Thursday, August 18, 2011

Uplift the Commons, SE Block Party, Aug 27

Next Saturday, AWAZ will be at Southeast Uplift's Summer Celebration: Uplift the Commons!

In addition to our booth, there will be great food, refreshments and entertainment. This is a family friendly event so be sure to bring the kids. The party is Saturday, August 27 from 4:00 pm to 9:30 pm on 3534 SE Main St. We hope to see you there!

Check out the event on Facebook and their website.

For more information about Southeast Uplift Neighborhood Coalition, visit their website:

Monday, August 15, 2011

Women and Development in the Global South: Creating Community Leaders

More and more groups are realizing that to effectively reduce poverty, all community members need to be involved in development - this particularly means women. Educating and empowering women has had dramatically positive impacts in poor areas, in everything from reduced rates of disease, to slower population growth, to reduced poverty and increased employment. All-in-all women need to be involved in the development of their communities to really make things better for everyone, and governments and non-profits are talking about it. Here are some recent articles discussing, not only the importance of women in development but what more needs to be done:

From Amnesty International, this article talks about the need to further expand girl's access to education and consider what success in women's education really means and requires. They make the case that education still needs to be more equitable and safe and issues such as child marriage the availability of female teachers need to be addressed in order to truly educate more girls across the world.

The Women's News Network points out that the demand for women's micro-financing is not being met, denying a huge growth and development potential. They call on more banks to serve women in order to not only help the economy but reduce poverty.

China is answering this call by integrating women into development. The country is recognizing the different needs of different genders and trying to address women's concerns more in order to promote development.

We are so interested in this topic because AWAZ Voice for Empowerment works with mostly women groups. The work the groups do is truly giving women a voice. We have seen firsthand how women gain status and become valued because of their income and skills. This valuation in turn improves morale and self-confidence. The groups we work with are allowing women access to equal opportunities like bank accounts, and getting involved in local government councils or village government groups. When this happens, there is a ripple effect - it is inspiring to witness empowered women. When mothers work, it creates more opportunities and hopeful futures for their children who tend to look for more skilled work and consider college.

It is encouraging to see how many groups are embracing the ideals of gender equality and women's empowerment. These projects have very tangible impacts not just for women, but for entire communities.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Fundraiser Block Party for Neighborhood House, Aug 20

Saint Mark's Presbyterian Church is hosting a block party that will act as a fundraiser for Neighborhood House. This nonprofit helps people in need in the Portland area work towards stability and independence.

Join the fun at a neighborhood block party! Enjoy food booths, children's activities, face painting, a blow-up play area and live music. Proceeds will support Neighborhood House, a local non-profit that serves low-income families in our area. Come support their work and have a great time too!

AWAZ will have a booth at this event and a portion of every sale will go to the cause, so come out and support us and this great organization.

The event is on Saturday, August 20, from 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm at St. Mark's (9750 SW Terwilliger Blvd).

Check out their flyer, Facebook page and website for more information.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Alberta Street Fair, Aug 13

This weekend AWAZ will be at the Alberta Street Fair! This fun annual event boasts vendors, food, dancing, family activities and much more!

So head on down for a good time on Saturday, August 13 from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm. The event is on Alberta Street from 10th St. to 30th St.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Consumer Responsibility

A few days ago, we wrote a blog about Fair Trade growth and expansion across the nation, including the introduction of great new products. Read that post here. This is definitely good news, but the real take away from this should be the influence of everyday consumers like us.

The only reason Fair Trade has seen the huge growth explained in our last blog is that individuals have committed to purchasing Fair Trade products. Consumer responsibility means making the choice to support social and moral values with your dollar, even if there is little big governmental or industrial support. If you want to see more fairly traded products available, you must buy the ones out there now. This is the only way the movement is going to continue to grow.

For some inspiration, check out local writer Kym Croft Miller’s story about how her family went a year without shopping. In an effort to refocus their family, the Millers stopped buying all but essentials for an entire year.

Experiments like this are cropping up all over the country from churches vowing to not spend money at Christmas to families agreeing to buy nothing that comes from outside a certain mileage radius. More and more people are taking a very personal look at their shopping habits and their relationship to ‘stuff’ and finding it to be an empowering experience more often than not. If we can quell the impulse and desire associated with shopping, we will slow down and have the clarity to think about what we want and why we want it. Then we can exercise consumer responsibility and make purchases in line with our values.

