Introduction: Monday, April 4We launch this week’s campaign theme of Women in Poverty with special messages from the top executives from our campaign partners, FITE and Dress for Success: Jane Wurwand, founder & owner of Dermalogica, and Joi Gordon, CEO of Dress for Success.
Founder and Owner, Dermalogica & The International Dermal Institute
It is with great pride that we celebrate the launch of the To Catch a Dollar campaign with an innovative, exciting new opportunity to put our collective intentions, hopes, and dreams for women around the world into action. Dermalogica has a strong history of and commitment to women’s economic empowerment — we have helped 100,000 salon owners and skin therapists get on the path to financial independence since we started 25 years ago. So, it stands to reason that we would be among the founding partners of FITE — Financial Independence Through Entrepreneurship (www.joinFITE.org). FITE is the first microlending site to benefit women entrepreneurs in low income areas of the US and 56 countries. By the end of 2012, Dermalogica, Kiva, and its partners aim to create financial opportunities for 25,000 women, everywhere from the Bronx to Uttar Pradesh.
As a woman entrepreneur who wasn’t able to get a loan when I first started Dermalogica 25 years ago, I was inspired to launch FITE after reading the bestseller by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. Their compelling premise: that the world economy can never thrive until women everywhere experience financial emancipation. Women and girls, they write, are not the problem: they are the solution.
Yet, in much — perhaps most — of the world, girls and women are indeed viewed as a problem, as an afterthought, if lucky. By marginalizing girls and women, this cultural and social discrepancy keeps millions of families in abject poverty. And “families” are increasingly defined as mothers and children, without men for wage-earning or protection; the men are gone, as the result of war, genocide, and HIV/AIDS in many regions of Central and West Africa, as well as many parts of India, for example. It is not unusual, in 2011, for a woman in one of these places (and many others) to find herself with several small children, without an education for herself or her kids, and thus no skilled job prospects.
The FITE initiative cannot presume to tackle all of these deeply enmeshed issues. But we do know how to help entrepreneurial women create paying work for themselves, using their own two hands, which in turn creates a ripple effect of positive change for their families, communities, and whole countries.
The women who will benefit from FITE microloans are involved in a range of businesses — from embroidering silk pillows to selling charcoal, to raising rabbits, geese or ducks. Although we are separated by distance and language barriers, it is difficult not to feel an affinity with these women and their struggle to create a better life for themselves and their families.
In the summer of 2010, I had the great privilege of participating in a roundtable discussion in New York City, organized by the national nonprofit, Step Up Women’s Network (www.suwn.org) and Bayer Healthcare to examine that most fundamental of female emancipations: reproductive freedom. The roundtable was organized to mark the 50th anniversary of the birth-control Pill. Let me add, remarkably, that millions of women in the world still have no access to any form of modern contraception, and this is a pivotal issue at the heart of world-poverty.
One of my fellow panelists in New York that day was Gloria Steinem. At the end of the discussion, I felt overwhelmed, exasperated, exhausted — dehydrated, even — by the vastness of the challenges facing women, especially impoverished women outside the comparatively prosperous bubble of the industrialized West. I said to Ms. Steinem, perhaps rhetorically, “I don’t know what else to do.”
She looked me steadily in the eye and said, without so much as a flicker of irony, “Do more”. So today, when we are all wondering what tangible actions we can take to empower women, I am asking you to do more. Help a woman entrepreneur start or grow a business today.
Read more about Jane.
To ask Jane a question, please click here
CEO of Dress for Success Worldwide
If you help one woman, you are not just helping her–you are helping her children and her community as well. You become a part of shaping the future. Too often women do not have access to the tools and information they need to succeed. We see this everyday at Dress for Success. The overwhelming majority of the women we serve are single mothers overcoming significant obstacles. Most have limited access to important resources that can improve their lives.
At Dress for Success we help disadvantaged women become economically self-sufficient. And while many people know us for our suiting program, we offer additional resources that help women become successful at work and at home. Our Financial Literacy Program is one example.
Financial literacy was always a core component of our programming for employed women, but we realized that many of our women wanted further knowledge on the topic. We created the Financial Literacy Program, a 15-week seminar series focused solely on financial education with topics ranging from basic to advanced. All the participants leave the program with a plan to implement the tools they learned into their daily lives, such as creating a monthly budget, opening a checking and savings account and planning for retirement.
What I find most inspiring is how proud our women are—to take part in the programs and services of Dress for Success, especially the Financial Literacy Program. They begin to teach their children the valuable lessons they learn each week. Not only are they committed to providing a safe and stable home for their children, they work to ensure that their children are equipped with the knowledge to make sound financial decisions starting at any age.
Whether it is the women of Dress for Success or Muhammad Yunus, I see examples of how one person can change the world each and every day.
Read more about Joi.
To ask Joi a question, please click here.