Ethical FashionOperating under a set of core ethics, sustainable fashion brands eliminate harsh impacts on the environment while also providing safe workplaces and fair wages for the individuals making the products, the majority of whom are women. U.N. Women says increasing female employment “boosts productivity, increases economic diversification and income equality.” This is a major step forward to the alleviation of global poverty in developing nations. Keep reading to learn more about these five top ethical fashion brands.

5 Ethical Fashion Brands Focused on Poverty Reduction

  1. ABLE
    This brand focuses on providing ethical fashion by supporting economic opportunities for women in an effort to eradicate poverty. After seeing firsthand the effects of generational poverty in Ethiopia, Barrett Ward, ABLES’s founder, created the company to give “women an opportunity to earn a living, empowering them to end the cycle of poverty.” With 45 million women employed in the fashion industry, ABLE sees the investment in women as a necessary business strategy to bolster communities and economies worldwide. The company is proud that 98 percent of its employees are women and challenges the culture of the fashion industry by publishing wages, an act of transparency directly attributed to the protection and empowerment of the women it invests in.
  2. Parker Clay
    Parker Clay is a company that values timeless craftsmanship in order to provide quality leather goods to its consumers and economic opportunities for its artisans. But at its core, the founders saw an “opportunity to empower vulnerable women through enterprise” after learning that many women and girls are targets for prostitution and human trafficking in Ethiopia. In fact, in the country’s capital, around 150,000 work in the commercial sex industry.

    Parker Clay partners with Ellilta – Women At Risk, a nonprofit based in Ethiopia that helps women from being lured into prostitution or trafficking. Many of the women supported by this organization work at Ellilta Products where Parker Clay sources its blankets. Providing women with an opportunity to work is more than just a job, Parker Clay believes it is the start to social and economic stability.

  3. KNOWN SUPPLY
    By reimagining the process of apparel production, KNOWN SUPPLY works “with underserved populations … to show the powerful impact clothing purchases can have” by supporting the women who make the clothes in more than one way. KNOWN SUPPLY chooses to celebrate each maker by “humanizing” each product with signatures.

    The company also provides consumers with clear information about the country where each ethical fashion good is made, accompanied by a gallery of the women who make them. This feature gives consumers a look into the lives and communities being directly impacted by their purchases.

  4. Carry117
    At Carry117, providing economic empowerment to at-risk women is a necessary foundation for sustainable development. This brand, based in Korah, Ethiopia — a place where disease and poverty run rampant — believes that when women are empowered, families are strengthened. Their goal is to give these individuals “a hand up out of poverty, with a unified desire to bring change to the community.”
  5. Anchal Project
    In 2010, Colleen Clines, Co-Founder and CEO of Anchal, was inspired to start the company after a trip to India where she learned about “the extreme oppression women faced as commercial sex workers.” Today, the nonprofit not only sells fair-trade goods made of artwork and textiles significant to the artisans’ journey to empowerment but also provides holistic opportunities for the artisans to stay empowered in their communities.

Danyella Wilder
Photo: Flickr

Justice for Iraqi Women

The status and protection of women remain a heated topic of discussion in international and national committees, particularly concerning justice for Iraqi women. Iraq‘s government is aware of the violations committed by its previous regime against certain civil community groups. As a result, Iraq’s government has strived to drastically change how they aid and support victimized and often impoverished groups. However, Iraq‘s strategy to reconcile these issues is unique. For example, China encourages its impoverished population to move to urbanized cities, and the United Kingdom encourages participation in its labor market. But Iraq seeks to acknowledge the voices of the victims.

In 2003, Iraq’s government and the International Center for Transitional Justice partnered with the Human Rights Center of the University of California, Berkeley to create Iraqi Voices. Iraqi Voices is a report based on data collected from in-depth interviews and focus groups. This data represents different perspectives of the Iraqi population regarding transitional justice. There are seven main topics of focus represented in this report: past human rights abuses, justice and accountability, truth-seeking and remembrance, amnesty, vetting, reparations, and social reconstruction and reconciliation.

Hearing Women

Iraq is working to have women and girls meaningfully participate in all stages of decision making. Programs and organizations like the SEED Foundation have worked to ensure this justice for Iraqi women. In particular, the SEED Foundation works to empower and engage the voices of violence and trafficking victims in Iraq. As such, SEED Foundation leaders and activists encourage the meaningful participation of women in sustainable peace negotiations and conflict reconciliation. Through their efforts, the Iraqi Parliament now has a quota setting aside 25 percent of seats for women in provincial councils. By acknowledging these voices, the Iraqi government is helping seek justice for Iraqi women.

