The missions behind brands that give back to women capture the zeitgeist of 2017 — a year that’s empowered evermore women to run for office, to speak out against sexual harassment and to march in solidarity in unprecedented numbers around the world, vowing to ensure that their rights are recognized as human rights.
This year’s holiday season, women feel inclined — perhaps now more than ever — to shop ethically and champion the female artisans and workers behind their purchases (and maybe even use their holiday bonuses to pay for it). Millennials consult eight or more sources of information before making a purchase; in fact, 88 percent of consumers research before they buy, consulting an average of 10.4 sources. With resources like Project JUST — an online catalog of more than 150 fashion brands researched and categorized based on social, environmental and aesthetic factors to bring manufacturing practices to light and enable informed purchasing decisions — consumers can get to know both brands and the chain of human beings behind brands.
If you’re shopping for the woman who wants to give back to other women, we’ve done the research for you. Consider these 30 ideas that aren’t only generous gifts for the recipient, but are also the livelihoods for the women who design and manufacture them and deliverance for the women and girls the following brands pledge to support.
1. YLLO Beauty Turmeric Skincare Kit ($80)
This skincare kit includes all four of YLLO Beauty’s turmeric-based products, which reduce blemishes and redness, lighten facial hair, fade scarring and even out skin tones — it’s inspired by Indian traditions that naturally heal and nourish the skin. YLLO Beauty donates 10 percent of all profits to Girls Not Brides member organizations around the world, so when you purchase their products, you help empower girls to develop vocational training, educate communities about the adverse effects of child marriage and convince governments to change legislation in order to raise the minimum legal age to be married — in India, alone, it’s estimated that 47 percent of girls are married before they even turn 18 years old.
2. Same Sky LEARN Bracelet ($48)
The fact is that 62 million girls around the world are not in school and, in sub-Saharan Africa, girls have among the lowest attendance rates in the world. The LEARN Bracelet seeks to end illiteracy and empower girls through education. Twenty percent of proceeds from every bracelet sold helps the Same Sky Foundation stand against the exclusion of women and girls from education, promoting and advancing the placement of Rwandan girls and women in the classroom. Same Sky also creates employment opportunities for women experiencing poverty with collectives in both Rwanda and the United States, working with a gamut of women including HIV-positive survivors of the 1994 Rwandan genocide (who earn 15 to 20 times more than the average wage in Sub-Saharan Africa through Same Sky) and previously incarcerated women in New Jersey. All of the brand’s proceeds are reinvested to train and employ more women.
3. Lemlem Kal Scarf ($195)
As the seasons transcend and the weather gets a lot colder, you may want to consider gifting an intricately woven scarf with Lemlem’s signature bold striping and hand-twisted fringe, made in Ethiopia by women who are empowered by steady jobs. Lemlem ensures that five percent of all sales promote the Liya Kebede Foundation to support African moms and address the top health concern of women in Africa: access to life-saving maternity care. The Liya Kebede Foundation works to provide quality maternity care in underserved communities and reduce maternal and newborn deaths.
4. The Brave Collection Gemstone Compass Chain Necklace ($145)
The Brave Collection, which launched in 2012 by Jessica Hendricks Yee, an alum of Forbes’ “30 Under 30,” provides jobs to Cambodian artisans. Ten percent of the profits are donated to fight human trafficking, and The Brave Collection also partners with programs that empower vulnerable Cambodian girls. This brass, micron-plated 14K gold necklace is adorned with gemstone beads and ideal for the woman who loves jewelry and a good cause.
5. Alem Backpack by ABLE ($238)
ABLE is a lifestyle brand focused on ending generational poverty by working with women who’ve overcome extraordinary circumstances. The brand manufactures directly in the both local and global communities it wishes to impact, which creates jobs and ends the cycle of charity dependency. This backpack is complete with padded shoulder support for all day comfort, easy-to-reach pockets and space to fit a 15" laptop for the working woman or the one always booking weekend trips.
