WPMarket is excited to announce that we are now officially registered as a benefit corporation in the State of Colorado!
What is a public benefit corporation (other names: B Corp, PBC)? Generally, corporations are beholden to their shareholders to maximize profits. Recognizing that there is an evolving definition of “success” in business that goes beyond strict economic gains, Colorado legislature passed a bill allowing for B Corps. This new legal status allows for companies to have an express purpose that goes beyond the bottom line to incorporate social and environmental responsibility into our business goals.
What does this mean for WPMarket? Actually, we are already set up with support to our artisans and our partners as our primary goals- so nothing really! The new promise that we will make to our customers, however, is that we will publish an annual report stating the ways in which we have helped to support the environment and communities that we work with.
What we hope this means for us moving forward. The legal change to B Corp status allows for us to reaffirm that supporting the women that we work with is of utmost priority to us. We want to make sure that the products that we bring to our customers are of high quality, the artisans are being provided a fair wage, and that they are made with environmental sustainability in mind. This new standing just holds us to higher accountability for those standards!
We are excited to make this move and join the growing number of business that work to support positive social and environmental changes through our practices.
All the best from the WPMarket team!
A recent article in the New Republic struck my fancy. The author expounded on the idea that the “one size fits all” approach to development is not working. Often, the large well-funded organizations working in development find an idea that works seemingly well in one country/district/village and then apply that approach across their global programming with the intended effect of reducing poverty globally. A great example of this fad was the PlayPump, a merry-go-round that was used to pump water while children played in the school yard. Millions of dollars were donated to the PlayPump and thousands were installed. A year later? The pumps were in various states of disrepair and women were forced to turn a giant wheel to get water rather than easier approaches for them such as a treadle pump.
The big problem here is that we are a world of inconsistencies. We have a global delight in non-conformity to a set standard. People make choices based on their culture, their community, and their own free will that will cause ripples of deviation from the norm. The PlayPump might have worked well in a community where repair parts were available and the school yard was constantly full, but in other areas this was not going to be the case.
That’s where the approach of the local comes in. Our partners are organizations that have local input, by-in and ownership in the process of supporting their community. When ideas to support women in their community are home grown they will inherently take on the necessary adaptations and alterations that will make them site specific and (hopefully) ones that work! Local organizations, and those that have deep seated ties to the local community, have the innate flexibility to adapt to changing conditions and to adjust to feedback from their communities in real time.
This holiday season, while we are all going home to be with our family and loved ones, take a moment to think about the different versions of home that happen all over the world. These are varied and beautiful and we at WPMarket feel fortunate to support them, and, as always, hope you join us in the journey!
Dana and Rachel
The prevalence of violence against women has been and remains alarming. Worldwide, it is estimated that 1 in 3 women will experience physical or sexual violence from her partner, while 7% of women will be assaulted at some point in their lives by a non-partner (WHO, 2013). In the United States alone, an estimated 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime (Tjaden, 2000).
The definition of violence against girls and women is broad and includes intimate physical and sexual partner violence, female genital mutilation, child and forced marriage, sex trafficking, and rape. During the current 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women Campaign and at a recent panel discussion hosted by The Global Fund for Women at the Redline Gallery in Denver (pictured), several suggestions have been put forward on what actually works in preventing and addressing ongoing violence against girls and women in Colorado and internationally.
One of the pieces in addressing this global challenge is female economic empowerment. Equipping girls and women with access to economic resources and the power to make decisions for themselves and their families has been shown to indirectly reduce violence against them. How? The most studied correlations include the following: in many cases, as girls and women earn more money and gain an increased economic position in their households and/or communities, they have more bargaining power and feel that they have more options available to them. Additionally, as women gain access to land and property, they have an increased sense of security, among themselves and others, and this has been found to act as a deterrent to domestic violence (Panda, 2005).
Consider the following:
• In South Africa, a poverty-targeted microfinance program combined with a participatory learning and action curriculum on HIV prevention, gender norms, cultural beliefs, communication and intimate partner violence demonstrated improvements in chosen indicators of empowerment and a 55% reduction in intimate partner violence (Kim et al, 2007).
• In India, women’s ownership of property was found to be a deterrent to violence and women were less likely to tolerate violence. The study found that women’s independent ownership of land or a house can substantially reduce the risk of both physical and psychological violence (Panda, 2005).
• In Haiti, when women had access to money they could use as they chose fit, a study found that the risk of emotional violence reduced by 48% and physical violence by 44% (Gage, 2005).