Moreover, Iraq has taken strides to bridge the gap between policymakers and victims when addressing the needs of local communities affected by ISIS. To do so, Iraq is considering partnering with or accepting assistance from other nations. While international policymakers seek justice for Iraqi victims, they fail to address the real concerns of affected communities. Instead, they often focus on prosecuting the perpetrators. But affected communities also have more immediate needs. Therefore, this partnership and assistance allow victims of affected communities to participate in prioritizing and creating appropriate policies. Efforts to ensure meaningful participation in Iraq’s government thus bring about transitional justice. By addressing systemic failures, Iraq’s government brings justice to marginalized victims, including justice for Iraqi women.

Bringing Change

Ultimately, the changes implemented by the Iraqi government aid and empower impoverished and victimized groups, such as women. The inclusion of female voices in politics influences larger discussions affecting women and, as seen as Iraq, helps get justice for Iraqi women.

Jordan Melinda Washington
Photo: Pixabay

Gender Equality and Female Empowerment in Rwanda
Although Rwanda is considered an impoverished nation, it ranks number four in gender equality. On the same scale, The United States ranks number 49. Interestingly, this shift towards gender equality in Rwanda came as a result of the 1994 genocide.

Before that tragic event, women were usually caretakers and were rarely financially independent or in a position of power. During the genocide, more than 800,000 people died in just 100 days, and most of these individuals were men. This shifted the population to be 60 – 70 percent female and as a result, women were forced into formerly male-dominated jobs.

Government Support of Women

President Kagame led this movement, realizing women were necessary for the country’s recovery because there simply were not enough men to rebuild. The government rewrote the constitution in 2003, encouraging female education and requiring at least 30 percent of positions in parliament to be held by women.

In the first election following this change, the requirement was exceeded with 48 percent of seats going to women. The following election saw an even greater increase with 64 percent of parliamentary seats being held by females. This makes Rwanda number one in a global ranking of countries with the most women in legislature. For comparison, The United States ranks 96 with only 19 percent of seats going to women.

Social Inequality as a Mindset

Despite these great strides towards gender equality in Rwanda, women’s perception at home does not seem to line up with that of their public lives. Girls are still raised to be submissive both in school at home, believing that something as simple as becoming president of a club is reserved only for men.

While they are holding positions of power and becoming economically independent, women still fear speaking out against their husbands and are expected to continue to be the only one to take care of housework and childcare. Many Rwandan women see the term “feminism” as a negative, Western concept.

Unlike most social movements, this change in gender equality did not come from the oppressed group, but from President Paul Kagame. Rwandan women were ushered into positions of power before they truly believed in the movement, and now, they must play catch up with their mindset.

Working to Change Preconceived Ideas

Many organizations are helping to change that perception, starting with female education. Women to Women International has a one-year foundation training program, enabling women to become financially self-sufficient and, subsequently, build the confidence to fight for their rights and equality at home. This organization has helped 76,000 women in the ten years it has been operating.

The Akilah Institute for Women is an all-female college that fosters a more positive learning environment for women, enhancing the skills needed to launch careers in many different fields. The Institute has an 88 percent success rate for graduates. Fawe’s Girls’ School encourages young girls to take STEM courses to overcome the stigma that these classes are generally for men. They work to empower girls to understand their importance and to defend their rights. They also work to train teachers to be more gender inclusive.

Gender equality in Rwanda is far ahead of most of the world, but women must truly believe in their rights for this to be effective. With the next generation being raised in a world where gender does not restrict women from a job and schools encourage female participation and confidence; hopefully, Rwandan women will embrace their newfound power and continue to lead the world in gender equality.

Georgia Orenstein
Photo: Flickr

female entrepreneursIn countries like the United States, female entrepreneurs account for 46.8 percent of the total businesses. The majority of these businesses are classified as small businesses, having fewer than 500 employees, but they generate almost $500 billion in payroll annually. This situation is worse in developing countries since women’s rights are not fully achieved and the opportunities for women to develop their own businesses are much more difficult to come by.

