Five Dynamic Entrepreneurs from Vladivostok Share Their Stories #SanDiegoVladivostok

Women’s International Center Spotlight on Women Speaker Series and  Ahlers International Speaker Series Present:

Russian Entrepreneur Panel from San Diego’s Sister City Vladivostok
In
 partnership with The University of San Diego Ahlers Center for International Business, San Diego World Affairs Council, San Diego International Sister Cities Association, Open World Program.

  • Article by Bridget McDonald, Executive Director Women’s International Center


Photo: L-R Natalya Alekseyevna Kozlova, Yevgeniya Nikolayevna Rogalskaya, Erin Kellaway, David Edick Jr., Alina Aleksandrovna Gorshkova, Natalya Igorevna Kirchanova, Yelena Vasilyevna Demidenko, Bridget McDonald


University of San Diego

How honored we were to welcome a dynamic group of Russian entrepreneurs who traveled all the way from Vladivostok to San Diego to share their fascinating stories about the opportunities and challenges arising from starting and running a business. Our panelists included:

Natalya Igorevna Kirchanova, Director, Niki, Ltd
Natalya Alekseyevna Kozlova, Owner, Indigo, Ltd.
Yevgeniya Nikolayevna Rogalskaya, Director, Owner, Aunt Roza, Ltd.
Alina Aleksandrovna Gorshkova, General Director, Mirae, Ltd.
Yelena Vasilyevna Demidenko, Director, TETA Company

Complete with a colorful slideshow, our panel began with a presentation by Natalya Igorevna Kirchanova, Director, Niki, Ltd. She related that she originally received a grant and began her business with just one small store — a mini market — and she currently is that store’s director. The market sells food, tobacco, alcohol, stationery, toys and cleaning products. The goal of her company is to meet the needs of her clientele by providing variety and choice. Her team closely monitors expiration dates and has tight quality control. They feature both local and international suppliers, for example they sell Jack Daniels from the US. Her store is located in a well-populated residential area.

The second panelist, Alina Aleksandrovna Gorshkova, General Director, Mirae, Ltd., is the energetic founder of a company that provides and implements heating and cleaning systems. She began her business as a twenty-year-old student ten years ago and now she has businesses in both Moscow and Vladivostok. She provides infrared heating, which is a new more energy efficient type of heating.

Here company’s name Mirae is the name of a type of heater film. When she was a student in South Korea, she learned that this kind of infrared heating system was widespread in homes and dormitories. Because she speaks Korean, she was able to find the vendor of this particular kind of heating film in Korea and her determination has paid off because she now she has exclusive rights for providing this film throughout Russia. She explains that she contracts with both private parties and with the government. Her company does charity work by installing the heating film free of charge in some cases and by giving it as a gift to foster children for their playrooms.

Gorshkova is currently interested in learning more about new clean technologies for heating homes and saving energy. During this international Open World exchange program, she hopes to find even newer technologies that she can implement in Russia. Keeping sustainable and environmentally-friendly energy as her company’s main focus, Mirae also imports solar lights used to beautify gardens, so Gorshkova is interested in finding US vendors of solar panels.

Third panelist, Yevgeniya Nikolayevna Rogalskaya, Director, Owner, Aunt Roza, Ltd graduated from a state technical university and her specialty is engineering. She began by drawing maps for an entire year, then she decided to become a graphic designer and went on to found a company. When there was an economic crisis in Russia, she closed her company and went into the flower business. Early in her career, she had helped her mother open their first flower shop together. She told her mother that they would do business together and would call it “Aunt Roza,” which has become the name of their brand. In the course of 5 years she has gone on to open not one, two or three, but five flower shops where she sells flower and other goods.

Rogalskaya then decided to expand her business and focused on four complimentary disciplines. She currently beautifies interior spaces like offices and homes and has been beautifying car dealerships as well. She manages one flower shop out of five, choosing to focus on corporate clients because of the profitability. Years ago, customers began asking her about handmade cards and envelopes and she now has about 400 card designs for various kinds of events. In her studio where she produces envelopes and cards, they conduct workshops for children where they teach kids how to create different flowers from different materials. Now that the company has been in business for 10 years, Rogalskaya hopes that in 20 years they will be world famous.

