In many developing world contexts, women often face a distinct disadvantage when it comes to overcoming poverty. While the reasons may vary from region to region, this disadvantage is often rooted in long held patriarchal beliefs and gendered assumptions. This problem is only heightened when resources are already limited, like they are in the developing world. In these regions, women are often excluded from key industries and denied an education. Instead of seeking work, women are encouraged to tend to the home and community. In addition, women often have less access than men to important community resources such as medical care, credit, and career training.
When women are offered few resources and few opportunities for their voices to be heard, they have little ability as individuals to improve their means. Yet they have the potential to make an extraordinary impact on their households and communities if given the chance. They’re often tasked with the society sustaining responsibilities of rearing children, tending to crops, and providing clean water. If given the proper information and adequate resources, women make immediate improvements that serve as building blocks for future growth.
When considering sustainable aid, human rights organizations and fair trade companies seek to break down traditional employment barriers by offering impartial, equal opportunity employment. Fair trade jobs not only provide consistent work and a livable wage, they create an infrastructure that empowers women through training, educational opportunities, childcare, microloans, team building, and savings match programs. They give women independence and they give them a safe space for voicing concerns. In the long term, they help balance the power between male and female, making it possible for societies to function for the benefit of everyone.
But how do we ensure that fair trade opportunities are truly fair? How can we, separated by hundreds or thousands of miles from fair trade co-ops, provide opportunity without encouraging dependence?
A successful fair trade operation relies on strong local leadership. Jesus' Economy partners with fair trade cooperatives around the world who are based in this impoverished communities. These cooperatives have relationships with fair trade artisans in the community. They're on the ground with them, guiding them, helping them, and watching them succeed.
Likewise, Jesus’ Economy’s Empowering Women program in Bihar, India relies on local representatives to organize community projects, provide training, and spread the message of Christ’s redemptive love. It’s a fair trade model with the potential for longevity—for positive, global change.
Fair Trade empowers women, thereby empowering communities. Empowered communities can change the world!
We as Christians have an obligation to support and promote fair wages and safe working conditions for all, to build up our sisters and brothers, to walk beside them on this rocky path of life.*
For women living in the small Guatemalan village of Cajolá, working hard all day isn’t enough to provide for their families. There are very few economic and education opportunities in the village, where most will spend their entire lives.
In fact, 94% of the entire town live below the poverty line. Many do not have access to even basic primary education. Like many other women in Cajolá, Celia wasn’t able to continue her school studies beyond sixth grade. Before joining the Mayamam Weavers co-op, a partner of Jesus’ Economy, Celia could not earn enough to cover the cost of food, clothing, and schooling for her four children. Celia sewed beautiful blouses and wrap skirts in her home, but the wages were not enough.
By joining the Mayamam Weavers co-op, she joined a group of women who receive fair wages, primary school education through 6th grade level, and access to scholarships for further education through university level. They are changing the future outlook for themselves and their entire family. The women behind the Mayamam Weavers co-op are determined to make their lives better for themselves and their children. With the education and wages they receive from their artistry, they are doing just that.
As a member of the cooperative, Celia took advantage of Mayamam’s scholarship program in 2018. At the age of 36, she finished her middle school curriculum. She was inspired by her new skills in sewing, such as sewing on an industrial machine, putting in zippers, and sewing curves, to continue learning. She is currently studying Fashion Design at the technical school. Because of her passion and eagerness to share what she’s learned, Mayamam Weavers invited her to help with new product development.
The talented artisans at Mayamam not only bring their own craft and style, but also get to learn new skills and methods for creating high quality products.
“Besides being better economically, I have learned skills in sewing that I didn’t know . . . Here (at Mayamam Weavers) we do many different designs of products and I am always learning new things. Here we sew products on industrial machines and that is another skill that I have learned here in my work,” Celia shared.
Poverty can be crippling in many ways. It can shackle us financially, limit our access to education, and even cause us to struggle spiritually. Once we are empowered with the tools of knowledge and skill, we can begin to look outside of our own needs and think about how we can better our community. Celia and the other artisans with Mayamam Weavers are doing just that.
Right now, you can save 33% on select aprons from Guatemala. These beautiful, handwoven aprons are all fair trade. Your apron purchase creates and sustains jobs for women overcoming poverty in Guatemala. This closeout deal is only available while supplies last, so shop soon.
Because fair trade is all about ensuring everyone in the supply chain is paid fairly, we rarely are able to put items on sale on JesusEconomy.org. Today's price is already the best price we can offer. But every once in awhile, a special opportunity comes along where we can honor our fair trade commitment while offering you an even better deal. Such is the case when it comes to a closeout deal on a particular product line.
