This year, we celebrated International Women’s Day with an Instagram post. With a picture of a woman, of course. We included hashtags and scrolled through posts of companies that employed women. Here a woman, there a woman, everywhere women women! The focus on social media, however, was how many women companies played on their team, rather than the pitch of the field.
At Ajiri, we are working at the grass-roots level. We are pulling up the deep roots of inequality and replacing them with opportunity through consistent employment.The team we are fielding is entirely made up of women. Ten years on and the same women are employed. Ten years later and the community we are working with has seen real change–wells being dug, iron roofs on their homes, land bought. The list goes on and on.
But I still feel uneasy holding up these real accomplishments alongside a picture of a women in order to generate sales. Despite the work we are doing and the positive changes we are all creating, I wonder, are we capitalizing on feminism? Are we capitalizing on poverty?
Granted, our focus looks a bit different than most companies, as 100% of our profits go back to pay school fees for orphans. And our small team here in the U.S. (my sister and I) definitely aren’t getting rich. But still, it is the concept of using feminism or fair trade to generate sales that makes my moral standing feel like jello. Shouldn’t good work innately be built into an organization? Must we exclaim with every post and every box–look! Here is the work we are doing! Here are the people benefiting! Come! Chose this tea!
My half-steeped answer, is that we need the banner of feminism to generate sales, but it needs to be thoughtful. And it needs to be constantly examined. We need to tell people what we are doing, but not at the expense of the dignity of our employees or the dilution of the movement.
We aren’t selling $60.00 t-shirts that say “The Future is Female” ala Anthropologie. But we are selling an $8.00 box of tea with the promise that our intentions are backed by action in making the world a better place.