6. Naja Christine Bustier Noir ($33)
Christine is an unlined, U-shaped underwire lace, soft-cup bustier, for the woman who loves lingerie — especially lingerie from brands that employ single mothers and female heads of households, pays them above-market wages and provides them with health benefits and child education stipends. Naja has also implemented flexible work policies to make it easier for women to balance work and childcare, and every child of a Naja garment worker receives books, school supplies, uniforms and all school meals paid by the brand.
7. Noonday Collection Anchor Earrings ($30)
You can’t go wrong with these wood, resin and gold earrings that can be worn casually in the day or dressed up for a night out. Noonday partners with entrepreneurs to make a difference in some of the world’s most vulnerable communities. It also offers women the opportunity to make an impact by becoming ambassadors and starting their own businesses through hosting trunk shows that sell Noonday products.
8. My Fight Anika Curve Cuff ($42)
This statement cuff features art deco scallops and bone tiles handmade in Old Delhi, India, and it provides safe and sustainable work for over 80 families. My Fight seeks to fight poverty from the roots rather than reacting to its effects. It proudly partners with locally-founded organizations in Ethiopia, Nepal, India and Kenya that provide accessible, sustainable frameworks for vulnerable people to develop both personally and professionally.
9. Soko Connect Ring ($58)
The Connect Ring is both aesthetic and altruistic — it’s a multi-band ring featuring various widths and textures connected by links, crafted by female artisans in Kenya who are given access to a global marketplace. Soko’s mobile technology allows artisans to sell their creations directly to online customers, cutting out the middleman and putting the money directly into their hands.
10. Sudara Lelitha Robe ($79)
Thid silver or indigo robe is printed with antique swirls and trimmed with an elegant Banarasi border. Purchasing one of these robes helps Sudura fight against slavery and sex-trafficking by giving women the chance to gain job skills and a long-term career.
11. Hiptipico Chakra Yoga Bag Acro Iris ($98)
For the yogi, consider this multicolor yoga mat bag made of recycled fabric from Totonicapan and featuring traditional Maya embroidery. Each purchase supports Hiptipico’s sustainable project to repurpose discarded materials from female weavers in indigenous communities in Guatemala. Each bag is therefore slightly unique, too.
12. Krochet Kids Adriana Beanie ($40)
This beanie is made from a wool and alpaca blend, expertly knit in Peru — and it’s hand-signed by the person who made it. With each purchase you make, Krochet Kids introduces you to the woman who made the product and invites you to visit her online profile to learn more about her. You’re also able to write her a note to thank her.
13. Global Goods Partners Soft Alpaca Throw ($300)
This soft natural alpaca wool throw is a cozy addition to any woman’s home. The wool was collected by Aymara artisans across Chile and hand-woven into the blanket using a traditional horizontal loom. Global Good Partners also helps to end poverty and promote social justice by creating economic opportunities for women in some of the world’s poorest countries, giving them technical assistance, product development, operational expertise and small capacity building grants to fund and solve the problems within their communities.
14. VEERAH The Mulan Heel ($278)
VEERAH calls itself the “responsible heel.” Why? Its VEERAH Warriors 1-10-100 Battle Plan. One percent of VEERAH’s profits are donated to social impact causes, 10 paid hours per month are given to employees to volunteer or take self-improvement courses and, for every 100 customer interviews, a girl receives a one-year scholarship to school through She’s the First.
15. Les Sublimes Arusha Turban ($30)
This turban is a nod to French style of the 60s and 70s, as it’s made from leftover Parisian couture fabric. For each one purchased, a young girl gets one month of education. That’s a big deal considering one extra year of primary school boosts girls’ future wages by 10 to 20 percent, and another year of secondary school adds an extra 15 to 25 percent on top of that.
16. True Ethic Fair Trade Sea Grass Basket Set ($85)
This set of three boho baskets were woven by female artisans in Vietnam, and 10 percent of sales are donated to Freedom Firm, which rescues minors who have been sold into the commercial sex trade.