The reasons for Fewer Female Entrepreneurs

Why are there still fewer amounts of businesswomen than men not just in developing but in developed countries as well? Although developing countries may advocate more for women’s economic development, little is actually being done to provide more opportunities to change it. Since women’s failure rates are not that significantly different from those of men, researchers believe that gender bias is at fault and, thus, inhibiting the growth of women in the economy.

There is evidence that suggests that there are many reasons for the differences in the attitude about gender in business. One reason is that women and men often have different socioeconomic characteristics. If economists were to reform education, wealth, family and work status, those differences would disappear.

The Obstacles for Female Entrepreneurs

Africa remains one of the most successful leaders for efforts regarding female entrepreneurs. But, even the most successful countries still lack leadership, capital and professionalism, not to mention the inability to find affordable solutions in regard to childcare.

Countries like Japan have taken these shortcomings and transformed them into positive aspects of the economy. Womenomics is the idea that the advancement of women and economic development are necessarily linked. This philosophy is becoming widespread among developing nations. In Japan, these sorts of reformations can be credited to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Since taking office, Abe has generated a larger female labor force rate than that of the United States.

Some other countries have also made several reformations propelling womenomics. Jordan has increased women’s enrollment in schools by 37 percent. Turning these rates into economic success, however, still remains a challenge. Many studies suggest that economic growth for women needs to be viewed as desirable and attainable for the majority of society.

Female entrepreneurs also struggle with the duality of a society that places more value on a familial lifestyle. For example, a woman may own a business, but her time at work is often limited by her duties at home. Data in developing countries assert that many women leave the business lifestyle to return to familial duties.

A study regarding the results of holding executive positions for women in Norway revealed that the majority of people believe there should be established quotas to include women in management in companies. The results of the pole were 74 percent in favor of those quotas. Later studies showed that as women in the workplace reach a certain age, the stigma associated with their work duties do too.

Curbing the Stigma

Shifting the thought process among thousands of different demographic structures isn’t easy, but it is clear that the majority of the world needs higher female entrepreneurial participation rates. Reforming education, wealth, family and work status are not projects that take only months to complete, rather they need a comprehensive and flexible government that is willing to take on the challenge for years to come.

There are several ways to start thinking about reforming the factors for female entrepreneurs. Creating workshops to propel female economic empowerment is a start. The United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) is doing just that. They are working to find projects for investment as well as provide training to work under the Women’s Economic Empowerment Index (WEEI).

By ending the stigma associated duties deemed appropriate for females, both developing and thriving countries can further increase the chances of positive economic outcomes. Education and awareness programs are important components to overcoming these gender-related stigmas.

Financial Inclusion

Governmental structure and large economic aid can advance female economic empowerment too. We’ve known for a long time that access to financial services can be a powerful driver to help people lift themselves out of poverty. With a concerted push from governments, the private sector, and multilateral institutions including the World Bank Group, we believe we can close this gap,” said World Bank President Jim Yong Kim in a meeting attempting to accelerate the growth of women’s empowerment.

The World Bank also states that simple financial education can greatly increase the chances of creating female entrepreneurs. There are so many aspects that can improve. For example, according to the World Bank, fewer than 10 percent of women in developing countries own a bank account. Access to financial institutions is an essential part of a successful business, which is why the organization started the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative. This initiative will provide financing opportunities for women who own businesses in developing countries.

Donations from the World Bank Group, education and female empowerment workshops to end stigmas are some of the best ways in which the women can become involved and empowered in the workforce. It won’t happen quickly, but when it does, the economic benefits will surpass previous stigmas surrounding women in business.

– Logan Moore

Photo: Flickr

feminist movement in Nicaragua
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has been the source of recent uprisings, protests and a nationwide mobilization. Recurrent mishandlings of serious social, environmental and equality issues are causing national unrest that is far from over. The protests are ultimately trying to strike the Ortega administration out of the game. The public has no intention of settling for corruption, oppression and gender inequality. A great part of this movement is the renewed vigor in the feminist movement in Nicaragua.

The History of the Feminist Movement in Nicaragua

Nicaragua is no stranger to the feminist movement. The women’s movement for equality was actually birthed during the overthrow of the repressive Somoza dictatorship. The percentage of women involved in the coup reached a record high. The 60s and 70s gave women the chance to separate themselves from their traditional roles and participate in the struggle of war instead; it brought a revolutionary consciousness to the reality of numerous gender inequalities.

The country is currently pushing for equal rights via an end to gender-based violence and oppression. Women’s equality accounts for fair wages, respect and better opportunities in both education and careers, which are all crucial factors for lifting people out of poverty.