This is not to say that working girls and women are not still at risk for violence, or that employability is always inversely related to violence. In some cases, violence increases in the short-run as girls and women begin working and gain more economic power, especially as men are more likely to feel initially threatened and react with violence. Girls and women who also have to travel for long periods of time or great distances for work are also at an increased risk.
There is not a simple solution for violence against girls and women. The most successful strategies are comprised of a number of approaches across sectors. Increased education, health awareness, legal and regulatory changes, and modified cultural norms are all crucial. A recently released study has emphasized that interventions that “not only discuss the implications of violence, but also explicitly address the underlying issue of inequality and seek to transform gender norms by promoting more equitable relationships between men and women, are essential to achieve lasting change…” (Samarasekera, 2014).
We believe our work at WPMarket and the valuable work of our partners—skills & business training, microfinance, and other types of programming—are promoting this type of long-term equality and contributing to the prevention of violence against women and girls. Take for example our partner the Women's Global Empowerment Fund who commemorated the 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women Campaign in Gulu, Uganda with its clients-women who receive valuable microfinance, literacy and agricultural training-participating in activities including a community dialogue and exhibitions on gender violence (pictured)! For that, we are proud.
Thanks for joining with us,
- Gage, A.J., 2005, “Women’s experience of intimate partner violence in Haiti‟, Social Science & Medicine, Vol. 61, No. 2, pp. 343–364.
-Kim, J., Watts, C., Hargreaves, J., Ndhlovu, L., Phetla, G., Morison, L., Busza, J., Porter, J., and Pronyk, P., 2007, “Understanding the impact of a microfinance-based intervention on women’s empowerment and the reduction of intimate partner violence in South Africa‟, American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 97, No. 10: 1794-802.
- Panda, P. and Agarwal, B., 2005, “Marital violence, human development and women’s property status in India‟, World Development, Vol. 33, No. 5, pp. 823-850.
-Tjaden, Patricia & Thoennes, Nancy, 2000, “Extent, Nature and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey,” National Institute of Justice and the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.
-Samaresekera, Udani and Richard Horton, 2014, “Prevention of violence against women and girls: a new chapter,” The Lancet, Early Online Publication, 21 November 2014. http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(14)61775-X/fulltext#bib2
-World Health Organization (WHO), 2013. “Global and regional estimates of violence against women: prevalence and health effects of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence.” http://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/violence/9789241564625/en/.
As my husband and I finish into our fourth month in country, we all look towards the end of the long period of the dry season. October marks the hottest and driest month in Zimbabwe, soils and people alike are eager for the refreshment of the rains and the nourishment that they will provide as we move into November. It is now, amidst the heat and the longing for replenishment, that the Jacaranda trees display their glory. These brilliant trees offer a bright purple bloom that comes during the depths of the dry season. The trees line the streets of Bulawayo and sprinkle their petals onto the streets, creating a vast carpet of a gorgeous hue. It’s as if they are offering a bit of condolence for the weather that creates such difficulties on the lives of the farmers in this community and a ray of hope for the rains to come.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, if men and women were given the same access to resources, global hunger could be reduced by as many as 100 million people globally. This means that if women are able to access things like capital and training we have an incredible opportunity to make a huge impact on the world. This is exactly what is offered by the amazing organizations that we partner with! Through the works of organizations like Musana, Edge of Seven, Namlo International and all of our amazing partners- women are gaining skills in craftsmanship and business management that will empower them for years to come.
Just as the Jacaranda, we hope that WPMarket can be a small beacon of hope to the communities that we work with. We strive to offer the women that sell their beautiful crafts here at WPMarket an opportunity to expand the reach of their work and an increase in the incomes that they are receiving. Globally, craft production is an opportunity for women to engage in work that they are proud of, that they manage themselves, and that has the potential for them to share just a little piece of their story with the world. Perhaps our partnership can be reminiscent of the purple petals that are scattered throughout my Zimbabwean town and foreshadow the hope of the rains to come.
We are thrilled to announce our newest partner Musana Community Development Organization (Musana). Musana works in Iganda, Uganda in the Eastern part of the country. We first came across Musana in our own backyard of Denver, Colorado. It was founded in 2008 when three American college students (attending The University of Colorado) and two Ugandan college students joined together to provide adequate care, housing, education, and safety to 80 Ugandan children. Six years later, it is an organization committed to equipping Ugandans to be change agents in their own communities and with a continued focus on widows and children, the vast majority of whom are destitute, with little means of support for their dignity, livelihood, or education.
