Invest in Women’s Human Rights

March 06, 2015

Connect Member

Angel Investor, Strategist, Catalyst at Large

catalystatlarge.com

Let’s talk about urgent human rights issues for women and girls — violence against women, slavery and trafficking, and more. Trafficking isn’t just an issue far away: 50,000 people are trafficked into the United States every year.

What can you do? Maybe giving charitably or doing advocacy work comes to mind, but you can also make a difference through your investments and purchases.

Consider slavery and trafficking: There are businesses that are focused on supporting previous victims. They may hire formerly trafficked women and girls, or provide them with job skills and pathways to other sustainable employment. Buy investing in these companies, you’re using capital to positively address these issues.

For example, a new U.K. company called Tiny Diner, started by the nonprofit Eaves, has a similar business model to Newman’s Own: all profits go back to supporting their work. Tiny Diner makes organic baby food — a high quality product you can feel good about buying — and one that also tells an important story. Purchases help raise awareness and money for those Eaves supports, including women who have faced domestic abuse, sexual exploitation, and human trafficking.

Even if you don’t need to buy baby food, many of us like beautiful things. So, why not buy well-designed and well-made objects that make a difference? Take We’ve, an online collaborative commerce site whose founder, Eve Blossom, is passionate about beautiful products and services, as well as engaging people to “pledge to shop meaningfully so others can live more fully.” They work in part with women producers in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, India, and Vietnam who are part of marginalized populations, and have many features on their site to support awareness of human rights issues.

Eileen Fisher makes and sells beautiful clothes, and pays the highest level of attention to its supply chain and how its producers are treated. It dedicates a portion of profits to supporting nonprofits and other social impact businesses related to women and girls. And, the company uses its marketing platform to bring awareness to women’s human rights issues. Their current campaign, “No Excuses,” says it all: “Our vision is for an industry where human rights and sustainability are not the effect of a particular initiative, but the cause of a business well run …” I’ll admit it, I’m a big EF fan and I wear a lot of their clothes.

Or, consider an organization like Hagar, in Cambodia. The innovative commercial enterprises Hagar has established are Hagar on Time (HOT!), Hagar Soya, and Hagar Catering and Facilities Management. They provide income-earning opportunities to women who have been trafficked, abused, abandoned, and impoverished. Through a three-pronged approach, they’ve established businesses that provide jobs to marginalized women, that direct profits back to the cause, and that use their brand to raise awareness and support issues.

Women on Wheels is an enterprise in India from the Azad Foundation that teaches disadvantaged women how to drive, how to work as chauffeurs, and how to ask for the respect and dignity they deserve as private chauffeurs. They also train the employers about the human rights and dignity of those they hire.  Companies like this not only create employment opportunities for women, and potentially, a safer transportation option for female customers, but also by including human rights education, they are changing more than just tires.

Whether or not you look expressly for a company that is addressing urgent human rights issues like these, there are qualities you can look for in any company. Does the company make sure suppliers operate factories responsibly? Are women safe getting to and from work, and at work? Is a company providing products, services, or approaches to employment that create more dignity for women and girls? For some, access to sanitation is a human right that just isn’t there. Again, this is about human dignity. There are companies working on access to safe sanitation and menstrual hygiene products, addressing a core human right for women and girls that we take for granted in the U.S.

Just by taking the time to ask where your products come from and how they’re made, you — and your money — can make a difference. So when it comes to supporting human rights, along with making charitable donations, volunteering, and influencing policy (hugely important!), consider the power you wield based on where you invest and where you shop. We can use our investments to make positive change, and see where we can lift up our own dignity through lifting up others. Now that’s style.

Suzanne Biegel is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.

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