The New Womens’ Movements

Vital to the success of the revolution, women have since materialized the feminist movement in Nicaragua into a national network of feminine support encompassing any and all socio-economic, ethnic and political backgrounds.

A direct response to shifting public policy, The Working and Unemployed Women’s Movement or Maria Elena Cuadra (MEC), was founded in 1994. This independent organization strives to not only defend the human, labor and gender rights of Nicaraguan women but also to help women assert and take advantage of these rights, especially within the legal arena.

MEC brings public awareness about both domestic violence and reproductive health, which are two serious living conditions that can negatively exacerbate the cycle of poverty. The unemployed are given job training and their advocates push political policy that supports economic independence, self-employment and self-management.

A Modern Day Push

It is not uncommon for Latin American countries to revolve around highly macho and patriarchal societies. High school degrees and the pursuit of higher university education are rare in rural communities, and women often drop their studies as a result of pregnancy. Working as a street vendor to provide income for the family is not uncommon; however, even more problematic is the tragedy of families selling off their children into the sex trafficking business due to extreme poverty.

A group by the name Grupo de Mujeres Xitlali was established in 2011 to help relieve these devastating living conditions and empower girls and women of Nicaragua to take hold of their own lives. The organization helps the oppressed women to regain power over their bodies and personal development as well as grow in a space of equality where their rights are actively defended and encouraged.

Similarly, Casa Alianza Nicaragua (CAN) provides great relief to the devastation of global sex trafficking. Opened in 1998 in the capital city of Managua, Casa Alianza provides centers and programs for homeless women and children in need of aid. One of their greatest visions is to provide empowerment to the victims of heinous trafficking and violence through vocational training, family education, housing as well as gender awareness and sexual diversity awareness projects.

One by one and step by step, advocates are building women back up and encouraging them to stand up and stand out. Via essential education, job training and empowerment, women are now getting the attention, awareness, recognition and care that they deserve. Despite a grueling journey under the Ortega administration, the fight continues to be fought.

– Mary Grace Miller
Photo: Flickr

10 Ways Poverty is SexistProminent figures in the world of advocacy, including Bono and Melinda Gates, claim that poverty is sexist in nature. This is also referred to as the feminization of poverty. Global poverty disproportionately affects women in several ways. Women and girls are more likely to be impoverished, less likely to have access to educational opportunities and more likely to struggle with health issues.

How Poverty is Sexist

  1. Girls have less access to education over their lifetime, one of the major ways poverty is sexist. Education helps girls defy traditional gender roles and encourages them to pursue job opportunities.
  2. Attacks on girls’ schools and education discourage parents from sending their daughters to school, fearing for their safety. In countries engrossed in domestic armed conflict, girls’ education often faces targeted attacks using threats, acid, explosives, gunfire, kidnappings or school closings.
  3. Women spend twice as much time as men doing unpaid work such as cooking, cleaning and caring for children. This kind of domestic labor restricts the time women can spend working for wages, finishing their education, learning new skills or opening new businesses. The traditional gender roles are more prominent in developing nations, so this gap is even larger.
  4. Child marriage, which is often driven by poverty, traps girls in a cycle of poverty. Child brides are less likely to finish their education, making them less likely to earn a safe and adequate income. In communities where child marriage is common, girls’ education is often not valued over their roles as wives and mothers.
  5. Women are more prone to poor nutrition over the course of their life, which makes them more susceptible to diseases. Poor maternal health and nutrition feed down from mother to child, resulting in a vicious cycle of lack of nutrition and provisions against diseases.
  6. Land is a crucially valuable asset in rural areas of the world, yet almost 70 percent of the world’s population does not have access to land registration systems. Women are disproportionally affected by land title ambiguity, making them more likely to suffer from poverty and economic insecurity.
  7. Women face significantly greater challenges in gaining access to financial services than men. In developing countries, women are 20 percent less likely to hold accounts at a formal financial institution than men and often face restrictions that require a male family member’s permission to open a bank account.
  8. A lack of access to sexual and reproductive health services and reproductive rights is a form of sexual discrimination that puts women and girls at a higher risk of poverty and limits their economic empowerment. Approximately 225 million women do not use safe and effective family planning methods, most of whom live in 69 of the world’s poorest countries.
  9. Data about global poverty in some of the poorest countries in the world is incomplete and lacking in gender-disaggregated data. There is a major need for gender-disaggregated data in order to understand how poverty is sexist, where and how women and girls are being left behind and how to fix it.

