Another Great Gift Idea – World Pulse

My friends over at World Pulse magazine just let me know of a great offer they’re running for the holidays.  Buy a membership to their fabulous organization for yourself, get a free membership to give to a friend!  Membership is $30 and includes a subscription to their paper magazine as well as access to all their great online information and inspiring stories of women worldwide.  World Pulse is giving voice to so many women who would otherwise go unheard by the media. Join the conversation and get a friend involved too!

I’ve given World Pulse as gifts myself and every woman I’ve given it to has been so grateful to know such a publication exists. More information on this holiday offer here.

Make Schools, Not War

imagesThis morning’s paper had a compelling editorial by Nicholas Kristof, co-author of the current occupant of my bedside table, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. Kristof (an Oregon native although now he lives in New York) suggests building schools in Afghanistan would more likely lead to peace and a strong Afghan society than sending in 40,000 additional US troops. How’s that Mr. Kristof?

Actually I believe the guy because I’ve got his book fresh on my brain. In both his column and in Half the Sky Mr. Kristof lays out very plainly and factually how investment in education of girls directly leads to economic development, improved health for women and children, and peace. Nations that invest in girls’ education have less terrorist activity (Kristof cites Bangladesh as an example). The converse is nations that are most repressive of women (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Congo) have much more terrorist activity as well as much higher infant/ maternal mortality rates and great struggles with economic underdevelopment.

Compared to guns and troops, schools are super cheap to build and run. There are fantastic NGOs out there that know how to build them and run them well (CARE, Greg Mortenson’s Central Asia Institute, to name a few).  What are the chances the US government, including my beloved President Obama, would turn to cheap-o schools over the economic powerhouse of war though? If you ask me, slim to none. Sure we’ll keep throwing token USAID funding at building schools while at the same time squandering our precious tax dollars on the machine of war. It so angers me that we can’t agree as a nation on funding a public healthcare option but we can go out and put our troops in harms way and kill countless innocent Afghan civilians, all in the name of peace and nation-building. It just doesn’t work. Never has, never will.

World Pulse’s New Issue Is Out…And It’s Really Good

wp- fulfill cover singleOne my favorite magazines that I’ve blogged about before is World Pulse. It’s this fabulous collection of stories and articles about women’s issues worldwide. It’s unlike any other women’s magazine I’ve ever read, being globally-minded and focused on the most positive aspects of what women are doing worldwide.

This latest issue focuses on new economic models from women visionaries, including those in the fair trade movement. A number of the issue’s articles are available online but you have to get the print edition to read the full issue, including the excellent fair trade article.

The fair trade article, entitled Unraveling Women’s Fair Trade, takes a hard look at the model of fair trade company such as mine at Bambootique and how difficult it is to make such companies sustainable not to mention profitable. I know first-hand how difficult that is. Thankfully Bambootique has been financially sustainable (i.e. broken even) since day one, but the profitable side for the most part is still a future hope and dream.  This is the reality for many similar companies for a whole host of reasons. The market is certainly there for our products and it’s rapidly  growing, but there are so many challenges too. They include scale (we can be inefficient because we are so small), shipping and customs costs, the communication difficulties related to working with small groups of women often working in remote areas, getting our products to market, etc.  The article points out that the joy of running such a business and knowing how much good we are doing far outweighs the challenges, at least for many in this industry. And many of us are getting more sustainable and more profitable, both business owners and artisans, as the market grows and our businesses get stronger.

Look for the latest issue of World Pulse on a newstand near you. I know I’ve seen it in the Portland area at Powell’s, Borders and natural food stores like Whole Foods.

Empowering Women Is The Answer

IMG_5367One of the many seeds that grew into Bambootique was when I read in one of my MBA’s economic textbooks that, when women have work, they are far more likely than men to spend their income on improving their children’s future – food, education, healthcare, clothing, housing, etc.  That was a lightbulb moment for me, although it was several years later before that seed grew into an actual business.  Still it was my own moment of empowerment, when I knew that I could do something profound that could change the lives of women and, in turn, help those women offer their children a better, brighter future.

A few days ago the New York Times ran a beautiful and concrete article on the very topic of eliminating poverty in the developing world through women. The authors, a married couple who co-wrote the book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, talk about how when women have work they are less likely to be abused by their husbands because they are seen as valuable rather than as a burden. They provide employment for their poor neighbors.  They invest in their children’s educations. And as a result they boost their countries’ overall economies both now and, hopefully, in the future through their children.

The authors conclude that foreign aid as a blanket solution to poverty is inadequate. Shoving money at problems doesn’t necessarily get rid of them and, in many cases, makes problems worse.  However the authors point specifically to microfinance (giving small loans, mainly to women, to help them start or expand their own businesses) as one aspect of foreign aid that is most successful. Be sure to check out this well-written, well-researched article for more insights on the power of women to change their own lives.

95% of Bambootique’s artisans are women and many are micro-loan recipients through local lending programs. I don’t turn away men who make great products. But my vision is to empower women, knowing that men tend to have greater access to markets and other ways to earn an income than their female counterparts. I’m proud, in my own small way, to be part of such a movement. And I can’t wait to read Half the Sky, which I already have on hold at the library!

World Vision Microenterprise Event Next Week

I’m looking forward to attending this World Vision event next Tuesday night in Lake Oswego, put on by Women of Vision. “Equipping the Entrepreneuial Poor” will be held February 17th from 7-9pm at Lake Oswego United Methodist Church (1855 Southshore Boulevard). It’s to be “a lively panel presentation and a discussion on Microenterprise Development” featuring a World Vision staff member and several local bankers involved with World Vision’s microlending program.