Our partners in Guatemala, Mayamam Weavers, are working on some new styles and thus we're able to offer a special deal on some closeout items from last year's product line. That makes this deal on aprons really rare.
Mayamam Weavers, a partner of Jesus' Economy, creates handwoven home goods and accessories for modern living—inspired by the rich colors, patterns, and traditional weaving techniques of Mayan culture. Mayamam Weavers was founded in 2008 as a cooperative of women in Cajolá, a Mayan town in the western highlands of Guatemala. To overcome poverty, the women came together to provide jobs within their community, rather than migrate to the U.S. and separate their families. The co-op has now grown to 20 weavers and seamstresses, all earning fair trade wages while learning the skills to run a business.
Global inequality is the root cause of much of the world's problems. If you can't feed or educate your children, you will become desperate. Desperate people do desperate things. Desperation even breeds terrorism. But we can do something about it. We have the power.
Impoverished communities are especially vulnerable to corruption and exploitation. If we could fix these ethical problems and create fair-wage jobs, we could cut off the problem at its source. We could change the world. The key to all this: technology, organization, and simple choices. We need action and we need the right plan. In this talk, I explain how we can leverage our interconnected world to fix global inequality.
I believe in these ideas so much that my wife and I gave up our former lifestyle to make it happen: selling our house, our possessions, and quitting a great job. In this talk, I explain what motivated me to make these drastic decisions; and the part I believe we all can play in transforming our world.
Meet Unis Ansari, a tailor from Nepal whose strength and creativity amazes us! Originally from the south of Nepal, he moved to Kathmandu in search of better opportunities for his family. Unis has now been working for more than 28 years as a Master Tailor with Cheppu of Himalaya, a partner of Jesus’ Economy. He helps design patterns for the breathtaking shawls, ponchos, and scarves they make, and he oversees tailoring at the Cheppu workshop.
Because of his work with Cheppu, Unis has been able to provide for his family and sponsor his children’s education. Cheppu provides scholarships for students in need from elementary to university level, and they are currently supporting 34 Nepalese students through these scholarships. Additionally, Cheppu helps build relationships between the students and private sponsors who can offer further financial support.
Cheppu values preserving tradition and celebrating the richness of diversity. They work to exchange culture through the reflection of ancient traditions--using traditional patterns, materials, techniques, and colors--in their products. They also believe in fighting for sustainability and use recycled or renewable materials whenever possible.
As part of their team, Unis brings practiced expertise and several years of knowledge. He strengthens Cheppu from Himalaya through his beautiful and dedicated craftsmanship. Take a look at some of his other beautiful creations in the Fair Trade Shop.
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
This proverb is a good start, but ultimately inadequate. We must do more than just feed the poor and teach them how to put food on the table. We must walk with the impoverished through the process of coming out of poverty—as their friends. And then, we must connect them to the right resources, so that their livelihoods are sustainable.
We must do more than teach the man to fish—we must fish with him for a while to see what the fishing is like. And then, we must ensure that the fish will always be around. This means connecting people to a larger pool of fish. It means considering not just local economies but the global economy.
When we consider how to best help those who are hurting, we have to think through not just the immediate problems but also the long-term difficulties. We should be asking questions like: How can I help someone not just build a business but be connected to a global marketplace?
So we could say the proverb should be revised to:
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and connect him with the best fishing holes and you feed him for a lifetime.”
But what if the fishing is ruined by the environment or what if people steal the man's fish? How can we fix those types of problems? Our proverb may need even further revision.
Life is about much more than “learning how to fish.” If you teach a person to fish, but don’t meet their other basic needs, they will continue to struggle. It's not good enough to have fish to eat if I don't have clean water to drink or a medic clinic where that can care for my wounds.
Also, if you teach a person to fish but don’t help bring ethical standards to their community, their society will eventually fall apart. The good work will be undone.
There are deep rooted problems in society and these problems are ultimately spiritual. Corruption can destroy any good work. That's where ethics and thus healthy churches come in. We have to change the environment we live in if we want to see lives changed. We have to change the society.
And let’s also not forget what Jesus taught us about fishing in general: We are to do more than meet needs—we must lead people into God’s kingdom and the lifestyle that kingdom demands. Jesus' earliest disciples were fishermen and look what he said to them:
"And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, 'Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.' They immediately left their nets and followed Him" (Matthew 4:18–19 NKJV).
Perhaps, then, we need to revise the proverb once more:
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and connect him with the best fishing holes and you feed him for a time. Join a man in lifting his society out of spiritual and physical poverty and he will never be hungry again."
