003 and organizes it every year. In fact, Su is a leader in Chinese fashion and one of the top philanthropists in China. Her idea, “Making Charity Fashion,” has, moreover, created a new approach to philanthropy.

Su explained that philanthropy is not about living frugally and saving money for others, but about creating a more valuable society as a whole. “I want to contribute to charity in an innovative and fashionable way,” Su said. “Just like pursuing fashion, such as a gorgeous hair style or a beautiful lipstick. Everyone asks, ‘have you given to charity?’”

The purpose of the BSCN event is to help people to understand the importance of advancing society while creating their fortunes. “Not everyone can help others at the cost of his (or her) career, but everyone has a kind heart,” Su stated. “I hope this event can encourage people to express their kindness while fighting for their career and dreams.”

Xinyu Zhao, an investor of Gold Palm Club, bought a Dior sweet smelling perfume for about $7,246.38. “I would never buy perfume for this amount normally, but this time it is for the charity. I feel very happy,” Zhao said.

Furthermore, Bingbing Li, a Chinese actress and singer, explained that the ten-year persistence of philanthropy is also a form of attitude.

At present, BSCN is not only an auction, but also includes in its bag of delights, an evening banquet with dancing, which make the event even more fashionable. “With the development of society, more rich people are emerging. They have their own lifestyle,” Su said. She considers charity activities an elegant lifestyle and exclusive entertainment for the wealthy.

As more and more fashionable activities are related to some form of charity, Su believes charity events similar to the BSCN can bring wealthy celebrities closer to the idea of charity and bring them a deeper understanding of it.

“Some day, behind the rich lifestyle, people will find that it’s only by offering their love and generosity that they can realize their true class,” Su said.

Compared to China’s past charity activities, which were low key and mainly held by private individuals, current charity activities, such as the BSCN, has allowed the rich and famous of the Chinese nation to personally get involved to give back some of their fortunes openly and freely. More and more Chinese philanthropists are emerging, thus representing a new class of Chinese citizens who are on the way to understanding the concept of sharing.

Liying Qian

Sources: Harper’s Bazaar, SINA, Trends, Women of China