Our fourth panelist, Natalya Alekseyevna Kozlova, Owner, Indigo, Ltd., underlines the importance of Behavioral Health. When it comes to dialogue, Kozlova prefers to be the one asking the questions: the main focus of her business is psychology. As a professional psychologist and coach, she is an expert in human services. Some of her preferred fields include art therapy and Jungian psychoanalysis. She coaches individuals, businesses and many executives. When it comes to managing human resources, she consults with several corporations. Small businesses, like those of her colleagues, often come to her for help with their executive leaders. Many executives know how to generate funds, but they often do not know how to deal with employees, so Kozlova helps them. In a world where Behavioral Healthcare is needed more than ever, psychologists like Kozlova are indispensable to successful companies.

Yelena Vasilyevna Demidenko, Director, TETA Company, is our final fifth panelist and she has a degree in international business. During the course of her life’s journey, she originally prepared to become a mother. Always fond of fashion, she ended up with a career that matched her skills and interest: the manufacturing of uniforms.  Along with stylish uniforms and promotional clothing, her company produces tablecloths, stage costumes, souvenirs while working in the hospitality sector. Because of hard work and steadfast dedication, her company grew into continued success and now she is a mother of three who encourages other women to go into business.

She is an advocate for the Russian public non-profit organization called OPORA Committee for the Advancement of Women Entrepreneurship. For the benefit of mothers, she began a Mother Entrepreneurship program in which the only condition for participating is to have had children or be planning to have children. This organization offers assistance packages to help mothers become business-women. As a result, the percentage of women entrepreneurs in Russia is increasing. There are still fewer women than men entrepreneurs in Russia, but in her region of Vladivostok, the percentage is higher than the national average, at about 54%.

After this fascinating panel, the audience was eager to ask questions. The replies are candid and informative!

Question: “What were some of the difficulties you faced?”

Responses: “When people saw that we were young, we had to prove ourselves as experts in the areas that we were promoting, to prove ourselves as more knowledgable than the vendors themselves.

Question: “How do you handle children?”

Responses:  “An effective entrepreneur can also be an effective mother. It is simply a question of balancing being successful both as a mother and as a business-woman. During this trip to San Diego, the same question has come up before and is also asked to business-women in the US. Fortunately, general acceptance of being successful at both entrepreneurship and motherhood is increasing.”

Responses: “When I was at the start-up stage, I used to work as an employee and worked with a supplying vendor. I thought I could trust him as a vendor. Then I found out there was another CEO who gave me lots of problems. When it came to delivery, he kept postponing delivery, always saying “Tomorrow, tomorrow tomorrow.’ The refrigeration equipment in question was never delivered and all the groceries were on their way to the store, complete with an expiration date. With all these groceries en route, there was no storage equipment to store them. This was one of my biggest financial and psychological challenges. Ultimately, I had to buy different storage equipment from a different supplier, so the expiration date was even shorter. It was difficult, but with the help of my family and our resolve, we managed.”

Response by Alina Aleksandrovna Gorshkova: “In Russia, we have the same rights as men do to defend ourselves. I had one client with a big house, he was financially stable and wanted to buy our heating system. He asked for documentation and proof that our system was reliable, so he asked my employees to send in a director. When I showed up, three times in a row he said “Go away girl, send me your director.” Only after a detailed conversation full of science, facts and figures did he finally shake my hand and said “I am so sorry.” Recently, in my meetings with government, these kinds of situations have improved. Hopefully things are changing for the better, maybe I am just getting older!”

Question: “Please tell us how you got started.”

Response by Natalya Igorevna Kirchanova: “I got a grant to begin my business. I wrote a business plan to go to workshops on merchandizing and accounting. It was the government that decided whether to give me this grant. If a grant’s requirements are not met, we have to return the funds. During the first three years, I needed to provide reports, and demonstrate that I have been the owner of the business for three years. Years later, I sold the whole business and opened the new store that I have now.

Responses: “Banks were not very good with small businesses. I used some of my own, as well as my family’s, money to open my business. I am currently looking for investors.”

Responses: “I hardly had any money and had to do everything by myself. So I printed small things by hand, designed banners and posters. Little by little the business grew. Now we have lots of clients and a good reputation. I follow my intuition, instincts, and use my skills. Without intuition, there is no single book or workshop that will help. I have contracts with the Moscow government, which is a huge achievement! I have never read a single book or been to a workshop on business.”

Question: “How were you able to get a grant from the Russian government?”

Responses: “We actively took part in expos and conferences. Many people attend, including famous celebrities and many people who work for the government. There was a gentleman who passed by our booth and was interested in our product. I did not know who he was, we told him about our product and he was very interested. Then I received a special invitation from the Moscow government to attend a Real Estate event in Moscow. After this special conference, it was possible to network even more with the government in Moscow.

