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Women for Women International: Inspiring Change in Women

Women for Women International

“All of us have an opportunity to invest in the untapped potential that resides in women, who too often have their strength and potential overlooked. They are the strong businesswomen, the coffee growers, the basket weavers, the farmers and artisans. They are the women saving money and working in a cooperative. Our challenge is to link them to market opportunities where they can add value.” –Afshan Khan, former President & CEO, Women for Women International

There is no doubt that in modern conflicts, women are increasingly vulnerable, generally being targeted as civilians. In many cases, women are used in sexual violence situations as a method of warfare to replace the sons lost in conflict. Although it is incorrect to make the assumption that men are less vulnerable than women, women are generally more susceptible to poverty, exclusion and suffering as a result of armed conflict.

Violence Isolates Women Into the Shadow of War

With magnifying inequality and social networks break down, women and girls become much more vulnerable to acts of sexual violence and exploitation.

Sexual violence acts are not just a brutal act of violence in war. Sexual violence expressed as rape violates deeply held social values within the community. In many instances, these women are also raped as a means of sending out a message of torture to the rest of the community. Many women who are victims of sexual violence tend to be raped and humiliated in front of the whole community they belong to.

Sexual violence leaves women feeling humiliated and isolated from the communities they belong in. Sexual assault robs these women of their confidence, self-esteem and overall, their self-worth. In many cases, these women feel like they are nothing and they have no value in the world.

In other cases, these women are still affected by poverty, widowhood, discrimination, gender inequality and increased insecurity. All of these issues affect these women even further and plunge them deeper into feeling isolated and disconnected from their communities.

How Women For Women International Is Inspiring Change

For these women who feel forgotten in the shadow of war, Women for Women International empowers women in war-ridden areas to form communities of peace. Since 1993, Women for Women International has offered support to women in 8 different countries worldwide by providing them with the tools to access life-changing skills.

There is a wonderful resilience in the spirits of these women who have been broken time and time again by the shadow of war and conflict. These women carry with them a sense a hope, even though they have lived through hopeless situations. These women have faced struggle to its very core and still continue fighting courageously to keep their families together.

Women for Women International prepares the most marginalized women by making them aware of their power and knowledge to improve the community and society they live in. They bring in women together into a safe space where they can learn about their legal rights, health and nutrition, as well as learn vocational skills to help them in life.

By supporting Women for Women International, you are inspiring change in these women who have lost hope. Your support helps these women fosters hope in themselves. Your support helps empower these women into forging a new path for themselves and their families. Your support helps these women overcome the traumas caused by the violence of war to create a sustainable change to themselves, their families and their communities.

ContactsforLess.ca donates 51% of its profits to the non-for-profit organization of your choice with your purchase. Every month, we are proud to have a highlighted cause that we speak about in order to raise awareness of what they are doing.

 

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Roses for Valentine’s Day: Don’t Buy Them

don't buy roses this valentine's day

Why You Should Not Buy Roses For Valentine’s Day

This Valentine’s Day, 9.8 million dozen roses will be imported into Canada from Columbia & Ecuador, according to StatCan. These two Latin American countries are the world leaders in the flower industry, including the production of roses for Valentine’s Day. However and perhaps more interestingly, these two countries, and their flower industries in particular, have a horrifying record of hiring children and exploiting workers with poor working conditions to meet the demand of this romantic tradition.

A Not So Rosy Picture: Labor Standards in the Flower Industry

There is about a 1 in 12 chance that your good intentions of buying your significant other roses this Valentine’s Day might end up supporting flower plantations with poor working conditions and child labour.

Working Conditions

In order for countries to be able to successfully export flowers to other countries, these flowers must be sprayed with harsh chemicals: pesticides, fungicides and fertilizers. Flower-importing countries refuse to import flowers that have not been sprayed with these chemicals for fear of them carrying unknown diseases and insects that can plague local flora and fauna.

These harsh, toxic chemicals are detrimental for human health. The U.S. Labor Education in the Americas Project notes that 20% of these chemicals that are sprayed on these flowers are so toxic, that they are either restricted or banned in the U.S., Canada and Europe.

More so, the workers in these flower plantations often lack the proper equipment and adequate protective gear. Many of the workers in these flower plantations often suffer from headaches, nausea, impaired vision, rashes, asthma, stillbirths, miscarriages, congenital malformations, and respiratory & neurological problems (all related to being exposed to and handling these restricted chemicals).

In addition, in order to meet the high demand of the Valentine’s Day season, many flower plantations want to cut the costs of hiring more employees to meet the production demand and simply opt for increasing the working hours of their existing employees. This means that employees could be working up to 20 hour days.

Child Labor

The high demand for flower production, especially roses, also causes flower plantations to hire new employees, which often enough, happen to be children. According to The Atlantic, 8.3% of all flowers imported to the U.S. were cut by a child. To put it into perspective, at least 1 out of the dozen roses you buy this Valentine’s Day was cut by a child working in a flower plantation in Latin America.

Although efforts are being done by part of the U.S. government to help prevent child labour in both Ecuador and Columbia, but as of 2010, 13% of children in Ecuador are working, especially in industries such as agriculture. Another study found that in Columbia, children as young as 11 are working full time in the flower industry (although efforts by the U.S. government have been successful in reducing child labour within the country).

As Final Consumers, What Can YOU Do?

As the final consumer of the flowers that are imported every year into Canada for the Valentine’s Day season, you have the final decision on what you want your hard-earned money to support. Is this to support industries with poor labour conditions and that happen to also employ child labour? Hopefully, not.

A harsh reality of how globalization works is that our rich economy, empowered by everyday consumers like you and me, can actually make a difference. If a Canadian refuses to buy from a flower plantation that has poor working conditions and that also employs child labour, they can help shut this plantation down. In our globalized economy, dollar voting can create the change and make a difference towards helping save the planet. Little things such as opting to buy fair trade flowers this Valentine’s Day make the difference.

However, unless consumers stop being indifferent to injustices such as these that we find in the flower industry, human rights conditions will not improve in the international world where there are weaker court systems and poor labour unions. Hopefully this Valentine’s Day, Canadian consumers will rethink their flower purchases and opt for giving something that at least will not wilt in the next few days.

At ContactsForLess.ca, we believe in empowering those organizations that are fighting to save our planet from the profits generated from selling contact lenses. If you are a consumer who is interested into issues and organizations that matter, and you want your dollar vote to really count for something, please do not purchase flowers this Valentine’s Day.