17. Fernweh Jewelry Maryam Choker ($200)
Purchasing this adjustable hand-embroidered and beaded choker will help provide women in Pakistan and Mexico with micro-loans. Fernweh has partnered up with the Kashf Foundation, which is one of the first women-focused Microfinance Institutions in Pakistan — 5 percent of sales are reinvested into those loans.
18. All the Wild Roses Hemp Market Bag ($59)
All the Wild Roses has partnered up with an organization called Opportunity International Australia through their program “Dare to Dream.” This project was created to bring opportunities to women in underprivileged countries who are struggling to provide even the most basic essentials for their family. This bag is fashionable, functional, and helps fund another woman in need to start her own business.
19. Songa Designs Jacqueline Handbag ($90)
Songa Designs is a jewelry and lifestyle brand that helps empower women in Rwanda and around the globe. Each piece in the Songa collection is hand-crafted by a skilled artisan in Rwanda and made from local, eco-friendly materials that otherwise would end up in landfills. These women are able to use their wages to afford heath insurance, buy land or send their children to school for the first time. Each handbag, like the Jacqueline, takes an artisan three days to create.
20. Cuyana Weekender Bag ($175)
For the woman on the road, this weekender is a life saver. Beyond the gold metal hardware and twill lining, the weekender comes with a durable cotton canvas exterior, reinforced leather handles and straps and smooth, bi-directional zippers. Karla Gallardo and Shipla Shah founded Cuyana to create products by skilled craftsmen throughout Europe, South America and the United States rich in meaning, quality and story. As part of their mission to empower women, their Lean Closet movement gives victims of abuse a fresh start in partnership with H.E.A.R.T. By selecting Lean Closet at checkout, Cuyana will send you a linen bag to fill with the things that are no longer of use to you, as well as a shipping label. You’ll receive $10 credit toward your next purchase for every donation you make.
21. RALLIER Begley Bandana ($65)
RALLIER pieces are made from high quality, ethically sourced natural fibers, and they're designed and made in New York. RALLIER has teamed up with Shining Hope for Communities to support the provision of school uniform dresses for girls, and will donate an amount sufficient to locally source one school uniform dress for each RALLIER piece purchased for $295 or less, two school uniform dresses for each RALLIER piece purchased for between $296 and $395, and three school uniform dresses for each RALLIER piece purchased for $396 or more. This is all in an effort to reduce school absenteeism by 64 percent, readily understanding that educating a girl in urban slums means she will earn more and invest 90 percent of earnings in her family, be three times less likely to contract HIV and have fewer, healthier children who are more likely to reach adulthood. This bandanda is a good place to start.
22. Akola Valerie Necklace ($60)
All of Akola’s product revenues are reinvested to empower women in both Uganda and Dallas, Texas to transform their families and communities. By purchasing the Valerie necklace, which was handcrafted by one of the 500 Akola women, you’re helping to train a woman in poverty and give her dependable living-wage work opportunities and access to holistic education programs. These 500 women — many of whom are struggling below the poverty line and may have criminal records or have been victims of sex trafficking — care for approximately 4,000 dependents, so your money will go a long way.
23. Raven + Lily Mudcloth Soap Set ($18)
This hand-milled cleansing Honey Oat + Chai soap set refreshes the soul and the body. The soaps are infused with essential oils and herbs, and they’re made in India. Your purchase will help empower over 1,500 artisan women with fair wages and access to healthcare and education, who would otherwise not be employed or educated. Raven + Lily partners with artisan groups in Ethiopia, Kenya, Haiti, Cambodia and more to help women break the cycle of poverty. Additionally, every purchase of a Raven + Lily product benefits the Raven + Lily ecosystem while also funding microloans to female entrepreneurs. Feel confident in your gift shopping knowing that Raven + Lily was named the Best for the World in Community Impact in both 2014 and 2016.
