MyFight fights extreme poverty by employing marginalized women in workshops producing jewelry and leather-goods. The organization partners with families and workshops all around the world and purchases their hand-crafted products to create a break in the cycle of extreme poverty. This model gives women in developing countries a chance to be entrepreneurs in the climate of a struggling economy and little opportunity.
Jesse Murphy started the organization seven years ago in Billings, Montana in order to combat poverty using microfinance loans. The goal is to not just to “feed the hungry, we want to end hunger.” Part of his passion is for fighting against human trafficking, which is also done through the organization’s focus on women and business. Investing in businesswomen in developing countries contributes to ending the cycle of poverty, providing opportunities banks would never offer. One hundred percent of the profits flowed directly to microloans for families, giving them an opportunity to climb out of extreme poverty.
During a visit to Ethiopia to adopt their son, Dave Ulrichs, now Chief Executive Officer at MyFight, and his wife Jen saw the devastating poverty that Ethiopians deal with on a daily basis. As of 2011, the World Bank had measured overall poverty in Ethiopia to be at 30 percent, with 35 percent of the population being undernourished. According to Jen Ulrichs, they partnered with investors and local workshops in Ethiopia, sponsoring the growth of the already existing craftsmanship.
Fairtrade Workshops Are Providing Jobs
Fairtrade workshops are thriving in Ethiopia, Kenya, Nepal, India and the Philippines, employing indigenous women to create jewelry and bags from diverse materials, including bullets and leather. Now, the non-profit focuses on workshops instead of microloans, funneling at least 75 percent of the proceeds back into the developing businesses. Staff is encouraged to introduce ideas; as a result, one Ethiopian family produced a line of jewelry with ebony beading, marketed under their original design.
At the Nairobi site, hundreds of sustainably employed workers are producing striking designs for Acacia Creations. Experienced designers work directly with the Acacia Creations workers while managers offer job training to allow progress in the workplace. Another site in Chiban, Ethiopia employs many former victims of trafficking and homelessness, training the staff in the art of leatherworking. To read about more stories of the artisans and the workshops in each country, visit MyFight’s website.
Selling the Crafts Around the World
A distributor for MyFight’s on the ground U.S. campaign, Mariel Rieland, described her part in the organization in an interview with The Borgen Project. She travels to events giving specific information on the style of bag and jewelry being sold and where it’s made, donating at least 75 percent of what she sells. She echoes the importance of empowering marginalized women as MyFight fights extreme poverty by including women as an essential piece of economic and developmental success.
“Working for another social business in Uganda, I saw firsthand the impact of consistent employment and a safe working environment for marginalized women… [they]gain a confidence in their abilities and strength that can have a ripple effect in their lives and communities,” she said, connecting to MyFight’s mission to invest in women with little opportunity.
A Hopeful Future
Beginning with individual microloans and continuing as a sustainable model to empower impoverished communities and former victims of trafficking, MyFight fights extreme poverty on several fronts. Investing in the lives of women living in extreme poverty, the organization sponsors employment, and thus the hope, of marginalized women.
By uplifting women and their families, MyFight fights extreme poverty by creating a new cycle of support and jobs, breaking old cycles of poverty and providing opportunities for women entrepreneurs. MyFight also connects the products to buyers in the U.S. and provides a sustainable source of employment for developing business. By turning bullet casings into purses and beads, the art of fair-trade workshops demonstrates the transforming power of conquering poverty.