October 1 marks the first day of Fair Trade Month, a month designed to celebrate fair trade and what it means in our lives. While fair trade doesn’t exclude men, one of the reasons I’m so drawn to this movement is because it helps women in developing countries (some call them third world countries but I, personally, don’t like that term so avoid using it as much as possible).Through fair trade, women are provided with much-needed employment opportunities and often they can do the work at home, as they watch their children or do other household chores (something we as mothers do all the time, all over the world!).
Last month, I made an ambitious decision to launch a scholarship program that would benefit two young girls and provide 4 new computers to a school in the Western Cape province of South Africa through a program I named Bits for Bytes through World Shoppe and Chicago Fair Trade. The theory is that every little “bit” helps and raising $10,000 (in American dollars) would go a long way for this school and these two girls specifically. My goal is to raise it over 12 months and anyone – individuals, families, companies, etc. can help. You can learn more about opportunities here.
To respect their privacy, I’m not broadcasting their names but I do have them if donors would like to know more about the girls or their situation. My hope is to travel to South Africa again next August to hand over a check.
Fair trade isn’t about products. It’s about opportunities. It’s about giving everyone a fair chance at succeeding in this world. I have a soft spot for young girls because, sadly, they are the ones who get neglected the most when it comes to education because families educate the men first (if at all) since they will become the breadwinners of their families. But statistics show that educating girls is the key to helping reduce poverty in developing countries.
Although it’s several years old now, a 1995 study conducted by Kenneth Hadden, an associate professor of agricultural and resource economics at the University of Connecticut, and sociologist Bruce London of Clark University in Worcester, Mass. found that developing countries that educated girls to the same degree as they educated boys benefitted from lower birth rates, longer life expectancies, lower mortality rates and higher economic growth 25 years later. The study examined about 80 developing countries in Latin America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East, offers quantitative data showing that the countries that educated girls in the 1960s had fewer births in the 1980s.
Countries that provided education for girls as well as boys experienced higher economic growth rates than those that did not, according to the study results. Gender inequality in education also produced a moderate negative effect on economic growth and provision for basic needs.
“The pattern is clear. So educate your daughters just as much as your sons,” Hadden said.
Many countries still do not have equality of education, however, and Hadden said there are many reasons for this, including limited economic opportunities for girls; religious, societal and financial constraints; and parental concern for girls’ safety, arising from cultural traditions.
Will we be able to make a change for these two girls and this school? Well, apathy gets us nowhere and I’m committed to making it happen. You can, too. Learn more about how to get involved and be part of the change!
Megy Karydes, Founder