These are only a handful of the many ways in which poverty is sexist. The need for further study of the relationship between poverty and sexism is vital to level the playing field between men and women in the progression of economic and social opportunities.

– Sydney Lacey

Photo: Flickr

enable consumers to fight for female education
There is a proven link between lack of education and rises in poverty numbers. People around the world struggle with poor school systems, denied scholastic access and few academic resources. Illiteracy is directly correlated to poverty, and creates a cycle that is hard to break. The difficulties associated with this crisis are large scale and ones that few individuals feel that they can fix by themselves.

 

The Female Plight

At the brunt of this battle is the female population. Due to gender-based violence, negative stigma within communities and higher rates of poverty, women globally lack education opportunities that are often provided to men.  

Many citizens believe that there is nothing that they can do to help, and rely on the bigger voices to take the lead. But there are companies working to change that and to enable consumers to fight for female education as well.

These companies work to help individuals make a global difference and improve the lives of women and girls who are deprived of an education. Consumers can join the fight to educate, empower and break the cycle of poverty created by females’ lack of schooling and access to it.

Here are a five of the most impactful companies that are working towards educating the world.

 

1. Conscious Step

This sock company supports many different global causes, including their non-profit partner, “Room to Read.” For every pair of “socks that give books” sold, a school book is given to a child in one of a list of targeted countries that struggle with education.

The company especially focuses on communities that need gender equality in their school systems, and work towards enabling girls to achieve an education alongside their male counterparts. Conscious Step also enables consumers to fight for female education through beautiful socks that everyone loves.

 

2. Sseko Designs

The apparel company, which specializes in sandals, works with young women in Uganda to ensure that many can receive a college education. Sseko Designs employs local girls during the nine-month period between the end of high school and potential beginning of college.

The organization then provides the pre-collegiate girls with employment and scholarship opportunities. For each month of their nine months,  50 percent of the girls’ earnings go into a savings fund for college. This savings account not only allows these driven women to further their education, but it also deters them from caving to social pressures to give the money away to family and friends, which would thus continue the poverty cycle.

At the end of employment terms, Sseko provides the involved girls with scholarships matching the amount of their savings by 100 percent. Thanks to their employment opportunities, the company has already sent 87 girls to college, so far.

 

3. Out of Print

A business that sells literature themed products, Out of Print not only donates to literacy programs but for every piece purchased, the company also sends one book to a community in need.

Many of these communities have low female attendance in education due to extremely high rates of gender violence. These products help improve these struggling communities and encourage girls to receive an education so that they can rise above poverty and illiteracy.

The book based company work to enable consumers to fight for female education, bring literacy into poorer communities and spread awareness about the difficulties in high illiteracy rates.

 

4. Bloom and Give

With a specialty in handmade bags, this company sends girls in India to school. The company works to help girls fight against social views and norms that deter them from attending class, and enable them to become educated even through cultural protests. The company donates half of their profits to programs and grassroots movements that work directly with in-need communities.

Bloom and Give’s vibrant bags and other products serve as a way for shoppers to give back globally and also help Indian communities educate girls.

 

5. Naja

This underwear and lingerie company helps educate Colombian children and aid mothers to return to work. Naja, through its “Underwear for Hope” line, employs local single mothers, or female heads of household, and provides their children with books, uniforms, school supplies and all school meals.

The company strives to change the dialogue that makes mothers choose between childcare and employment, and helps its female employees to educate their children. On top of that, two percent of Naja’s revenue goes towards local charities that fund continuing education for these women.

Naja empowers not only Colombia’s women and children to become educated but also empowers consumers to help in the process through their purchases.

 

Every Person Counts

While the education crisis is a global one, each person can make a difference. Educating women does not have to solely ride on the backs of the wealthy and the well-connected. The average person can send a girl to school, teach a girl to read and send a woman to college through conscious purchasing and globally-minded companies.

– Emily Degn

Photo: Pixabay

Female Experience of WarContrary to the title of this article, there is no singular female experience of war. The very statement illuminates one of the issues in historical and contemporary engagement in understanding and analyzing women during wartime. Too often, the intellectual and political community groups women from different countries, ethnicities and religions together to presume they suffer the same wartime experiences. The world sees war through a gendered lens which colors women as victims who idly wait for their husbands, sons and fathers to return home. War is as immediate and tolling for women as it is for men in ways that vary drastically across the board.