Women’s International Center gives special thanks to these dynamic entrepreneurs willing to share their enlightening stories, as well as to:

Erin Kellaway of University of San Diego Ahlers Center for International Business
David Edick Jr of the San Diego World Affairs Council
The Open World Program
San Diego International Sister Cities Program

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5 Fun Ways to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day Without Alcohol

GreenChicago5 Ways to Celebrate the Luck of the Irish Without Alcohol

If there is one holiday that seems to be solely about imbibing, it’s St. Patrick’s Day. From green beer to pub crawls, St. Paddy’s Day is rife with libations. That’s all well and good when you’re in college and your late 20s, but for parents of young kids, recovering addicts, and people who are not yet 21, it’s difficult to find a way to celebrate the luck of the Irish without drinking. Our celebration suggestions will help you do just that.

  1. Attend a Parade

Hundreds of communities across the United States host St. Patrick’s Day parades. While some may involve revelers who stand and drink on the sidewalk, others are designed to be family-friendly. Across the United States, cities host parades with floats, bands, Irish-themed music, bagpipers, and more. Find a parade near you and look online to see whether any offer festivals or activities for families after the parade. For example, in San Francisco, The Festival at City Hall provides information about Irish history and culture and features live performances, entertainment, arts and crafts vendors, children’s rides and inflatables, and non-profit booths representing the Irish community.

  1. Attend a Sober St. Patrick’s Day Event

If you have young children, are not yet 21, or are a recovering addict looking for a strictly alcohol-free way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, plan to attend a Sober St. Patrick’s Day event in Richmond, VirginiaNew York City, or Philadelphia. Hours of Irish entertainment are planned for these events, which offer a healthy, safe experience for families and addicts in recovery. Enjoy music, singers, pipe bands, dancers, vendors, guest speakers, snacks, and alcohol-free beverages. These events make it a point to help attendees enjoy traditional Irish music and Irish groups celebrating the culture and traditions of Ireland rather than the Americanized green beer and Irish coffee version of the holiday.

If you do travel to attend a Sober St. Patrick’s Day Event, plan to do so with a group of friends or family members so you all can enjoy the holiday together. Because these events are well-attended, get into the spirit by making shirts to help you identify one another in the crowd and to show off your full love of the holiday.

  1. Plan an Irish Dinner Party

What better day to enjoy Irish fare than St. Paddy’s Day. If you host a party, you can ensure the event is family friendly and alcohol-free. Try a classic Irish stew, corned beef and cabbage, shepherd’s pie, or Irish soda bread. To help everyone get into the spirit, ask each guest to bring an Irish dish; this will help you save some time in the kitchen, too.

  1. Fun St. Patrick’s Day Food for Kids

If you have kids who won’t be as excited about the traditional Irish food as the adults, you can still get them into the holiday spirit with some fun St. Patrick’s Day food. One of the easiest things to do for kids is to dye their food green. Make green scrambled eggs or pancakes for breakfast. Try dyeing their milk green. For a snack, try making green candied popcorn. You also can make shamrock sugar cookies or decorate a cake using rainbow icing. Get creative and enjoy spending time cooking and baking in the kitchen with your kids.

  1. Play St. Patrick’s Day Games

If you want to stay home and have a low-key St. Patrick’s Day, line up some activities that the whole family can enjoy. St. Paddy’s Day games that kids of nearly any age can play include Hot Potato, Potato Hunt (hide small potatoes instead of Easter eggs), or a pot of gold treasure hunt (spray paint stones with gold paint or have kids search for chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil). You also can fill a container with green candy and have the kids guess how many are inside.

There are several ways you can enjoy St. Patrick’s Day without alcohol. From family-friendly parades and festivals to fun activities and meals at home, you can enjoy the holiday and celebrate the luck of the Irish and never miss the green beer and whiskey. If you do choose to drink for St. Paddy’s Day, do so responsibly and keep in mind the dangers of binge drinking.

Article by Sarah Lockwood ThePreventionCoalition.org

Image: Green Chicago (Above is via Pixabay by sam99929)

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Bahrain International Corporate Social Responsibility Conference 2015

Bahrain CSR Conference 2015 Banner Bahrain International Corporate Social Responsibility Conference Logo

Beyond Eco-Industrialism
by Bridget McDonald, Ph.D.

