International Women’s Day is coming up on March 8 and we want to celebrate all month long by highlighting some of our amazing women partners and artisans. For our first feature, we interviewed Joy McBrien, founder of Fair Anita.
Fair Anita is a social enterprise that’s all about empowering women from around the world through dignified jobs and fair trade relationships. Their talented artisan partners carefully design and create all products by hand—gorgeous accessories you can be proud to wear!
We talked with Joy about her inspiration and her work:
1. Joy, what inspired you to start Fair Anita and work with women artisans?
Financial insecurity is the #1 reason why women stay with abusive partners. Following my own experience with rape and sexual violence, I wanted to work alongside other women on this topic of violence against women. I started Fair Anita in 2015 as a way to create economic opportunity and financial stability for women around the world. Plus, I’ve always loved fair trade products, but historically I struggled to find pieces that fit my style and price point. Now, we partner with women on the design work, so we have a great time co-creating pieces that are a little more “mainstream trendy” here in the United States.
2. What countries do you currently work in?
We work with women in 9 countries: Mexico, Peru, Chile, South Africa, Ethiopia, Egypt, Cambodia, Vietnam, and India.
3. How is Fair Anita organized and how many artisan groups do you currently work with?
We work with 8,000 women in 9 countries, organized into 19 larger cooperatives. In each cooperative, women have the option to work from a workshop or from home, depending on their needs and what kind of job they’re doing. Some work requires larger tools or machinery, so these women work at the workshop.
4. What sorts of products do the women make?
We partner with women to make jewelry, scarves, bags, and clothing, striving to make every product with recycled materials. We have a line of jewelry made from recycled bullet casings in Ethiopia, jewelry made from recycled brass and copper from Chile, and purses made from upcycled fabric from factories in Cambodia. We’re intentional about creating eco-friendly + ethical products!
5. What is your personal favorite product and why?
I have so many favorite products, but the ones I wear daily are the Dell Thin Cuff and Donna Thin Cuff from Chile, plus the Fair Feminist Sterling Cuff from India. The cuffs from Chile are made by artisan Ana who designed the pieces herself. She’s incredibly talented (and so strong!), buying recycled brass sheets from the market, cutting them into strips, hand-stamping the metal, and shaping it into a cuff. They only get shinier and more beautiful as you wear them—I wear them every day!
6. When women work, the impact of the investment is greatly multiplied. What benefits or positive changes have you seen in the communities where the women work/live?
The U.N. states that for every dollar a woman makes, between 80-90 cents goes back to her family and community, as opposed to 30-40 cents by men. However, women are largely left out of the formalized economy. When women have work opportunities, they do incredible things. More children are in school, sales of milk/bread go up (as opposed to alcohol/gambling), and entire economies grow. Every single cooperative we work with uses their extra earnings to provide additional programming around their community. Sometimes, these are small, more informal acts, like our partners in Chimbote, Peru who made little gift baskets with rice, milk, and other staples for the poorest families in their community. Sometimes, these programs are huge, like starting schools and after-school programs for children in India, or even creating city-wide trash programs in Mexico. When women do better, we all do better!
7. We love your commitment to empowering other women! What advice would you give to girls who are interested in getting involved in causes they are passionate about?
There’s no one better than you, and there’s no time better than now! It doesn’t matter if you don’t 100% know what you’re doing—make sure you’re fully involving and listening to the people you’re hoping to serve, and learn as you go!
8. What woman has had the biggest impact on your life?
This is an impossible question! There are countless women who have made incredible impacts on my life. My TEDx talk focuses on two of them: my mom and Anita. I think the greatest thing has been the aggregate of women; the community that has come together to support our mission of women investing in women.