Take World War II as an example of the diversity of the female experience of war. The white American woman gained access to the workforce during WWII and momentum in furthering her cause in the feminist movement. Meanwhile, her black counterpart experienced barriers and institutionalized racism. These consequences did not decline until over a decade later. When employed, African-Americans were forced to use separate bathrooms and often worked the lowest-paying jobs despite having high qualifications or manual and cognitive skills. Black men and women accounted for only 6 percent of employees in the American aircraft industry while white women accounted for approximately 40 percent. Despite the pushback, black women used WWII as a platform to herald the inequalities back at home with campaigns such as “Victory Over Racism at Home” and “Victory Over Fascism Abroad”.

Across the Pacific Ocean, the Korean female experience differed significantly from that of women in the U.S. Thousands of Korean (and other southeast Asian) women under Japan’s imperial rule were forced into sexual slavery and served as “comfort women” for Imperial soldiers during WWII. Gross violations of human rights included female genital mutilation, forced abortions and even murder. Under colonization, many women turned to prostitution as a means of survival, adopting the fetishized symbols of orientalism that their oppressors projected upon them. In the eyes of the public, many of these survivors of sexual slavery lost their virtue and thereby their value to their community following liberation from Japan. Their communities ostracized them, forcing them to live isolated lives. In this way, it not only becomes a question of women’s experiences during the war but also their experiences after the war.

In her book, “Bananas, Beaches and Bases,” international relations theorist and author Cynthia Enloe illustrates how women in Jaffna, Sri Lanka played a role as ethnic minorities during the armed conflict between Tamil guerrillas, the government’s military and the Indian army. These women describe how their experiences as women compared to their oppression as Tamils in the Singhalese-dominated nation, penetrating what had been a male-dominated intellectual space. Eventually, these women played a crucial role in the reconciliation period, finding allies in Singhalese feminists and voicing their concerns about the militarized state and lack of female rights. Enloe further notes that these women, who played an essential part in stabilization, were repressed by their husbands who believed their outspoken critique to be outside the parameters of their female duties.

These examples neither serve to pit woman against woman nor seek to rank their experiences, but rather illustrate the diversity of women and the female experience of war. These women as individuals and as participants in a wider community have their own narratives and experiences. Giving them the due diligence they deserve begins with recognizing the diversity of 50 percent of the world’s population and their nuanced participation as both victims, perpetrators and protestors of war.

How do societies break out of masculinized power structures of international politics to acknowledge women as a priority during conflict and post-conflict discussions? It is critical to recognize the many different and extremely nuanced versions of war that women around the world experience. The idealized projection of the ‘female’ is so deeply entrenched that society often glosses over the experiences of women from ethnic, religious and sexual minorities. The female experience of war is extremely diverse, and it is critical that existing international and domestic power structures acknowledge and embrace it.

Sydney Nam

Photo: Google

Global Feminist Companies
From government initiatives to individual campaigns, a wide range of efforts exist to remove obstacles and create opportunities for women and girls in developing countries. Countless global feminist companies have formed in recent decades, offering goods and employment to women and girls in an effort to shift the economic climate in poorer areas of the world.

Below are five global feminist companies helping women and girls in developing countries to pursue education, advance their careers and gain autonomy in their communities.

L.
After working for the Red Cross and the United Nations as a photojournalist and witnessing firsthand the obstacles that plague women’s lives around the world, Talia Frenkel founded L., a one-for-one feminine hygiene company on a mission to provide supplies to women and girls in developing countries. L. distributes donations via female entrepreneurs around the world in order to foster financial independence among women and multiply the company’s global impact. L. employs more than 2,800 women, positioning them to efficiently support their families and achieve agency within their communities.

The majority of donated goods go to girls in countries like Sierra Leone, Nepal and Afghanistan, where many miss school during their periods due to lack of supplies. With an increasing customer following, L. estimates it will donate 50 million products by the end of this year.

Thinx
Thinx, a company specializing in period panties, uses profits to fund the Global Girls Club (GGC). This six-month program hosts girls from ages 12 to 18 to train them on the finer points of human rights, reproductive health and financial independence. Using this multi-pronged educational model, the GGC experience provides young women with practical skills while building self esteem and combating the stigma around menstruation. Attendees also receive donations funded by customers’ purchases, allowing them to stay in school all month long.

