Changing the World While Shopping the World
“I grew up in an Arab home and experienced violence against women at a young age. When I was 14, I got my first job, and at 15, my first marriage proposal. I saw how jobs could help to change a life,” said Debbie Farah, founder and CEO of Bajalia International Group (BIG), a Winter Park-based Fair Trade retail and wholesale provider of home, fashion and jewelry goods handmade by artisans in underdeveloped economies.
Through traveling around the world and engaging with women through photography, Farah realized how similar women were in every place around the globe. Seeing violence, lack of education, early marriage and trafficking playing a major role in keeping women oppressed, she thought about the way that jobs could help change the world, and became passionate about helping women to have a voice in their communities through them. With that passion, the organization was founded on the desire to help women be part of their own solution and break the cycle of generational poverty and oppression.
“I never planned on working in 28 countries with hundreds of different cultures and production units. But when you have a passion, the path appears,” she said.
One example is Shabnam, a 37-year-old mother of six children with a high school education, and while raising her family, she kept the books for her husband’s growing jewelry business. Her children are now grown, so she helps produce beaded jewelry by overseeing the neighborhood women who come to her home to work. Knowing the value of education, she has encouraged her daughters to pursue higher education, with one daughter now teaching in school and being a tutor, while another is studying in college. Shabnam is just one of the many women whose lives have been transformed by the gift of a job, while there are still countless women who suffer under the weight of oppression.
A Solution for a Global Need
The United Nations states, “We believe that investing in adolescent girls is critical to ending global poverty. Worldwide, there are almost 600 million girls and young women aged 10 to 24. Addressing their needs and ensuring their rights is critical to the future of local communities, nations and the entire world.”
Bajalia’s artisans include the Dalits in India, former human trafficking victims in Thailand, genocide widows in Rwanda, AIDS survivors in Uganda, and refugees across the globe. Research conducted by the US Department of State shows that women reinvest 90 percent of their income in their families and their communities. So when women have stable work and a reliable income, they are able to provide not only the essentials of food and shelter for their family, but also education for their children, changing the community and world around them.
Bajalia’s ongoing orders from its wholesale clients and direct sales made to its consumer base allow the organization to continue to provide business to its artisan partners. For retailers, Bajalia operates as a bridge to artisan products and handles all logistics and testing so artisans can better compete in the global market.
“It Takes a Village”
In a time when attention is being brought to the realities women face daily around the world, Bajalia has been and continues to be an advocate and tangible source of help for women as they partner with them to see their dreams realized. Bajalia is uniquely positioned to further partner, platform and empower women globally as others begin to join in the conversation.
“Like all entrepreneurs, there are many things we never knew how to do, yet we were wise to ask and receive help from many friends along the way. Each day is a learning experience and as a lean startup, we continue to raise talent and capital for future growth. It takes a village and in our case, hundreds of villages, to change the world,” said Farah.
Visit bajalia.com for more information.