24. Sseko Aida Leather Tote ($250)
Sseko is a Uganda-based brand that produces shoes, handbags and accessories. And this Aida Tote in Black & Caramel is handcrafted in Ethiopia from pebbled black leather and contrasting caramel oil-tanned leather. It’s a two-tone tote for which any woman would find a use — and feel good knowing that they’re contributing to the fair wages and college tuitions of women in East Africa. To date, Sseko has helped 87 women go to college, and every woman who has graduated from Sseko has gone on to pursue higher education. But that’s not all; through the Sseko Fellows Program, Sseko also provides resources for women across the United States to sell Sseko products and launch their own social enterprises. They’re paired one-to-one with a woman in Uganda and her sales directly contribute to earning an additional scholarship for her Sole Sister.
25. Pondichérie Kyra Kaftan ($240)
Pondichérie founder Devon Fisher has years of experience at organizations advocating for gender equality. Her resortwear line employs female artisans in India to create hand-loomed textiles in partnership with a local women's empowerment organization. This one-size-fits-all striped beach caftan with a deep V-neck and wide armhole is also one-purchase-benefits-all.
26. Mata Traders Full Circle Studs ($20)
Mata Traders works with Fair Trade cooperatives that aim to reduce the impact of poverty and embolden women in India and Nepal with healthcare, paid maternity leave, retirement pensions and daycare services. The female artisans within their co-ops are paid per piece and have “control in determining the piece rate, and as the cooperatives are worker-owned organizations, they receive a share of the profits.” Purchasing these Full Circle Studs will really come full circle.
27. 31 Bits Carved Teak Cheeseboard ($78)
31 Bits got its name because Proverbs 31 describes a diligent woman providing and caring for her family using her gifts and talents. The “Bits” part comes from the brand’s original and bestselling jewelry that uses beads made out of “bits” of paper. But the brand offers so much more than just jewelry — shop for home décor, bags and textiles and more, like this carved cheeseboard, and know that you’ve bought a product from a skilled artisan working for fair wages with quality materials, tools and protective supplies, as well as micro-financing opportunities and mentorships, healthcare, financial education and more. 31 Bits’ goal is for artisans to make a sustainable monthly salary that enables them to provide for their families and save for their futures, and you can be apart of that.
28. My Sister Badass Feminist Hoodie ($58)
My Sister's mission is to prevent sex trafficking, educate communities, empower the population, provide after-care for survivors and offer growth opportunities to at-risk women through the sales of its statement-making, ethically-sourced apparel and accessories. While they have a storefront in Minneapolis, you can shop their goods made by over 8,000 talented women in 16 countries. Like this “Badass Feminist” that speaks for itself.
29. Banago Woven Envelope Clutch ($77)
Banago Woven was created in 2013 to help expand the livelihoods of artisan communities in the founder Renee Patron’s homeland, after the entire production infrastructure of the company was destroyed by the biggest typhoon recorded in history, Typhoon Haiyan. Patron watched her mother’s home collapse and, today, is still helping local artisans get back on their feet and rebuild their lives. Banago provides fair-trade wages to Filipino artisans, giving women working in artisan and cottage industries the economic sustainability they need to thrive. This woven straw clutch makes for a perfect gift for the one who wants to support both women and environment initiatives.
30. Local + Lejos Cowhorn Candle Holders ($95)
Shop Local + Lejos for home décor handmade by women from all around the world. Next to each item online, Local + Lejos lists what the female artisan is able to do with the proceeds from the purchase. These candle holders, for example, are made by craftsmen of Wakiso in Uganda, and they take two to three weeks to create. This means that the impact of purchasing is sustainable work for women.
More for the Holidays
Need cash to pay for all the feminist gifts you're planning on doling out this year? Pick up a seasonal part-time job at your local Target or another retailer that has seasonal hiring needs.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at HerReport.org by night.