Resolutions that Matter: Working Towards a Better Future1 year ago
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. She 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 survive through a bad patch.
But this is not a story about Inés. This is about thousands of women refugees and immigrants just like her coming to the United States 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. They have all abandoned their homes, families, and the people they love to come here. They have not had the luxury of gaining a good education – 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 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, it’s difficult to get work.
This is why we created Vavavida, to find real solutions to the problems underprivileged women face. Inés is the reason that we exist. But last year, we weren’t helping women like Inés. You see, Vavavida is an ethical fashion e-tailer of beautiful jewelry and accessories that was focused on empowering women’s economic future abroad. We retailed products made by co-ops of artisans in developing countries following the fair trade principles.
Fair trade is quickly becoming the quality standard with commodities like chocolate, coffee, tea and bananas, but it often overlooks workers in first world countries like the United States.
In 2015, we resolved to bring fair trade opportunities to underprivileged women and refugees like Inés here in our home base of San Diego, California. Vavavida partnered with Jennifer Housman, a jewelry designer and a volunteer with PCI to create an artisan co-op of refugees here in the United States. This co-op will give 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 or family time by putting their kids in daycare.
We teach women like Inés to design and make jewelry inspired by the artistic traditions and designs of the regions where they come from. This was our 2015 resolution and we are proud to see the pilot program become a reality. In 2016 we resolve to continue to invest in these women and this program.
What do you resolve for 2016? Please share in the comments section below.
Antoine Didienne is the co-founder of Vavavida, a line of ethically made fashion jewelry items that give back.