This Holiday Season Make A Difference: Give the Gift of Hope to Women and Girls

BlogHer Original Post

In this tough economy many families are struggling just to get by. So instead of buying gifts no one wants (or you can’t really afford) why not give your friends, family and loved ones something meaningful--and also help change the world? To that end, here’s a Humanitarian Gift Guide focused on groups that improve the lives of women and girls around the world. What better way to show how much you care about feminism?

My daughter is 19, but she still loves making beaded jewelry. Just as she did when she was 4. So this year I’m giving her a gift certificate to
Bead for Life Founded by a Colorado woman, this nonprofit benefits women in Uganda who support themselves and their families by making beautiful jewelry out of recycled paper. You can also raise money for the group by hosting a bead party in your home.

When you click on their website, here’s how they greet you: “The world is a beautiful place. Come see it with us!” Global Sistergoods is a fair trade organization that sells handmade products by women in countries from Botswana and Brazil to Kenya and Vietnam. How about a dragonfly ornament? Or a recycled tire handbag? Or a Zulu nativity set? Besides clothing and jewelry, they sell a wonderful array of toys and clothes (the animal T-shirts are adorable) for babies and children.

Based in New York, MADRE is an international women’s rights organization committed to helping women achieve social and economic equality. They sell a variety of handcrafted products (clothes, jewelry, woven textiles) made by women in an effort to build sustainability in poor communities. I loved the Guatemalan baby booties, the memory wire bracelets and a pair of blue enamel earrings.

Women in Afghanistan are among the most oppressed in the world, but Arzu is giving them hope. The group hires women to make those gorgeous handwoven Afghanistan rugs we’ve all coveted. But it also does a lot more: families must send their kids to school and allow women to attend literacy and health classes.

We all want to support healthy moms and babies. So this suggestion comes courtesy of NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, a feminist if there ever was one with his unflagging advocacy on behalf of women and girls. Edna Hospital was founded by Edna Adan Ismail, a Somali nurse-midwife and former foreign minister of Somaliland to address the country’s high rate of maternal mortality. Fifty dollars will allow a woman to receive four prenatal visits, a hospital delivery, and one postnatal visit. Or $150 will pay for a lifesaving C-section for a woman in obstructed labor.

Imagine if your child never had a book of her own? I certainly can’t. And yet that’s the case for millions of American children. One study found that in poor neighborhoods there’s only one age-appropriate book for every 300 children. First Book hopes to change that by supplying children’s books to organizations fighting poverty. If your kids are bookworms, encourage their own charity by asking them to chip in. A $100 gift buys 50 books for a mentor to tutor a child in reading for a year. And just $20 buys 10 books for children.

The sex trafficking of women and girls is a global epidemic. In Southeast Asia girls as young as five are sold into sexual slavery. Somaly Mam was one of those girls. As co-founder of The Somaly Mam Foundation the Cambodian slavery survivor has made it her mission to end human trafficking around the world—and won kudos for her courageous work from women such as Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg. The nonprofit charity rescues girls, provides them with counseling, and helps them build new lives. Their Christmas Empowerment Store is filled with beautiful gifts made by survivors, from a silk necklace for $25 to a $50 pendant. Or buy a pretty silk scarf for your daughter embroidered with Somaly Mam’s heart and hand design. It means freedom and independence.

african girl

Credit Image: Matthias Burch on Flickr

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