Although, often the "man" you find will turn out to be woman, whom we should never hesitate to empower. She can lift her entire family out of poverty. Thus the proverb is just as accurate when it reads as follows:
“Give a woman a fish and you feed her for a day. Teach a woman to fish and connect her with the best fishing holes and you feed her for a time. Join a woman in lifting her society out of spiritual and physical poverty and she will never be hungry again."
We need to do everything we can to look at the entire picture: the spiritual and physical problems affecting people. I believe this is how we empower people to overcome poverty. This is what creating a new, spiritual and physical economy for those who need it most is all about. This is what creating Jesus' economy is about.
I hope this article inspires you to do more than teach a man to fish. I hope you decide to really love someone today. Walk with people on their way out of poverty and work with them towards sustainability. Help instill biblical ethics into their community. In the process, I am betting that you will find—as I have—that it alleviates some of your own spiritual poverty.*
*This article is based in part on my previous article, "Moving Beyond 'Teach a Man to Fish'."
Happy International Women’s Day to you strong women (yes, that’s all women)!
It’s International Women’s Day, and while every day is a perfect day to honor and celebrate women, we want to recognize that right now is a great time to start a conversation about gender equality and how this impacts poverty. And hopefully the conversation and the resulting actions continue beyond today.
Historically, women have not been given the same economic opportunities as men, especially in developing countries, and while this has been changing, there is still work to be done. When women are empowered and supported so that they can provide stability for themselves and their families, poverty shrinks, hope is created, and God is glorified.
There are many ways to empower women around the world. Jesus’ Economy is working with an existing program in Bihar, India to do just this.
In Bihar, a state in extreme poverty, families are forced into a repeated cycle of poverty in which their basic needs are not met. But Jesus’ Economy is partnering with a program there that teaches women tailoring and seamstress skills; and then adding innovative business training and microfinance to these efforts. With this program, we will create sustainable jobs for the impoverished.
The day Jesus’ Economy decided to launch this plan is a day CEO John D. Barry will never forget. A woman placed her hands in his and wept. She said, “I can now afford to keep my kids in school, but keeping food on their plates often feels impossible. I am constantly facing the decision of whether to eat or pay for school supplies or clothing for my children. Will you pray for me and my children?” She could pay for her kids to go to school through her sewing work, which she learned via a non-profit sewing school, but her business needed a boost.
Women like this are ready to work hard to offer their children a better life; they just need the opportunity. Together, we can give them this chance for a hopeful future. Jesus’ Economy is offering graduates of the sewing program the chance to learn how to make products for a western market—as well as learn business basics and ethical business practices.
Our partner in Bihar has already taught women how to sew, but they need the additional business skills to become successful and sustainable.
Our business-training program will teach 40 women how to expand their businesses. The training has two phases. First, a trainer will come in and offer a one-week training session on product development, employee management, handling accounts, and running an ethical, fair trade business.
The second phase involves hands-on product development training. This will be a two-week session that guides the women through their own product development cycle and further business ethics training. This trainer will be available for an additional 10 weeks for free consulting to the women. By the end of the training, the women will be equipped to sell high-quality products locally and on the western market. They will have moved from tailors to successful international businesswomen.
After the training, the women will be eligible for a microloan from Jesus’ Economy to purchase supplies for their expanding business. Jesus' Economy also changes the economic paradigm by becoming the guaranteed buyer of the products the women are creating. Jesus' Economy will sell these products in our fair trade shop.
Business-training ultimately fights against the cycle of poverty, and gives women hope of changing the future for generations to come.
International Women’s Day isn’t just about celebrating what women have accomplished. It is also about recognizing what we can still do to empower women and work to put an end to global poverty.
On this International Women’s Day, you can empower a woman in Bihar, India to lift her family out of poverty, and bring positive change to the world.
Mother’s Day is coming up in a couple weeks, and while you can buy her something special from our Fair Trade Shop, consider making a donation in her name to one of our programs to end poverty in Bihar, India.
In Bihar, more than a million people are living in poverty because they do not have access to clean water or the ability to buy or grow food. The economy is poor, and there are simply not enough jobs. And when families have limited food and water, education gets pushed back, and the families remain stuck in a cycle of poverty.
But Jesus’ Economy is doing something to stop that, and this Mother’s Day, you can donate to eradicate poverty.
A large contributor to the poverty in Bihar is a lack of clean water. Some women and children spend many hours each day walking miles to collect drinking water. This takes up so much time that women cannot work and children cannot go school. Our clean water program raises funds to drill wells in Bihar. Each well can provide safe water for 2,000 people, and so far we have completed four wells.
