March 22nd is World Water Day, a day to bring attention to the over 600 million people in the world without access to clean water. Access to clean water and sanitation are key to breaking the cycle of extreme poverty, and women and girls are the most highly impacted when lacking those basic human necessities.
In many areas girls miss out on school because they spend most of their day walking miles to collect water for their families. Girls who do make it to school often drop out once menstruation begins due to lack of facilities. UNICEF reports that approximately 6,000 children die of water related diseases every day, most under the age of five.
Photo: Elizabeth Atalay
WaterAid is the leading international nonprofit in the clean water, sanitation and hygiene sector, and has called on Congress to oppose the proposed 28.7% cut to funding for the US Agency for International Development and Department of State, proposed in the Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Blueprint. WaterAid states that this action is “out of line with America’s priorities, US moral leadership, national security interests, and the needs of poor and vulnerable people worldwide.” I stand with WaterAid in calling on Congress to fully fund international assistance.
The recently launched WaterAid #GirlStrong campaign takes aim at the inequalities faced disproportionately by women and girls who live without clean water and proper sanitation. Access to clean water opens up access to better health, and more time for education. It is estimated that somewhere around 260 billion dollars are lost from the global economy due to reduced productivity and health care costs from illnesses linked to lack of clean drinking water, poor sanitation, and hygiene. Watch the video below to see more reasons why access to clean water needs to be a priority for all.
In honor of International Women’s Day I received a box of beautiful handmade products from Coca-Cola’s 5by20 program to introduce me to a few of their artisans. As always, all thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are my own. A notecard in the box read:
“Hello, by opening this gift, you’re opening a world of possibility for women across the world.”
These are a few of the gorgeous handmade items from the 5by20 collection
March 8th is International Women’s Day, and I’m happy to celebrate by supporting Coca-Cola’s 5by20 initiative to empower 5 million women entrepreneurs around the world by 2020. #5by20 provides access to skills training, financial resources, and mentorship to women worldwide to help them rise out of poverty. Having witnessed first hand the type of impact that programs like 5by20 can have on a community I am excited to share what Coca-Cola is doing to help improve the lives of millions of women around the world. When you invest in women, through education and economic empowerment, the entire community benefits. Studies show that women reinvest 90% of their income back into their home, towards food, education for their children, and healthcare for their families.
We each have purchasing power as consumers, and as a woman, I love to support companies that exhibit corporate social responsibility and to buy from female artisans where I know that my purchase actually makes a positive impact in someone else’s life. I love that the 5by20 program focuses significantly on female artisans as I have seen the positive impact similar programs in South Africa, Ethiopia, and most recently Haiti have had on the women and their families. The women I met all took great pride in their handcrafted products, and in being given a “hand-up” in the opportunity to develop their business in a sustainable way, rather than a one-time handout of charity. The beautiful handmade product samples that I received from the 5by20 artisans came from the countries of Brazil, Turkey, Kenya, Mexico, and the Philippines. Coca-Cola’s 5by20 program began in 2010 and has already reached 1.2 million women across 60 countries.
Jocelyn Pacrin, pictured above, is a mother of four, just like me. She is also supporting her children on her own while living in a squatter’s area of Manila in the Philippines. Despite facing challenges after leaving an abusive husband Jocelyn is optimistic for her family’s future. Due to the training that she received from a Coca-Cola 5by20 local partner organization, the Philippine Community Fund, she is able to build a better future for herself and her children. Jocelyn was taught how to make jewelry, handbags, and other accessories using recycled beverage packaging. The women involved in the program work together, providing a built in network and inspiring support group for each other. The income that Jocelyn now earns will help her to provide education for her children and improve their living situation as her business grows. Mother’s around the world share the common desire to provide for their children and to see them thrive. The 5by20 initiative addresses the most common barriers that women face when entering the marketplace. By giving women like Jocelyn access to training courses, financial services and mentorship Coca-Cola’s 5by20 helps them gain the tools they need to succeed. The ripple effect of their success allows mothers to provide their children with the proper nutrition and education that they need to get ahead in life as well.
I received a PCF Narrow Ring-Pull bracelet made from recycled aluminum can pull tabs from the Philippines like the ones that Jocelyn now produces.
Coca-Cola is one of the most widely recognized brands in the world with sales in over 200 countries. It is a brand name that people even in the most remote communities of the globe are familiar with, and trust. Coca-Cola is leveraging that global reach and taking corporate social responsibility to make the world a better place by establishing clean water initiatives, aiding with health care supply chain and distribution partnerships, and economic empowerment initiatives for women around the globe. The 5by20 artisans are repurposing and diverting discarded packaging from landfill sites while improving their lives. By 2020 the ripple effect of 5 million women being impacted by Coca-Cola’s 5by20 initiative will have helped to shape not only their lives, and those of their children, but also the communities in which they live.
Check out the touching video below to meet a few of the artisans as they share their hopes and dreams for the future:
To purchase any of the beautiful handmade items created by 5by20 artisans like the gorgeous Coletivo Piroquet Handbag below made from recycled PET scales in Brazil visit the 5by20 store.
“Everytime that you buy a basket, know that there are about 10 people attached to your purchase.” – Janet Nkubana
My belief that we can create positive change through our purchase choices was further reinforced recently when I saw first hand the impact that “Trade not Aid” programs have on the communities in which they operate. Many of the gifts that I am giving this holiday season are things that I brought home from my recent trip to Haiti where I could see how much our purchases meant to the artisans supporting their families through their craft. In interviews with several of the artisans who create pieces for the Macy’s Heart of Haiti program each mentioned the pride in their work, and in being able to provide a sustainable income to support their families. They made it clear that even in tough times, they did not want charity, what they wanted was to continue to earn an income through their art. Giving gifts that help generate economic empowerment in communities where the need is great is really like giving twice, it becomes a gift that gives back. A gift that gives hope. In a way my trip to Haiti actually began in Rwanda with Macy’s Rwanda Path to Peace program.Read the rest of this entry →
Each year for the holidays I put together a gift guide of socially responsible gifts that give back. Whenever we shop, we have an opportunity to use our purchasing power to create positive change. It might be by impacting the lives of women through economic empowerment or purchasing sustainable agriculture as a way to help preserve the environment. Whatever the cause, there are opportunities to support what you believe in as you do your gift shopping. It makes the giving even sweeter when you know your purchase makes a direct positive impact on someone else’s life somewhere in this world. It’s like giving twice.
When I travel to a country for the first time I usually try to do some homework in preparation for my visit. I love the way that travel brings history, geography, and humanity to life, and provides a deeper understanding of the world. Still, sometimes I visit a place like Haiti, that is so enigmatic and full of surprises, that I realize no amount of advance preparation could have fully primed my understanding of the place. I loved the way Haitian Fashion Designer of Rapadou, Marie Therese Hilaire who goes by “Tetes”, expressed it:
“We have a country that has a feeling, se la pu la, You have to be there to understand it“.
It took less than two hours to fly there from Miami, but could not have felt more worlds away.
Packets of fried plantain snacks for sale
The art of any country always provides insightful cultural cues. In a country like Haiti, which is deeply infused with a visual arts culture, it can be a primer into the ethos of the population. Read the rest of this entry →