On August 26, 1920, women were finally given the right to vote in the United States. In Canada, women were given the right to vote in 1921. Today, women’s equality is still about that, but it also encompasses even more aspects. To start, it’s about providing women all over the world with equal opportunities to education and employment, and eliminating discrimination, stereotypes and violence against women.
Since the beginning, Ten Thousand Villages has been empowering women. In 1946, our founder, Edna Ruth Byler, a Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) worker, visited volunteers in Puerto Rico who were teaching sewing classes to help improve the lives of women living in poverty. When she came back to North America, she filled her car with embroidery pieces she had purchased from these women at a fair price and sold them at churches, parties and sewing circles. The concept of fair trade – and Ten Thousand Villages – was born.
We are proud to work with maker groups all over the world that empower women. This year, to celebrate Women’s Equality Day 2019, we want to highlight a few of the groups we work with that are working towards women’s equality on a daily basis.
St. Mary’s Mahila Shikshan
500 women in India work with St. Mary’s creating embroidery designs using locally produced thread and hand-loomed cotton. These female makers have access to medical care, savings plans, sewing education, cooking classes and scholarships for their children. Each year, the organization celebrates women’s equality.
Alpa Mistri does embroidery for St. Mary’s. She is 38 years old and has been working with the organization for two years. When asked about the impact St. Mary’s has had on her life, she said, “Working in this organization has given me an identity. As a single mother, I can stand on my own two feet and look after my children without the support of a husband. I am working towards giving my children an education. I want my daughter to become a computer engineer.”
Corr – The Jute Works
Corr – The Jute Works markets handmade items, primarily jute and terracotta products, created by Bangladeshi women regardless of caste, religion or race. They work with 4,000 makers and focus on job training, literacy and health issues, developing leadership skills and generating awareness of women’s rights.
Sonia Begum crafts terracotta pots with Corr – The Jute Works. She is 24 years old and has been working with the organization for one year. When asked what the biggest change has been since working with Corr – The Jute Works, she said, “I am getting a fair wage for my work. I am independent and my voice is heard. Because of fair trade, rural women in Bangladesh have rights. I feel empowered.”
Sapia works with 80 makers in Colombia creating beautiful products with unique materials like orange peel, tagua and corn husk.
Magdaly Figeroa Rincón is one of the satellite shop leaders working at Sapia. She is 38 years old and has been working with Sapia for five years. She makes all kinds of pieces of jewellery and orange peel dolls. When asked how her life has changed since working with Sapia, she said, “Fair trade allows me to be independent and generate my own income. I can work from home and still dedicate time to my family. I can improve my family’s standard of living and I can also support other women by bringing them work.”
Saidpur Enterprises provides work for women in Bangladesh. In addition to a fair wage, makers are given microloans, financial advice, literacy classes and training sessions in women’s legal rights, business and nutrition. Each year, the organization celebrates women’s equality.
Fatema SL sews bags at Saidpur Enterprises. She is 50 years old and has been working with the organization since 1991. When asked how her life has changed since working with Saidpur Enterprises, she said, “Before Saidpur Enterprises, my husband did not make enough to provide for the family and there were many days where we did not eat. Since working here, I have been able to provide food for our children and send them to school. I also have been able to buy a piece of land to build a house. I get paid regularly and work in an environment with no discrimination.”
When you buy a product from Ten Thousand Villages, your purchase helps empower women around the world. Your purchase:
- Provides women with equal opportunities to employment
- Gives women a voice and the ability to be independent
- Gives girls access to education
- Helps reduce discrimination against women
Thank you for supporting women’s equality.