What do we do when we know that billions of people depend on energy that is currently being delivered in the form of fossil fuels, whether oil, natural gas, or coal, and the demand for clean energy has never been greater? The answer is to partner with the world’s leading sustainable energy engineers, gather up-to-the-minute knowledge of trapping carbon emissions, and responsibly use renewable energy faster than fossil fuel reserves can be depleted. Effective use of renewable energy in many cases means creating infrastructure for these forms of energy, whether geothermal, solar, wind, tidal/ocean/hydro-power, biomass (biodiesel, ethanol, biogas), methane/landfill gas recovery, or hydrogen, among other sources. Our globe will be well on its way to climate stabilization by 2035  if we reduce carbon emissions by 2/3 and engage in massive reforestation efforts along with aggressive carbon sequestration.

In our rush to clean up twenty-first century energy production and delivery, we find ourselves accidentally, but naturally, looking back to the past and to ancient, reliable means of producing energy that sustained entire civilizations, for example to Roman aqueducts that are still used today, channeling the weight of water for distribution in countries like France. Windmills spin globally, having been used for centuries in the Middle East and Europe, gravity-based steppe agriculture thrives in Eurasia and Russia, igloos made of and surrounded by ice still manage to keep Inuit and other populations warm. Our ancestors achieved what nations everywhere are calling for today: carbon free energy independence.

As important as it is to urgently and responsibly develop renewable energy infrastructure from windmill fields to solar-powered villages, existing energy efficiency depends on landscaping for energy and water conservation as well as local organic food production, the preservation of bio-diversity by protecting green space and wildlife with enforced legislation, sustainable waste management including alternatives to incineration, widely available family planning tools, protected education, shared knowledge via open data systems, and cross-cultural understanding through communication. In the name of all these ideas which ultimately make peaceful societies possible, a dynamic group in Bahrain is taking bold inclusive steps forward in support of corporate responsibility worldwide. What better way is there to help mega-companies be responsible than hand them an executable road map – always in progress based on current research – developed by the experts?

In the geographical heart of our world’s leading suppliers of non-renewable fuel, from February 9-11 2015, the 2nd Bahrain International Corporate Social Responsibility Conference and Exhibition takes place in the Kingdom of Bahrain’s capital city Manama. Gathering together will be environmental sustainability leaders from Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Australia, Dubai, Portugal, Finland, Hungary, Kuwait, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Czech Republic, South Africa, Bangladesh, Malaysia, India, the Netherlands and other countries. Delivering one of the keynote talks is Ms. Habiba Al Marashi, President and CEO of the Arabia Corporate Social Responsibility Network, the first multi-stakeholder platform advocating corporate social responsibility and sustainable development across the Arab world. Another speaker is engineer A. Majeed Al Gassab from the Bahrain Society of Engineers, who represents the Kingdom of Bahrain in the World Federation of Engineers Environment Committee, a standing committee of UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Organized by Bahrain’s National Oil and Gas Authority, as well as by the Bahrain Society of Engineers, this Corporate Social Responsibility conference shows a Bahrain that is choosing to lead by example, to share knowledge, and evolve responsibly in an interconnected global community. Even top conservative economists and many oil companies now advocate reducing fossil fuel CO2 emissions by taxing carbon-polluting oil, gas, and coal industries with a gradually rising price on carbon where all collected revenue is eventually returned to citizens. We can all give thanks to the country of Bahrain for hosting this most-needed conference. Everyone knows that with great riches comes great responsibility.

Oil magnates certainly have the means to live privately sequestered from the world’s chatter, and yet at this conference, the intention is that everyone be represented and dialogue equally at the table, and, at the very least, share and make available to all the latest knowledge to help corporations worldwide be more responsible. Notably, there are three practical workshops for C-level executives, managers, directors and decision makers including a Workshop on Fundamentals of CSR (corporate social responsibility) led by Arabia CSR Network, a Workshop on CSR Strategy & Leadership led by Arabia CSR Network and a workshop about Social Return on Investment, led by Alexandre Lemille. These fact-filled problem-solving hands-on workshops award certificates of attendance to participants.

Coordinated by Ms. Sumam Jovan, this informative conference sports a dazzling array of sponsors who no doubt are eager to participate and bring money-saving tools back to their companies: The Bahrain Airport Company, Equate Partners in Success, The Bahrain Petroleum Company, Arab Potash Company PLC, Alhi United Bank, GPIC, Samref, OCP, Sabic, MCSC, Tasnee, and others.  Under the patronage of the Kingdom of Bahrain’s Minister of Energy, H.E. Dr. Abdul Hussain bin Ali Mirza, this conference will equip participating representatives with the latest strategies and guidelines for sustainable growth.