The company includes environmentalism as a critical component of its mission, as the reusable nature of the product helps to cut down on waste from disposable goods. In addition, Thinx actively seeks partnerships with health education organizations and plans to continue growing the GGC program with the support of grassroots movements and concerned individuals.

Rallier
Rallier is another company determined to keep girls in school. Every purchase from the New York-based clothing line warrants a donation to Shining Hope for Communities, an organization which uses funds to provide girls in developing countries with locally sourced school uniforms. With this method, humanitarians all around the world can contribute to girls’ successes and simultaneously stimulate developing economies.

Access to uniforms is a major stumbling block when it comes to girls’ education in developing countries. Studies show that providing uniforms to needy students has increased enrollment by 64 percent—and with efforts like Rallier’s, numbers could shift even more dramatically.

Sseko
Uganda-based fashion brand Sseko bolsters women’s higher education by selling sandals, handbags and other accessories crafted by East African artisans. The company has used profits to send 87 promising Ugandan women to university and will send 15 this year alone. Participating scholars spend nine months working for the company to save money before attending school, and Sseko matches each woman’s savings with a scholarship.

Dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty altogether, Sseko’s business model is designed to bolster rather than undermine economies in developing countries. With a keen eye on the future, the company aims to prepare women for leadership roles in order to create widespread gender equality.

Same Sky
Same Sky, a jewelry trade initiative working between Rwanda and the United States, focuses on awarding ethical employment to women in developing countries. In the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide of 1994, where nearly one million people were murdered, systematic sexual violence against women triggered an epidemic of HIV/AIDS while society crumbled. Same Sky set out to repair the landscape of women’s lives in Rwanda by creating opportunities for them to learn a trade in order to support themselves and their families.

Women who work for Same Sky make 15 to 20 times the average wage in sub-Saharan Africa—and they get the opportunity to express themselves while they do it, as attention to “the talents and the passions of the artisans” is a central tenet of the company’s mission. These women do not just benefit from working for Same Sky; they actively contribute to the global growth and creative evolution of the company.

Poverty creates complex obstacles in the lives of women, but global feminist companies like these fight to open doors. With the continued worldwide support of women and girls in need, developing countries are sure to see progress.

Madeline Forwerck

Photo: Google

Feminist Foreign PolicyAccording to its website, the Swedish government gives gender equality high priority when it comes to foreign aid. Swedish leaders believe fighting for women’s rights is an essential step in establishing a secure and sustainable world. Consequently, they have launched a feminist foreign policy action plan to remove obstacles for women and girls in developing countries.

Since 2015, the nation has revisited and revitalized the initiative regularly. Goals for 2017 focus on increasing rights for female migrants and refugees; creating economic freedom for women via legislation; reducing violence against women; capitalizing on women’s potential to suppress conflict and encouraging sexual and reproductive rights.

A statement on the Government Offices of Sweden’s website details plans to service these goals. Leaders plan to allocate funds through relevant stakeholders, who will utilize aid to combat human rights abuses, endorse women’s financial and judicial empowerment and enact laws that provide women the same rights that men have.

Funds will also benefit initiatives to break down cultural associations between masculinity and violence, encouraging men to act as peacemakers in their homes and communities, as well as bolster movements to provide open access to contraceptives.

Canada has recently adopted a similar feminist foreign policy plan. Like Sweden, Canada recognizes that significant improvements in global poverty over the past few decades have not provided equal benefit to both men and women. To foster equal opportunities, Canada will strategically invest foreign aid in efforts seeking to improve women’s access to resources that can raise them from poverty.

A statement on the Government of Canada website acknowledges the challenges for women in developing countries. The difficulty lies in intersections of deeply-rooted inequality, conflict and consequences of climate change. The statement also highlights that with enough support, women can better help their families and communities.

Human dignity, security, climate action and inclusive governance comprise the core values of Canada’s plan. Their ultimate goal is to reduce poverty and promote economic advancement by empowering women to participate readily in politics, the workforce and their communities.

Canada’s statement also includes plans to involve men and boys by disputing the norms that reinforce gender-based injustice. They also provide an intersectional scope that includes the interests of people of all races, ethnic backgrounds, identities and abilities.

While timeworn power structures cause disproportionate struggles for destitute women and girls, leaders around the globe are eager to eradicate the imbalance. Feminist foreign policy is an essential step toward this goal.

Madeline Forwerck

Photo: Flickr