We highly recommend watching the 'Story of Stuff' video to further examine our consumerism and what the impact is of all the 'stuff' we purchase. The Story of Stuff Project is an incredible resource!

Whether it is AWAZ products or not, we hope you will be thoughtful with your purchases and consider how everything from food to clothes to cosmetics that you use everyday can either support the creation of a more just world or further destroy equity and dignity. Please think about small changes you can make this week - even one product makes a big difference for the producer.

On Monday, the Grameen Foundation tweeted this quote from Mahatma Ghandi "Think of the poorest person you have ever seen and ask if your next action will be of any use to him." Making your next purchase a Fair Trade one can do just that, even if it is only a cup of coffee.

For more on how you can Fair Trade your lifestyle, keep an eye out for the Northwest Fair Trade Coalition’s upcoming blog series on incorporating Fair Trade habits into various aspects of your life.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Good News for Fair Trade

What's new in Fair Trade and where is it going? From recent news it seems that Fair Trade is growing and expanding to include more and more common products.

First, check out this article about how Fair Trade is expanding: "Why Fair Trade Imports Rise Even As Buyers Shun Other Eco-Friendly Products." The article explains that Fair Trade products have experienced rapid growth in imports since Fair Trade USA first began certifying coffee in 1998, leading to the expansion of the market and inclusion of more products from sugar to soccer balls (see below for more new products). The author speculates that the environmental protection aspect is not alone responsible for growth, but that people are mostly flocking to fairly traded goods because of personal stories and feeling connected to the producer.

Fair Trade Towns cites the following stats about the growth of fairly traded goods in the United States:
  • Fair Trade sales increased 10% in the U.S. between 2007 and 2008 while, nationally, retail sales declined over 13%. Stable market growth in Fair Trade is attributed to socially and environmentally conscious consumers that consistently purchase in line with their values.
  • Fair Trade accounted for $3.2 billion in sales in U.S. in 2007 (a 48% increase from 2006).
  • Fair Trade comprises the fastest growing segment of the coffee industry.
  • Originating in the 1940s, Fair Trade is not a passing trend, but a steadily growing market segment.

Here are some new Fair Trade products benefiting from the growth:

Check out this story from Fair Trade Resource Network: "Fair Trade Gold Limited but now Available in U.S." In the article, author Larry Bohlen explains how gold is becoming the latest fairly traded product in the U.S. with several jewelry companies beginning to use the product, which promises better social and environmental conditions for gold producers.

For more, see this article from Abu Dhabi's English newspaper, The National, about the rise of fashionable fairly traded gold jewelry: "Fairtrade and Fairmined Gold."

Yes, that's right, you can now fair trade your happy hour. The world's first Fair Trade spirit company FAIR, started by two Frenchmen, introduced a fairly traded vodka made from quinoa grown in Bolivia. The company also has two other unique and fairly traded spirits. According to the website, there are even four places in the Portland area to buy the products. Cheers!

Some more information:

In 2008, articles started coming out about how Fair Trade was spreading to cosmetics. Companies from India to the United States are feeling the pressure to clean up their act and source ingredients responsibly. Especially with high levels of concern over the health impacts of cosmetics and the recent introduction of the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011 and the pressure of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, more and more companies are realizing that consumers want products that are safe to use and safe to produce.

To read more about Fair Trade cosmetics, check out this article. And this one from Redbook, about one writer's personal encounter with Fair Trade cosmetics - specifically look for Aveda's Uruku makeup line. The article lists a few other companies beginning to use Fair Trade ingredients too.

Around the world: An article from India about the fairly traded cosmetics market there and one about shea nut gatherers in Burkina Faso.

And finally, a local option... Portland-made SOLGAIA BAR
SOLGAIA BAR is a brand new granola bar made by Dana in Portland. Her philosophy is to make every aspect of her product as healthy for people and the environment as possible, so from the ingredients to the packaging to the (solar-powered) website, you can feel secure about everything about SOLGAIA BAR. Sarah picked one of these up at a coffee shop in southeast Portland. Check out the SOLGAIA BAR website for a list of all the places you can find them.

Good news for producers and consumers everywhere! The more fairly traded products that are available the closer consumers can be connected with where their products come from and be sure the producers are valued and treated with respect.