Our work is cut out for us and the timing of this conference could not be more urgent. The UN Environment Program brings our attention to a mass extinction of life currently under way in which 200 species of plant, insect, bird, fish and mammal become extinct every 24 hours. At the same time that our world population has doubled in recent years, so the animal population has been reduced by half. In other words, 50% of all wildlife on planet Earth has vanished in just forty years. These devastating trends at 1,000 times the natural rate are unsustainable if we are to preserve a habitable planet. The formation of local renewable power providers, or CCA’s — community choice aggregation — offers an alternative to reliance on polluting power plants.

In a vibrant pulsing modern world linked by freeways, airways, waterways, railways, and mobile technologies where a single voyage can deliver a passenger from a dirt foot path on a bike to a car, bus, train, ship and aircraft and back again in one day, every individual needs to do their part to create her and his own sustainable lifestyle. Our responsibilities as individuals include speaking up about the creation of a safe livable future. We can speak to friends, family, clergy, schools, universities, law makers, media, governments and businesses using our voices, our influence, and social media. We can invest in green technologies, stop using pesticides and fertilizers, recycle, upcycle, repurpose and reuse, reduce our consumption of water, energy and meat, choose to carpool, walk, bike, and hike, and support shops and businesses that go green. When we individuals do our part, we are meeting corporations half way and together can bring about positive lasting sustainable change.

In 2015, the Bahrain International Corporate Social Responsibility Conference (BICSR) kicks off a year of compelling conferences. Some other key sustainability events this year include:

April 13-14, 2015  Venice, Italy: XIII International Conference on Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability https://www.waset.org/conference/2015/04/venice/ICECESS

June 11-June 14, 2015  Kobe, Japan:  The Fifth Asian Conference on Sustainability, Energy and the Environment 2015 ACSEE 2015  http://iafor.org/iafor/conferences/acsee2015/

Sept 27-Oct 3, 2015  Dubrovnik, Croatia:  The 10th Conference on Sustainable Development of Energy, Water and Environment Systems – SDEWES Conference http://www.dubrovnik2015.sdewes.org/

Nov 28-Dec 4, 2015  Kyoto, Japan: World Engineering Conference and Convention – WECC 2015 http://www.congre.co.jp/wecc2015/about/index.html

Bridget McDonald, Ph.D. is President of the Women’s International Center, a member of Women in Engineering, part of the WFEO World Federation of Engineering Organizations, a standing committee of UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

 

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The Education of Women Internationally and an Increased Rate of Return

Paul'sWife

by Mylène Dautel and Lise Calligaris 

Edited by Bridget McDonald, Ph.D.

There are many quotations that express the idea that education is the main key to a developed world: “Give a girl an education and introduce her properly into the world and ten to one she has the means of settling well, without further expense to anybody, ” said Jane Austen. “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” explained Nelson Mandela. Why is education the main key to an industrialized world? What is the impact of education on societies? What are the benefits of education? Are women as educated as men? If not, then why not? What are the main barriers that women face if they want an education? There are many advantages to getting an education, but there are also problems that many girls encounter when they try to get educated. Although there are obstacles, there are also many things a person can do to improve the situation.

Because the education of women is so vital to modern, functioning societies, education must become more accessible to women. It cannot be denied that women’s education greatly improves how society functions as a whole. Research on human development conducted in 2010 identifies a strong link between women’s education and international development. In fact, investing in a girl’s education is one of the most effective ways to reduce poverty. One way that access to education improves a woman’s situation is that women are able to take more care of themselves once they have increased knowledge about their own health.  For example, girls that have access to education will manage their own health as well as their family’s health issues much more effectively than girls that have no education. By learning more about healthcare, they can reduce infant and maternal mortality and strengthen the societies they come from.

In addition, women gain an increased awareness of their own legal rights regarding their health and can battle injustices more successfully. Education greatly improves the well-being of women and helps them be more independent. With improved access to healthcare, women become more self-reliant. This autonomy can lead women to share their ideas of the world with their own children, which encourages their children in turn to get an education. Improving the lives of future generations plays an important role in the development of society. Not only does access to education for women improve society in sociological terms, it can also affect entire economies.

Beyond having an impact on society, the education of women impacts the economy. According to Harry Patrinos, lead education economist at the World Bank, “The profitability of education, according to estimates of private rate of return, is indisputable, universal, and global.” When a country invests in women’s education it can expect a 1.2% higher return than countries where only men are educated. This research proves that women’s education bolsters economies worldwide. Access to education for women not only allows economies to flourish, it is important to reduce the gender gap in education. In many countries girls are underrepresented at school. For their own benefit, developing countries should invest in women’s education. If governments internationally spent more money on women’s education, then educated women would produce higher dividends, which in turn creates the ripple effect of increased acquisition of managerial and leadership skills which many developing countries need in order to improve their economies.

