NEW YORK — Global Goods Partners, founded in 2005, is one of several successful non-profits to sell handmade, fair trade products in order to increase the quality of life for the women who make them. But what makes Global Goods Partners different from its peers?
For one, founders Catherine Lieber Shimony and Joan Shifrin are experts in the international development field. Global Goods Partners was founded not on a brief moment of inspiration or through chance encounter while traveling. Rather, Joan and Catherine founded the organization with a specific goal for its partner communities in developing countries worldwide.
Earlier in their careers, the two founders traveled to impoverished countries around the globe to help support community-based groups. They quickly noticed a trend in each community they visited: groups of talented and self-motivated female artisans who produced beautiful, handmade goods such as clothing and jewelry. But these stunning goods couldn’t yet serve a purpose because the women lacked access to consumer markets, among other resources such as an education, business skills and a stable income.
Across the globe, women make up more than 50 percent of the population but own only a meager one percent of the world’s growth. Joan and Catherine, well aware of the harrowing statistics that women in poverty face in particular, saw an opportunity to plan for long-term community development and social change by arming women with a paid fair living wage in exchange for their handmade goods. Joan and Catherine’s plan was to ensure consistent income-generation opportunities that would improve the lives of the female artisans and their families.
Working with nearly 3,000 women in 20 countries worldwide, Global Goods’ online marketplace is a vibrant collection of the work of over 40 artisan groups. Handmade striking jewelry from Afghanistan, vibrant printed bags from Colombia, silk journals from Cambodia and Alpaca shawls from Bolivia are just a few of the remarkably beautiful products available on Global Goods’ online store, from which the proceeds return directly to the artisans. The organization has raised over $350,000 in direct purchases.
With their unique perspective on international development, Joan and Catherine’s work doesn’t stop at the buying and selling of handmade goods. Funded with proceeds from fair trade product sales, foundation support and individual donations, the organization also provides education opportunities for women in product development, operational training, capacity-building grants and technical assistance. The founders’ goal: to ensure that their female partners have every opportunity to work together to build lasting social change within their communities.
For girls born into poverty, life presents its own set of challenges. Two-thirds of the children denied primary education are girls. And though women work to produce half of the world’s food, they lack the income and resources to create stability for themselves.
Catherine and Joan’s strategy—empowering women by presenting them with the tools necessary to enhance skills they already have, as well as with education resources—is one that works. Opportunity in business development is essential to both changing the lives of the women who engage in programs such as Global Goods Partners, as well as the lives of their children and future generations. Find out more and support women around the world by visiting their site.
– Elizabeth Nutt
Sources: United Nations Development Programme, Women and Girls’ Fund
Photo: Global Goods Partner