Author Archives: documama

#APathAppears Premieres Tonight On PBS

#APathAppears Premieres Tonight On PBS

“Hope is like a path in the countryside. Originally, there is nothing-but as people walk this way again and again, a path appears.”- Quote from Lu Xun a Chinese essayist, 1921

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Tonight the first of three episodes of the documentary A Path Appears, executive produced and directed by Maro Chermayeff, will air on PBS.  The film is based on the book by the same name written by Pulitzer prize-winning journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, and follows their reporting on issues around the world that highlight gender inequalities, and vulnerabilities that perpetuate cycles of poverty.  The journalists and celebrity activists Malin Akerman, Mia Farrow, Ronan Farrow, Jennifer Garner, Regina Hall, Ashley Judd, Blake Lively, Eva Longoria, and Alfre Woodard highlight the issues and the hopeful stories of solutions being put into action.  We are given an inside look at the harsh realities of human trafficking, abuse and neglect that marginalize a segment of the population, and are introduced to some of the innovators, and the change makers who lead the way in showing us just how determination and intervention can transform lives.

Last week I was invited by World Moms Blog founder Jennifer Burden and Save The Children to attend a screening of  A Path Appears followed by a discussion panel with Nicholas Kristof, Sheryl WuDunn, Actress Malin Ackerman, Director Maro Chermayeff and President and CEO of Save The Children, Carolyn Miles at the New York Historical Society in New York City.

L to R: Polly Palumbo, Jennifer Burden, Elizabeth Atalay, Tanya Weinberg , and Kyla P'an

L to R: Polly Palumbo, Jennifer Burden, Elizabeth Atalay, Tanya Weinberg , and Kyla P’an

It is eye-opening and tough to watch some of the realities played out in these episodes, but at the same time so important for viewers to gain better understanding of the issues.  Many have the general perception that a prostitute has chosen their way of life, when in reality many are trapped by pimps or in human trafficking rings with no way out. In the film, early sexual abuse of several of the subjects led to their life on the streets without them ever having known a protector to help them identify as a victim and empower them to get help, and make different choices.

Approximately 15% of men in the Unite States of America purchase sex, and few are ever prosecuted. The film highlights a solution that focuses on the demand side of the multi-billion dollar trafficking industry, knowing that making the risk higher would reduce the demand that keeps young girls entrapped in a vicious cycle of being trafficked.

The second episode airs next Monday, Feb. 2 at 10 pm EST on PBS and it entitled “Breaking the Cycle of Poverty.  Save The Children’s early education program is featured in this episode as Nicholas Kristof travels to West Virginia with Save the Children’s Artist Ambassador Jennifer Garner.   I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Garner on this issue of early childhood education as part of the #FindTheWords campaign last October and was amazed to learn that by the age of three many children living in poverty will have heard an average of 30 million fewer words than their peers, putting them behind before they even begin school. Sponsors help fund the important home visits that children like these receive from Save The Children to give them that chance to succeed that every child deserves.

At the event the other night we met one of the stars of the third episode that will air on February 9th, Jessica Posner Odede, who with her husband Kennedy Odede, who grew up in Kibera, the largest urban slum on the African continent, founded Shining Hope For Communities, and with that the Kibera School For Girls.

Educating a girl in urban slums means she will earn more and invest 90% of earnings in her family, be three times less likely to contract HIV, and have fewer, healthier children who are more likely to reach adulthood.-SHOFCO.org

After watching A Path Appears you will not only be more informed on these global issues that impact all of our communities on some level, but have hope, that if enough people led the path of change for the better, and the rest of us follow, that in fact a path to solutions to ending poverty will in fact appear.

Watch A Path Appears tonight 10pm Eastern Standard Time on PBS

Children Of The Millennium & #action2015

Children Of The Millennium & #action2015

 

Photo Credit: C.C. Chapman   http://www.cc-chapman.com

Photo Credit: C.C. Chapman
http://www.cc-chapman.com

Last week my niece Delilah was part of a historic moment in time, when on January 15th of 2015 15-year-olds from around the world joined a movement spearheaded by Save The Children and the ONE Campaign to ask governments to do better, and to involve youth in the process of  building the future they want to see. This was part of the launch of the #action2015 campaign to engage the public in the historic opportunity this year that we all have to shape the future of our world.

My amazing niece Delilah on the far left.  Photo Credit: C.C. Chapman

My wonderful niece Delilah on the far left.
Photo Credit: C.C. Chapman

As the mother of a fifteen year old  daughter as well it is amazing to think that in the year that my daughter was being born, the Millennium Development Goals were set in motion. The eight Millennium Development Goals had been put in place by the then 189 member nations of the United Nations to free people around the globe from extreme poverty and the depravations that cause or are a result of it. In the year 2000 my baby was my universe, so I am grateful that while our lives were so nuclear, steps were being taken to ensure that she would grow up to live in a greater world working towards equality for all.