Education is important for everyone, but it is especially important for girls and women because it impacts the family and future generations. The world is changing and it should try to offer more opportunities for women to improve their lives. It would be easier to write a happy ending and say that women lived happily ever after once education became available to them, but unfortunately this story cannot end here. It cannot end here because with all the rapid changes, transformations and more opportunities available to women to graduate from school and get educated, there is still a gap that must be filled and there is much progress to be made.

There must be a move forward in order for us one day to have the chance to say that women are just as educated as men. For this to happen there needs to be a focus on women in underdeveloped countries. The main problems facing women in underdeveloped countries include a lack of healthcare, forced marriages, lack of resources, rural locations and cultural differences. The main solutions include investing in women (for example through The Girl Effect Movement launched by the Nike Foundation), which helps girls gain access to education via charitable organizations. In rural areas students sometimes have to walk miles to reach the closest school, which is a deterrent for their regular attendance. It is helpful to have certain charitable organizations situated in local villages to encourage girls to stay in school.

Our world is changing so fast that responsible decisions must be made at all times and above all, it is important to remember that everyone has a role to play in creating a better future for all.

For further information, please see these resources:

Women’s Education :

http://www.trustineducation.org/resources/life-as-an-afghan-woman/

http://www.uis.unesco.org/Education/Pages/ged-2012-visualization.aspx

http://www.uis.unesco.org/literacy/Pages/literacy-data-release-2014.aspx

http://www.girleffect.org

http://www-wds.worldbank.org/external/default/WDSContentServer/IW3P/IB/2002/09/27/000094946_02091705491654/Rendered/PDF/multi0page.pdf

http://wber.oxfordjournals.org/content/16/3/345.full.pdf+html

http://hbr.org/2013/09/women-rising-the-unseen-barriers/ar/1

http://hbr.org/2013/04/women-and-the-economics-of-equality/ar/1

http://www.trustineducation.org/resources/life-as-an-afghan-woman/

http://www.unicef.org/teachers/girls_ed/BarrierstoGE.pdf

http://blog.vittana.org/barriers-to-female-education

http://www.worlded.org/WEIInternet/international/expertise/display.cfm?tid=1004&id=756

http://www.girleffect.org/why-girls/#&panel1-1

Women’s Leadership :

http://womensleadership.com

http://iwl.rutgers.edu

http://www.wilsoncenter.org/program/global-womens-leadership-initiative

The Women’s International Center gives special thanks to Mylène Dautel (Normandy Business School, France) and Lise Calligaris (ISCOM, Paris, France) for their productive internships 2014 with our organization.

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Fair Trade: A social movement and a business model

Fair Trade: a social movement and a business model

Woman Fair Trade

Poverty is not an accident. Like slavery and apartheid, it is man-made and can be removed by the actions of human beings” – Nelson Mandela

Poverty has always existed and, despite progress being made, it is still severe in many parts of the world especially in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Women, making up 70% of the world’s 1,4 billion poor people and over 60% of the 925 million hungry, are highly affected and so are children. But poverty is not something irreversible. On the contrary, taking action and working to help those in need can reduce and maybe eradicate poverty. With the intention to help the poorest sector of society, a new social movement started between the 1950’s and 1980’s, later called Fair Trade, promoting trade between producers from developing countries and marketers from developed countries.

The movement started in Europe and North America where Alternative Trade Organizations were founded. They defined their trade model as a new one, different from conventionnal ones, since it was based on charity and solidarity to help the poor in Third World countries. Rather than buy products from industrialized countries, they would buy them from small producers in poor countries and bring them to the markets of developed nations such as the United States, France, Italy or Spain. After uniting in 4 major fair trade organizations such as the Fair Trade Federation in the US and Canada, the fair trade label was introduced in 1988, in order to show consumers that they were buying from producers living in the ‘Global South’ and thus, contributing to the improvement of their livelihoods.

