Walmart launched new initiative called Empowering Women Together, just in time for International Women's Day.The retail giant is setting aside space on its website to promote goods from small, women-owned businesses. At the time of launch on March 7, 200 items from 19 businesses in nine countries were available for purchase. “Empowering Women Together is a simple concept; it connects shoppers in the United States with quality products made by women-owned businesses around the world,” said Andrea Thomas, senior vice president, Walmart, said in a press release. “And in doing that, it helps achieve so much more. Through Walmart’s Empowering Women Together, customers can help these suppliers increase their incomes, better their lives and create new jobs for others, and Walmart can help these suppliers gain experience with buying trends, scaling, product development and acumen they need to build their businesses.” Empowering Women Together will be integrated with Store for Good, a developing Walmart.com program aimed at connecting consumers with products that do good for other people, for themselves, or for our environment. As the program grows, it will potentially include eco-friendly products and healthier food options. Each female entrepreneur has a unique story behind her business effort, and while they are set apart by geography and circumstance, all of these women showed impressive perseverance and single-mindedness in their effort to raise themselves or others out of poverty. Each initiative employs other women, giving them a safe, fulfilling job and a way to support themselves and their loved ones. The strife in Rwanda left the country with few men but many widows, single mothers and orphaned children. Sisters Joy Ndunguste and Janet Nkubana gave a basket weaving demonstration under a tree in a small village, and it turned into Gahaya Links, a collaborative that has grown into a sustainable market for more than 4,000 weavers in 52 cooperatives creating baskets, items for home decor, jewelry and textiles that bring authentic Rwandan patterns to a global audience through Walmart. More than half of Nepal's population is unemployed. Friends Handicrafts, founded by two close friend, Shanti and Nirjala, employs over 100 women and provides their children access to education. Their felted necklaces, bags, scarves and children's gifts help combat poverty. The Women's Bean Project, based in the U.S., was conceived while its founder volunteered at a local women's shelter. The women there needed a way to pull themselves out of poverty and break away from dependency, but most lacked the skills to find or keep work. So with $500 and two employees, Jossy Eyre started a business to teach women life skills and job readiness. Now the initiative employs hundreds, has an operating budget of more than $2 million, and produces salsa mixes, spice rubs, coffee beans, soups, chili, gift baskets and jewelry. Walmart is bringing the same strategy to empowering women that it did when it took on other social issues like hunger and sustainability - it found knowledgable partners who share the same goals. Walmart's inaugural partners for Empowering Women Together are Full Circle Exchange and Global Goods Partners. “Walmart and Full Circle share a common mission to empower women through commerce, allowing them to work their way out of poverty in ways that are both sustainable and dignified,” said Mark Priddy, CEO and cofounder, Full Circle Exchange said in a press release. “By focusing on poverty reduction through job creation and access to global markets, we believe that, when equipped with the proper resources, women have the power to help lift whole families and entire communities out of poverty.” With Walmart's global customer base, these businesses gain worldwide exposure not only for their products, but for their inspiring stories. As sales grow, so, hopefully, will awareness and empathy.
Andrea Newell has more than ten years of experience designing, developing and writing ERP e-learning materials for large corporations in several industries. She was a consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers and a contract consultant for companies like IBM, BP, Marathon Oil, Pfizer, and Steelcase, among others. She is a writer and former editor at TriplePundit and a social media blog fellow at The Story of Stuff Project. She has contributed to In Good Company (Vault's CSR blog), Evolved Employer, The Glass Hammer, EcoLocalizer and CSRwire. She is a volunteer at the West Michigan Environmental Action Council and lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org and @anewell3p on Twitter.