Musana offers its clients a variety of programs, but our favorite (admittedly, biased) is its Women’s Projects. The Women’s Projects currently work in four different villages to teach the women in these villages an employable skill, such as jewelry making, tailoring, or knitting. The women are then paid for the work they complete. These funds help them provide basic necessities for themselves and their families including shelter, food, clothing, and education. Women in its Bwongo village project are also eligible to participate in a microfinance project which includes business training to successfully start and run their own local businesses. Examples of these include brick making, shopkeeping, and milk delivery.
As with all of our partners, Musana is just another great example of an organization working to help women help themselves. Like us at WPMarket, they know that when given the opportunity, these women take off full-steam ahead to create more productive and dignified lives for themselves and their families. Also like us, Musana goes beyond fair and ethical trade: it not only pays each woman a fair wage for her work, thereby increasing her take-home income, but it also equips her with valuable income-generating skills and business training. Additionally, the women are able to work in a healthy environment, interacting and supporting one another. This holistic approach gets at the complex causes of poverty.
We’re excited to have them join us, offering unique and vibrantly-colored products. Shop knowing these goods not only provide valuable income but also fund life-changing programming for women.
At WPMarket, we are on a search. We are searching for products that inspire us with their beauty, their design, and above all else, the greater good that they can achieve. We genuinely believe that we, as consumers, can be a force for change in this world, and we know that we’re not just being idealistic. We have carefully chosen partners that have real, demonstrated impacts from the programming that they are engaged in.
With excitement, we present to you another great organization doing just that: Elolo. Laurie Broomberg started Elolo when she realized the need to support women infected with HIV/AIDS in her community in Cape Town, South Africa. These women were burdened with the stigma associated with their disease and trapped in a vicious cycles of poverty that limited their ability to access the drugs they needed.
Laurie cultivated her passion for beautiful crafts and her entrepreneurial spirit and founded Elolo as a way to help bring these women out of poverty. Elolo provides training to the women who help to craft the beautiful bracelets that we delightfully display at WPMarket. This take home pay has allowed them to build homes, send their children to school, and move beyond being defined by their illness.
Our partners are working every day to impact the lives of the women in their communities. We invite you to be part in the effort and share this journey with us!
“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” ― Robert F. Kennedy
Dana and Rachel
The goal of WPMarket is not to reinvent the wheel when it comes to effectively reaching women and providing them valuable skills, business training, and/or microfinance. The reality is that there are plenty of organizations providing these benefits, as demonstrated by our partners.
We absolutely believe that this type of programming, when done in a sustainable and facilitative way, can be a catalyst in breaking the cycle of poverty. However, in working for many of these types of organizations and through our discussions with future partners, we see that local markets are often too saturated with products and international markets are often too difficult to reach without sufficient human and capital resources for logistics, marketing, and sales that our partners, who are all non-profits or cooperatives, often don’t have. The fact that they are also usually representing only one country and/or a certain number of products is also limiting. On the other hand, our goal is not to simply be a fair trade importer. While doing good work, there are also plenty of those, and we feel there is more we can do to support these types or organizations and the female artisans in a truly meaningful way.
With this thought process in mind, we developed our model to respond to the demand we see. By partnering with vetted organizations providing programming to female entrepreneurs, we are able to have a dual impact. First, we are able to provide income to the female artisans that our partners are working with by selling their products through our website and at local markets and events. This higher income enables the women to better provide necessities for herself and her family while also allowing them to work in a safe, collaborative, and flexible work environment that otherwise might not have been possible. We also see that women who have access to and control of economic resources tend to take on positions of leadership in their households and their communities. Second, by reinvesting a portion of the sales price (up to 20%) into our partner organizations, we are able to support them in continuing their valuable programs. In this way, both the artisans and the organizations benefit.
That said, by providing income to the women at fair prices and by reinvesting a large percentage into our partners, we aren’t left with an extremely profitable model. On one hand, that’s okay: we’re still able to cover our costs, and we are able to support our partners in a meaningful way that reflects our mission. (Dana and I weren’t thinking we could quit our day jobs anyway!). On the other hand, this limits the speed at which we can grow the number of partners we support, the number and types of products we offer, and the number of ways in which we support our partners.
For this reason, we launched our Indiegogo campaign. Our hope is that through this campaign we will be able to raise additional funds for two purposes. First, to increase the number of partners and products we have with an emphasis on further partnering with organizations that have little or no access to international markets. The demand is there, they are just waiting for us to partner with them! Second, to further expand our level and types of support to our current partners. We envision being able to eventually offer grants and other types of support to our partners. Know that your investment will be used directly to grow our programs (not cover salary expenses, as we are entirely volunteer run!)
We’re interested in your thoughts and questions. What do you think of our model? Do you see areas for collaboration? If so, let us know in the comments below or by contacting us as firstname.lastname@example.org.