Fair trade benefits both social and environmental problems. Since countries exporting their products live in political instability, war or have no respect for human rights, safe working conditions and children’s rights are important criteria, as well as respect of the environment. This international trading partnership provides equity and fairness to artisans, farmers, producers, and workers by guaranteeing minimum fair prices, fair salaries, a fair trade premium, transparency, the enforcement of certain working conditions, a long-term partnership and sustainability. The guarantee of fair prices is essential to ensure a fair salary and the fair trade premium. This social premium is a communal fund, paid on top of the fair trade minimum price, that is invested in the community to improve social, economic and environmental conditions in their communities. It can be used to build schools or improve healthcare, for instance. Another important aspect is the training that many organizations provide to producers to improve their skills, help them start or expand their own business.

Fair trade is considered an alternative business model whose principal goal is to empower producers to make their life better, fight against poverty and precarity, as well as, in the long term, participate in the economic development of those countries. But what makes it a business model?

Being considered as a business model means that fair trade has a different way to ensure that it generates income, especially for the producers that depend on it to contribute financially to the livelihoods of their families. Thanks to the partnership, producers do not have to worry about reaching the customers, since the partners will directly import the products in developed countries and sell them online or distribute them in stores. The marketing strategy for an organization or a business involved in fair trade is educating customers about the benefits of buying unique fair trade products from poor countries in order to help people get out of poverty and contribute to the economic growth of their communities. For example, an organization or trader working with artisans can highlight the uniqueness of handmade products versus mass produced goods.

Unfortunately, fair trade faces many challenges, like sustainability, that question the model. Even if the producers are guaranteed a fair price, this price cannot be too high in order to attract customers that could also decide to buy a cheaper product, regardless of its origin, instead of an expensive one, despite the fact that it comes from a fair trade source. In addition to that, supporting customers is also challenging since returning products to the producer is hardly possible, considering they usually live in remote areas in other countries and mostly on another continent. As a consequence, customer satisfaction is not 100% guaranteed when the product cannot be returned or exchanged. This situation also makes it imperative that traders have to travel to meet with producers, so the general logistics can be a big issue as well. Another problem is the instability of market prices affecting the producers, not because of the variation of the prices, but the quantity of products traders will buy from them. Despite a fair price, the producer does not have a guarantee of fair income.

We also need to take into account that, unfortunately, to be a certified producer or have fair trade products labelled as such, traders and producers sometimes have to pay expensive fees to fair trade organizations. As a result, less money reaches the Third World. Finally, the political situation in those countries has always been, and is still, challenging since producers are confronted with corruption, violence and the non-respect of human rights, especially women’s and children’s rights.

Fair trade has always seemed like a promising trade model working for the empowerment of the poor. Sadly, true and properly beneficial fair trade faces many challenges that need to be addressed. However, striving for fair trade should not be abandoned, since many improvements have been made for the livelihoods of many, especially women. Working through fair trade has helped women restore their self-esteem, gain economic independence and, by bringing an income to the household, become empowered. All these improvements have contributed to the reduction of gender inequalities in some communities and also help resolve conflicts. In sum, the fair trade movement does improve the possibility of conflict resolution and helps bring political stability to developing nations by empowering local manufacturers.

Sacha Vignault, University of La Rochelle, France, Intern for the Women’s International Center, San Diego (CA, USA)

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Aung San Suu Kyi – A Life of Devotion

Aung San Suu Kyi – A Life of Devotion 

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“The only real prison is fear,” a mantra that summarizes the state of mind of one remarkable woman who spent 15 years under house arrest in her Rangoon house because she was fighting for Burmese people’s freedom and human rights. This admirable woman who has been struggling for her country without fear is the pro-democracy leader of Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Nobel Peace laureate arrived on Monday, September 17, 2012 in Washington D.C. for an 18-day trip in the United States to improve the relationship between the US and Burma, as well as to lift economic sanctions. While here, she met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and visited some of Burma’s communities in the US. She also received an honor from President Obama for her achievements.

General Aung San was a man who devoted his life to the fight for the independence of his country and became the national leader. As the daughter of a hero, Aung San Suu Kyi followed in her father’s footsteps and led the democratic movement to free Burma’s people from a crushing dictatorship. After her father was assassinated, her mother also became a prominent public figure. She was the head of social planning and policy programs and became Burma’s ambassador to India, among other roles. What her parents dedicated their life to probably inspired Aung San Suu Kyi to continue.

She was born in Rangoon in 1945 but, at the age of 15, moved to India, following her mother, and studied politics at Delhi University. Later, she moved to England where she earned a BA in philosophy, economics, and politics at Oxford University. She had everything in Oxford, including her husband, children and studies, but as her mother got increasingly ill, she had no choice but to return to Burma. At the sight of the disarray of her country, her life was soon to radically change and she vowed to serve Burma’s people, as her parents had done in the past.