2015 is significant as this first set of goals expire December 31st of this year, and in 2015 transformative meetings are being held to write new ones. This year will dictate the post-2015 course of action to keep the momentum of progress going. Great progress has been made in the past two decades, child mortality has been halved, the number of maternal deaths have been reduced by at least a 1/4, and the world is nearly (99%) Polio free. In fact Bill Gates believes that by 2035 there will barely be any poverty stricken countries left.

The exciting thing to me is that these facts prove that progress is possible with the right infrastructure in place.  The children of the millennium, our fifteen year olds who have matured with these first set of global goals, and others of their generation, will eventually be the stewards of the next phase of eliminating poverty in this world. In their lifetimes it is possible that they will see an end to global poverty as we know it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

#HappyNewYear #2015

#HappyNewYear #2015

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Gifts That Give Back Guide 2014, Creating Change Through Economic Opportunity

Gifts That Give Back Guide 2014, Creating Change Through Economic Opportunity

In October I attended the ONE Girls & Women AYA Summit at the Google Headquarters in DC. One of the many powerful panels we heard from was entitled Change Through Economic Opportunity, and both major fashion companies and small start-ups weighed in on how they are impacting the lives of women through economic empowerment.  There are so many fantastic places to purchase gifts holiday season, but why not use the power of your wallet to also help to lift a woman out of poverty when you purchase them. I feel like this makes the giving even sweeter. Not only will the recipient love what they get, but you both will know it had a positive impact on someone else’s life somewhere in this world. To me it feels like giving twice. Here are my top picks this year to use my purchasing power for social good from the AYA Summit panelists and beyond.

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Vase from the Heart of Haiti line

 

Gorgeous clutch from the Kate Spade On Purpose line

Gorgeous clutch from the Kate Spade On Purpose line

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Macy’s sells a line of goods called Heart of Haiti, designed to enrich and improve the lives of the artisans that create beautiful goods. Established after the massive earthquake in 2010, Heart of Haiti was created as a sustainable way to help repair Haiti’s fragile economy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I’ve been a huge fan of Kate Spade since she began so I was thrilled when I met Sydney Price and heard her speak about the Kate Spade On Purpose line at the AYA Summit panel on Change Through Economic Opportunity.   Each piece in this collection is handcrafted in Rwanda creating sustainable economic opportunities for women and reshaping their community.

 

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 9.54.08 AMScreen Shot 2014-12-11 at 11.00.42 AMI also met Jane Mosbacher Morris at the AYA Summit where she participated in the panel on Change Through Economic Opportunity. I love her story from policy to retail and was thrilled to have the opportunity to interview her a few days ago and get more insight into her path to founding To The Market. To The Market is a marketplace for survivor made goods, whether it is from war, disaster, or abuse, To The Market provides a market for the beautiful handcrafted goods that give women survivors a chance to support themselves and their families.

fashionable copyScreen Shot 2014-12-11 at 11.03.40 AMI had the pleasure of visiting the FashionABLE factory in Ethiopia this past summer and have been writing about and wearing the gorgeous scarves made in Ethiopia for years. That made it such a thrill to finally meet founder Barrett Ward at the AYA Summit this past fall where he participated on the Change Through Economic Opportunity panel as well. They are now expanding operations to include products made in Kenya and a beautiful line of leather products, all while providing social service programs of health care, education in a trade, and assistance with child care for their artisans to help them build better lives for themselves and their families.

Photo by Heidi Reed

Photo by Heidi Reed

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 11.05.10 AMFor the person who has everything that you still want to let know you are thinking of them, there are many non profits where you can gift a gift in a loved ones name.  Often the non-profit will send them a certificate or note saying that you did so. This year I am supporting the non-profit Edesia, based in Rhode Island, that provides nutritional supplements for prevention and treatment of malnutrition in children. Edesia products are specifically created to treat babies and children during the critical first five years of life. If they do not get proper nutrition within those first five years, and most critically the first thousand days of life, they may be stunted and never reach their full potential. If you make a donation on the Edesia website in the notes section and list name of the person in whose name the donation is being made and their address, Edesia will send them a post card letting them know.

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 11.38.48 AMScreen Shot 2014-12-11 at 11.27.50 AMOh, and how can I forget wine!? One Hope Wine where 1/2 of the proceeds goes to educating girls, which we know is key to global development. When a girl is educated she will tend to get married later, have fewer children, and contribute economically to her family.

