I wrote this blog post for another publication and thought you would enjoy reading it right here, on our blog.
“Inés" is from Mexico and she lived there until one day, her uncle —who lived in LA with her aunt at the time— got into a horrible car accident. He was the sole source of income and Inés' aunt was left with no other option than urge someone from her family come urgently and help. So Inés did, uprooted everything she knew, and left her family and friends. She risked her life to travel to a country she did not know, to live on the margins of society and work very hard for little pay, just to help her family live through a bad patch.
But this is not really about Inés. This is about thousands of women refugees and immigrants just like her coming to the US because they have been driven to abandon their home countries in search of a better future. The details change but the themes remain the same: They also have all experienced tremendous hardship of different degrees. They have all abandoned their homes, families and the people they love to come to here. They have not had the luxury of gaining a good education since most of them do not even have a high school degree or even a GED. They live in such frugal conditions that planning for the future is impossible. And yet, you’d be hard pressed to meet more hopeful, sweeter, mild mannered women and mothers.
I have heard the stories of their plights repeatedly. These women are at an impasse because without a basic education such as a GED, they can’t really get work. And without a job, they don’t have money to put their young children in daycare. And how will they put their kids in daycare if they don’t have a job. It seems like an insolvable conundrum, but maybe the answer is simpler than it seems...
That’s why Vavavida.com exists. We created this social enterprise to find real solutions to the problems under-privileged women face. Vavavida is an ethical fashion e-tailer of beautiful jewelry and accessories capable of empowering women’s economic future here and abroad. We retail products made by co-ops of artisans following the fair trade principles and with every sale we invest in women empowerment and gender inequality programs such as the PCI Women Empowered program. If you do not know about fair trade, you simply need to know that fair trade is about decency and wanting to tip the scales in favor of the millions of workers not getting their fair shake. It’s simply about paying people fair wages for their wares and production and treating them like human beings. The fact is that fair trade is fast becoming the quality standard with commodities like chocolate, coffee, tea and bananas but it is slowly being adopted in other sectors.
About 6 months ago, I heard of Jennifer Housman, a jewelry designer (Housgoods.com) and a volunteer with PCI who wanted to do a little more in San Diego. From meeting with Jennifer and the PCI president, together we decided to embark on the grand project of trying to solve these women’s conundrum by giving them an opportunity to work from home in conditions where they can work as little or as much as they can any given day and be rewarded with a fair pay for their work. This way, they are empowered to take charge of their own future and do not have to give up money by putting their kids in daycare.
For the past 4 months, we meet every Tuesday and teach women like Inés, who graduated from the WE program, to design and make jewelry inspired by the artistic traditions and designs of the regions where they come from. The hope is that we (PCI, Vavavida.com and Housgoods) may offer them a way to get ahead in their future. We just want these women to have a shot at a better life because we think that’s fair. This is why this weekend is so important: Saturday is World Fair Trade day and Sunday is Mothers’ day and what could be more important than celebrating our mothers and helping others less fortunate getting their fair shot at life?
If you are interested in knowing more about fair trade, here’s how to do it: google fair trade events in your community and you will find it’s much more popular than you’d think. But, if you live in San Diego, I would direct you to Cacaofest.com. There will be a big event in San Diego and you might see me there.