When families have access to safe water, women have more time to work and provide for their families. Our empowering women program is going to train 40 women to run successful tailoring businesses and sell their products on the western market. These women already have skills in tailoring, but need an opportunity to learn business skills.
We are working to bring hope through the alleviation of physical and spiritual poverty. Our church planting program funds church planters in various villages in Bihar to set up home churches, and also to go into the villages and share the gospel. At this point, we are funding four church planters, all of whom are additionally starting Bible studies and literacy training as they go. Thousands of people in Bihar are hearing the gospel for the first time, and each church planter brings the gospel to thousands more.
The moms in our lives have shaped us and taught us how to take care of the world. On Mother’s Day, celebrate these moms by giving back and fighting to end poverty.
Since 2010, The White House administration has declared January for the prevention of human trafficking. This is because between 2008 and 2010, the FBI investigated 2,515 suspected incidents of trafficking in the U.S. Human trafficking is seen as modern day slavery and is increasing at a rapid rate both at home and across the globe. Globally, that number skyrockets to a staggering 20.9 million people forced into labor and human trafficking, according to estimates by the International Labor Organization.
Human trafficking can happen to anyone. However, traffickers typically prey on vulnerable populations or "easy" targets such as women and children and those who are runaways, homeless, and victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Traffickers are looking for someone who will go with them without a fight whether that's a child or someone in a desperate situation in their life. And the less stable someone's life is, the higher the probability that they'll agree to go with someone under false pretenses such as the promise of a job or relationship.
That's why it's so important we continue to empower people around the world and create jobs so they can lift themselves out of poverty and decrease their risk of being trafficked. Job creation and empowering women is at the heart of Jesus' Economy. It's why we offer handmade, fairly traded products to you in our Fair Trade Shop. It's why we started an empowering women program for women who need help jumpstarting their businesses. It's why we dig wells in remote villages so thousands of people can have access to clean water and stop walking miles to get it.
With our Fair Trade Shop, we can give artisans all over the world a boost by offering their products to the western market and telling their story to a wide audience. Money doesn't just stay in the village anymore, exchanging hands without anyone actually doing better, it becomes international and whole families are lifted out of poverty.
Suddenly they're not choosing between food and shoes or school and walking to get water. It creates jobs for the artisans and allows them to give their family a "normal," stable life with consistent income. More stability means less chance of someone in the family being trafficked because of the promise of a job or lots of money.
Because of our initiatives to empower women, we've seen women all over the world boost their business sales and provide for their families' needs. The more products they sell and training they get, the more empowered they become. Simple put, empowering women who were once impoverished and felt hopeless helps prevent trafficking.
Anyone who loves to be in the kitchen or who loves to entertain guests knows kitchen products are important. Having the right tools or table settings can make all the difference. That's why you or the chef in your life will love our kitchen line from Mayamam Weavers.
The artisan co-op, Mayamam Weavers, is a group of women from Guatemala who refuse to leave their home country and families behind to make a living. So they made a way to support themselves and their families while staying in their communities. They weave all of their products by hand on looms using different techniques and tie in their Mayan culture.
This table runner is made from sturdy, handwoven cotton. It's also machine washable and dryable, which is a big plus. Most table runners are delicate and need to be washed by hand which is tough to manage when after almost every time you use it, it has food stains on it. But this one? Throw it in the machine and you're set. It also comes in celery plaid and ocean plaid.
This sturdy handwoven cotton set comes in a variety of colors and patterns. The potholder features a loop for hanging, doubles as a gripper, and is lined with insulbrite. Both the towel and the pot holder are machine washable and dryable.
The Mayamam Weavers group handweaves a multitude of aprons, in a variety of styles, patterns, and colors. My personal favorite is the bistro style and you just know the chef in your life would love one of these styles to wear while they work in the kitchen.
These napkins come in a set of four with mitred corners and are 20" x 20". They are handwoven and come in a variety of bright colors and patterns that are sure to make your table pop.
These dish cloths are made with a hache weave which is perfect for working as a scrubbing dish cloth. It's also highly absorbent and features a twill hook for hanging. The dish cloths woven by hand come in many different colors and patterns and come two to a set.
Shop these kitchen products and more in our collection from Guatemala in our Fair Trade Shop.
Remember, there's only a few days left to order first class mail and receive it by Christmas.
Christmas shoppers please note: the last day to order Rwandan products in time for Christmas is December 18. Also, Jesus' Economy will be unable to ship Nepali products between the dates of December 16 to January 4.