 For more ideas on gifts that give back check out my past gift guides from 2012 (That includes Heifer International), 2013 and for foodies

Inspiring Women: Bringing Survivor Made Goods To The Market

Inspiring Women: Bringing Survivor Made Goods To The Market

Manna Prayer House-1One of the amazing women that I met last month at the AYA Summit was Jane Mosbacher Morris.  She had taken part in a panel on Change Through Economic Opportunity, and was impressive to me in her transition from working on human trafficking issues, and for the U.S. Department of State in counterterrorism, to founding a market place for survivor made goods. To The Market provides a path to economic empowerment for women survivors of abuse, conflict and disease. Fascinated with Jane’s path to founding To The Market I was thrilled to have the opportunity to interview her  about her inspirations, her journey and her goals.

Elizabeth Atalay: Personally on what level does this issue resonate with you?

Jane Mosbacher Morris:  Economic independence deeply resonates with me for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is because I greatly value my own economic independence and the basic choices that it affords me over the direction of my life.  When a person has some form of economic independence, it opens up a world of choice.  Alternatively, when you are completely dependent on someone or something else, you have very little leverage or ability to influence pretty fundamental things about your life—do you want to marry?  Do you want to get educated?  Where do you want to live?  What do you want to eat?

Working on the intersection of women and security for the first part of my career revealed how little control many of the most marginalized persons in our world have over their life.  It’s very hard to grant a person control over her life, however—a person usually has to take control of her life.

  The longer I worked on different women and security issues, the longer I believed that providing an opportunity for vulnerable populations to access economic independence is an extremely effective way for persons to claim (or in many cases, reclaim) control over their trajectory.

TO THE MARKET’s (TTM) model is to partner with existing organizations currently employing survivors of abuse, conflict, or disease.  These partners believe that providing the dignity of work is the best way to empower the survivor populations that they are trying to uplift.  TTM’s job is to help these partners succeed by creating additional distribution channels for their survivor-made products; amplifying the stories of survivors and their champions; and providing business services, like trend forecasting and basic mental health resources, to improve their production and management.

Elizabeth: How were you able to apply your experience from policy to a retail social enterprise?

Jane Mosbacher Morris: My time at the U.S. State Department focusing on policy influenced my perspective on how to best approach some of the social issues TO THE MARKET aims to address.  When you are working in a policy role, you’re often forced to examine a challenge on a regional or even global scale, allowing for patterns to emerge that are hard to identify when you are working on the ground.  Policies, whether created in a government, NGO, or private sector organization, are supposed to be a reflection of best practices and lessons learned.  Cutting my teeth in DC provided me access to information from colleagues from around the world, presenting feedback on what was and was not working well from a policy and programmatic standpoint.  One major takeaway from my time at the Department was that for a variety of reasons, governments tend to be pretty hamstrung when it comes to creating jobs, which is unfortunate, because an access to an earned income is probably one of the top things that people want.   Accordingly, I believed that I could support and cultivate economic independence for survivor populations more efficiently outside of the government and non-profit world.

Elizabeth: Where do you find the groups that you work with?

Jane Mosbacher Morris: When I founded TO THE MARKET, I was only aware of a handful of organizations employing survivors (two of which I had visited in Kolkata, India, sparking my idea! Thank you Sari Bari and Freeset!).  That handful quickly grew to our current list of over 150 organizations employing survivors.  One aspect that is very encouraging about working in the social enterprise space is that people are exceptionally collaborative.  When I would speak to someone working in Mumbai, for example, they would say, “you must meet my friend who is working with XYZ survivor population.”  These organizations are staffed by people that tend to follow the mantra that “a rising tide raises all ships.”

Elizabeth: Is there an area of the world that you are more focused on than another?

Jane Mosbacher Morris: TO THE MARKET doesn’t focus on a specific part of the world, but instead uses the criteria of whether an organization is employing survivors of abuse, conflict, or disease.  We have partners all over the globe, including the U.S., but the specific model of employing survivors to produce a product tends to be more common in East Africa and South/Southeast Asia.  The development of these “nodes” can probably be attributed to a few things.  For one, organizations tend to build off of existing handicraft capacities, like beading, sewing, or weaving.  Another likely reason that this model works well in these parts of the world is that the economics tend to work—you can pay a living wage and still price the products competitively in a U.S. market.  Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not mention the impact that the faith-based community has had on the development of these social enterprises.  A notable number of these organizations have been started after a particularly impactful mission or volunteer trip.

Elizabeth: How closely will you be able to follow the progress of the artisans and their journeys toward financial sustainability?

Jane Mosbacher Morris: We are extremely fortunate in that we have a wonderful working relationship with our partners.  I tend to have a good idea of what is going on within these organizations, including whether their sales are healthy enough to continue to employ their survivor artisans.  One of our partners is currently only employing one woman, while another is able to provide steady work to hundreds of women.  Expansion is not always the best decision for these organizations if it means that they are putting the business at risk or they aren’t able to monitor the survivors’ mental, physical, spiritual, and financial health as closely. It’s a tricky balance!

You can do your part by shopping at To The Market this holiday season and beyond for beautiful gifts that give back.

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