In 1988, Suu Kyi decided to devote her life to Burma’s freedom. By devoting herself to her country, she sacrificed a lot, including the chance to see her husband one last time before he died, in 1999, of a cancer, in London, as well as the opportunity to see her children grow. The separation from her husband and children was one of the many sacrifices she made to honor her promise to liberate her people.

The first step in her non-violent struggle for freedom was founding the pro-democracy political party called the National League for Democracy. This party was formed in order to be included in the 1990 elections. Despite the fact that she was under house arrest, the NLD won the elections with 82% of the seats in the Parliament. These elections were a first victory in the fight and showed the faith Burma’s people had in her, in spite of the government’s refusal to hand over power. Again, in 2010, she was still under house arrest, released a few days later, and the NLD was banned when the elections took place. She was finally elected to Parliament in 2012.

Between the different periods of detention she was sentenced to, she was also restricted from leaving the country or even traveling into her own country. While under house arrest, she was internationally awarded for her struggle with the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize “for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights,” as well as the United States’ highest civilian honor given to her by President Bill Clinton in 2000. Recently, she received the US Congressional Medal.

Today, Aung San Suu Kyi has become a model for many women since she represents the perfect example of an empowered woman. She uses her power to lead a movement to obtain freedom and human rights for her people. Moreover, she has proven many times that whatever threats are against her, she still stands for her country.

Despite the threat on her life and the distance from her family, she has always worked hard to make a better World for women and girls as well as for men. The threats she has lived with never affected her commitment and tenacity, never prevented her from making decisions and taking action, but just proved that any woman in the World can make positive change for her country, her people, and herself.

Despite all the challenges she has faced, Aung San Suu Kyi has kept fighting for what is right. For this reason, she has become an international symbol of resistance against oppression and such a powerful woman worldwide. She has used this power, and still does, to rally men and women to make our world a better place, as she did rallying different ethnic groups in Burma, despite differences that kept them divided historically. The key to her success is the fearlessness that she expresses when she says: “It is not power that corrupts, but fear”. The Women’s International Center salutes our cherished Living Legacy and celebrates her many victories — acknowledged worldwide — won in the name of justice and human rights.

Sacha Vignault, University of La Rochelle, Research Associate for the Women’s International Center, exploring successful fair trade models for women-owned businesses

Read more about Aung San Suu Kyi on the Women’s International Center website: http://www.wic.org/

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A Weekend at the 2012 California Women’s Conference

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A Weekend at the 2012 California Women’s Conference

On Sunday, September 23 & Monday, September 24, the Women’s International Center attended the 2012 California Women’s Conference at the Long Beach Convention Center. Each year, the conference is an important event celebrating and encouraging women in every aspect of their lives, such as being a mother, a business woman or an activist committed to improve women’s as well as men’s lives.

As an inspiration for the event, Michelle Patterson, the CA Women’s Conference producer, said “the future is now for women committed to success”. Becoming the theme of the conference, the future of women in a new economy was reflected during the main stage presentations and the different seminar sessions that dealt with a variety of subjects such as how to live a balanced life for women and moms, how to be a healthy woman, how to be fearless or topics like women in the military, women in sports, women in social media, women in business or women entrepreneurs.

To illustrate the success that women have when they fight for what they want and encourage them to act, many speakers joined the conference. One of the keynote speakers, the actress Marcia Cross shared her experience of balancing life, career and being a mom, as many women deal with in their lifetime. The attorney and women’s rights advocate Gloria Allred talked about her fight to get justice for women who, in a modern society in which women are supposed to be equal to men, still face discrimination and injustice worldwide. Some successful actresses of the past, like Tippi Hedren, Carole Channing and Rose Marie, three of the Living Legacies honored by the Women’s International Center, told their stories to women who admire them as examples of successful women. Singer-songwriters also took part in the event, such as Melissa Manchester, Helen Reddy and many others.

The California Women’s Conference is the nation’s largest women’s conference honoring women who have succeeded and encouraging those who are working hard to be successful in life. “Women’s Economy Starts Here” summarizes the goal of this conference helping women to get started or improve in business, live a balanced, healthy life as women, as moms, and as professionals.

For more information, visit the CA Women’s Conference Website: http://californiawomensconference.com/

By Sacha Vignault, University of La Rochelle, Intern for the Women’s International Center

Read more about our Living Legacy Honorees Carole Channing, Tippi Hedren & Rose Marie on the Women’s International Center website: http://www.wic.org/

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