Empowering Women Around the World Empowering Women Around the World

We women who live in the US and Europe are probably unaware of just how good we have it.  We may complain about housework, laundry, toilets, cooking, either as a stay-at-home wife or a career woman who does it all.  But regardless of how stressed and tired we may be, we still have it really good compared to women in some other countries.  But things are a-changing for many women who have found themselves trapped in their world and we, whom have it good, have the ability to reach out and help empower those women who are finding out life can be better.

Last Christmas a couple of our children gave us all some interesting gifts, gifts that have opened a new door to the world of opportunities for empowering women around globe.  Since then we have come across other like-minded organizations offering similar abilities to help women help themselves.  There may be many organizations like these, but I want to share four of the forward-moving potential giving non-profits I have encountered.

First, our daughter gave all the girls in the family Punjammies.  “PUNJAMMIES™ are a premium brand of pajamas hand made by women who were formerly enslaved in prostitution.Crafted from beautiful Indian fabric, PUNJAMMIES™ are perfect for sleeping or relaxing.”  These come from an organization called the International Princess Project.  The “International Princess Project advocates for women enslaved in prostitution, helping them restore their lives and empowering them to live free.”  You can watch a video about this project and read how it began by a woman who looked into the faces of the women and girls caught in the red-light district here:  http://intlprincess.org/index.php/ipp/section/C1/.  The mission is to “restore hope and dignity” to these women who thought they had no other way to feed themselves and their children.  The great tagline says, “Wear Punjammies & wear hope.”  Order your Punjammies and help a woman find hope that she can support herself and her children in a life of dignity here:   http://www.intlprincess.org/index.php/ipp/content/story_of_punjamies/

Next, our son gave us all a $25 gift certificate to a non-profit organization that offers loans to people all over the world to start their own business.  Their website states their mission is “to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. Leveraging the internet and a worldwide network of micro-finance institutions, Kiva lets individuals lend as little as $25 to help create opportunity around the world.”  With just a $25 loan to someone across the world you can help them get on their feet in any number of business ways.  You can give to either a male or female or even a group.  But along the lines of empowering women, I gave my $25 loan to a 20 year old women in the west region of Uganda named Sadra who is stocking a clothing business.  Her original loan request was $200, so I was only a small part of it.  Her repayment terms with me were for 7 months.  I submitted the loan in January so she still has another month to repay the loan.  But the balance on the loan is only $2.68.  Yes, you can then cash out and get your money back.  The challenge issued by our son was to see how many people we could help in a year with the $25 gift he gave us and then see, as a family, how many people we could help.  I plan to re-loan my $25 to another woman to help empower her to live within her dignity and be able to help others in some way in return.  You can read all about Kiva loans here:  http://www.kiva.org/about

Well, our son has become very interested in these types of organizations, so for Mother’s Day I received a beautiful necklace from a business called 31 Bits.  A college student named Kallie Dovel traveled to Northern Uganda and learned first hand of the poverty in that country.  She met a woman making jewelry with paper beads.  This gave her the idea of helping women in this country out of poverty by giving them their own industry.  She returned to the states, finished her degree, put together a group of like-minded friends and created a business to help the women she had witnessed in their hopeless situations.  She gave the women more than just a market to sell the beautiful jewelry they make with recycled paper.  She has put together a program that teaches these women to read and to speak English.  The program gives the ladies finance training and offers them community groups from which they gain mental and emotional support.  The website says approximately one-third of the women involved are HIV positive.  “By providing AIDS and Health education, our beneficiaries are able to receive counseling and guidance on how to take their medicine and stay healthy.”  Many have also experience great trauma and abuse and are getting help in facing that for the first time.  31 Bits also gives the women vocational training, helping them learn how to save money, budget and eventually begin their own businesses.  Check out the fun, colorful and unique jewelry made by industrious women trying to make a better life for themselves, their children and their communities in the video here:  http://31bits.com/about/ .

Finally, my latest find is a wonderful bag from Riviera Bags offered by catstudio.  Bags and purses are just some of the wonderfully handcrafted items made by the women of India.  The tag on my bag states, “The Riviera Bags are a collaboration between catstudio and Sabala - a non-profit society in remote Southern India set up to provide opportunities to widows and economically challenged women to learn skills (while reviving traditional tribal crafts), and translate those skills into productive activities that generate income.  The beauty of these bags - the weaving and stitching - is only possible with the skilled human hand.  The bags should delight fashion lovers, all while helping fellow sisters in need.”  The Sabala website, says this about the Indian organization, “SABALA is a voluntary organization dedicated to the Empowerment of Women and Children, based in the arid District of Bijapur of North Karnataka in South India.  Set up in 1986, SABALA is working with widow, destitutes, tribals, physically challenged girls and women and economically backward women.  SABALA has created a platform to rehabilitate landless and houseless people of Alma Dam submerged villages.”

“SABALA creates an opportunity for women to learn a skill and translate these skills into productive activities that generate income.  SABALA has over a period of time striven toward reviving Traditional Lambana (a Tribal Community), Kasuthi Crafts and other traditional crafts.  A Fair Trade Organization, SABALA currently supports over 300 women from 6 Lamina Settlements, 4 villages and Slums of Bijapur.”  You can read more about the many ways this organization is helping to empower the women of this area of India here:  http://www.sabalaindia.com/Sabala-Activities.php.

To find the beautiful Riviera bags you can check this link:  http://www.catstudio.com/categories/Riviera%20Bags/.  I found mine at a little home-owned pecan shop in a small town in the Panhandle of Texas. A fun fact, Julia Roberts sported one of these lovely Indian bags in her movie Eat, Pray, Love.

Blessed John Paul II wrote in is Letter to Women, “Women will increasingly play a part in the solution of the serious problems of the future.”  It is from the heart of the woman that new ideas and plans regarding the care of the human person comes.  Please consider helping these women who are trying to succeed in their lives by recognizing their dignity and worth in the world and in the eyes of God. Not to mention, the unique products they have to offer, you’re gonna love.

God’s blessings!

Copyright 2013 Diane Schwind