Microenterprise, or micro-lending, is at the heart of many of Bambootique’s artisan cooperatives. Millions of people innurlaili1 the developing world make their income from small businesses.  Over the last few decades micro-lending has vastly changed the business landscape for microentrpreneurs by providing them an alternative to loansharks. Sometimes all it takes is a small loan of $20, $100 or $500 to help a small business owner take their business to the next level, boosting their family out of poverty.

Learn more about the successes of microenterprise here.

Paid Family Leave Means Stronger Families

Sometimes I get tired of hearing how far America lags behind other countries in so many areas – kids’ math scores, life expectancy, impossibility of finding a good loaf of bread, to name a few.  When it comes to paid family leave for new img_0746parents , America’s lack of options for workers is appalling and we need to be talking about it.  Loudly. That’s why I’ve asked my Oregon state legislators to support the effort to pass Paid Family Leave.

My beautiful state of Oregon is far ahead of some states. We were one of the first states to grant workers up to 12 weeks unpaid time off with their job guaranteed at the end of that time. Now that law is federal, but even with the option of 12 weeks off, for many families going that long without a paycheck is a hardship they can’t withstand, so moms still return within weeks or even days. Numerous studies have shown that, when moms return too soon to work, breastfeeding rates plummet which dramatically increases childhood illnesses. In turn, in the long run moms end up missing many more days from work later on to care for sick kids.

As a fairly new mom myself, I know how important those first few months are to recover from delivery, bond with the new baby and figure out how to do this motherhood thing. I can’t imagine if I’d had to return to work in those early, exhausting, sleep-deprived days.  Because I couldn’t stand the thought of returning to a 40+ hour work week within just three months of having a baby, I quit my job altogether and started my own business so I could be my own boss.

The United States keeps pretty deplorable company when it comes to not offering paid family leave. 168 countries across the globe, most much poorer economically than the US, offer some sort of paid leave for women after childbirth. The US is the only developed nation not to offer this. Other nations that don’t offer paid leave include Liberia, Swaziland and Papau New Guinea. Shocking, I know. Every European nation and most Asian, Latin American and African nations offer it. Maybe we should take a hint and recognize the incredible societal benefit (including lower health costs) of giving families the opportunity to be families when they need to be and to be workers when they need to be, without the risk of losing their income.

Join me in speaking out for Paid Family Leave and learn more at Time To Care For Oregon Families.

Home From Honduras

Last week I had the honor of visiting ACTA de Honduras, a non-profit in Tegucigalpa, Honduras doing economic development among indigenous Lencan people.  I’ve been carrying ACTA’s jewelry at Bambootique since the company’s inception over two years ago but had not yet met the artisans themselves. The visit was inspiring plus I came home with a suitcase full of beautiful new designs. Today I’ll introduce you to the bead artisans, next time to the designer and the jewelry maker.

delia

Meet Delia. She’s a single mother of two young children. Trying to raise two children alone in rural Honduras is a bleak outlook for many women. For Delia though, it’s a task to which she has risen. She earns enough through her involvement with the ceramics cooperative for her children to attend school, which means hope for their futures.

workshop

The workshop in the small village of El Porvenir, Honduras is cooperatively owned by six ceramic artisans, all women and all single mothers. It’s humble but it’s theirs.

beads

The women make ceramic plates, bowls, vases and beads. They use techniques handed down to them from generations. For many of their pieces they use different varieties of clay and an open fire, rather than paint, to create beautiful colors and designs.

kiln

The pieces are first formed by hand, then dried for days in the sun. Once dried by the sun, the pieces are fired in one of two wood-burning kilns.

fire1The pieces are finished over a scorching hot fire, which blackens the pottery or adds color, depending on the type of clay used.

finishedbeadsFinished beads. The blue/ green colors are glaze, the reds, blacks and whites are formed through an incredible combination of various clays and heat.

Next time…meet Aurora, who turns these beads into bold fashion-forward jewelry.

World Pulse Magazine Is Coming Back

wpm_flowerstringers_575x329

A few years ago I discovered a print magazine that made me want to cry it was so good.  The first few issues of World Pulse magazine were so inspiring I read them from cover to cover in one sitting. The magazine focused completely on women’s issues and stories from around the globe, unlike any other women’s magazine I had ever seen. There were stories about orphans in Africa and global midwives.  Other articles discussed women’s roles in the global fight on terror and drug wars, and women’s involvement in shaping the political landscape of South America.  Everything I read was very grassroots and looking at the lives of everyday women around the world, especially although not exclusively in the developing world. I was thrilled that founder Jensine Larsen had stepped out to produce such a publication and filled a glaring void in our news media.

From their website,

World Pulse is a global media organization dedicated to broadcasting the untapped voices and innovative solutions of women worldwide.

After just two issues of this fabulous publication, my subscription stopped arriving. I learned sadly the magazine was doing restructuring and was taking things online, at least for the short-term. This month though, the print magazine comes back and I can’t wait!

World Pulse is offering free issues of their next debut edition. You can request yours on their website.  Features include:

  • How women are transforming global communication using new media and cell phones
  • Women leaders on the future of microfinance
  • Women shaping the face of the coffee industry
  • Articles will link to the World Pulse community site: PulseWire.net, so readers can jump into the story and directly connect with featured leaders

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