I was driving today listening to NPR and heard an interesting piece on Fair Trade in Africa. Of course this piqued my interest as my brother lives in Rwanda and has founded one of the best platforms for social entrepreneurship I’ve seen. His company’s mission statement is this:
KEZA is dedicated to developing sustainable fashion businesses from existing women’s cooperatives in Africa. We will ensure sustainability, integrity, efficiency and quality from all of our KEZA partners. We will empower our partners to own their own businesses and work autonomously from KEZA. We will help establish Africa’s position in the luxury fashion industry and bring much needed income and careers to those in need. We will no longer speak of “those Africans” living in poverty. KEZA is where “they” become “we”, and together we will strive to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor.
So going back to the story on fair trade that I heard on the radio…they talked about how the understanding of fair trade has to be more than us just supporting places in Africa–we have to empower the people to know what they are doing and why. I was shocked to hear that the people in Uganda harvesting coffee originally had never tasted the stuff, and some actually thought they were growing bullets for the civil war. Talk about being disconnected with your work!
This got me thinking…how many of us take the moment to really stop and think about what we do each day? This applies for your work, but also emcompasses all the other areas of your life: spirituality, family, social, physical, mental and emotional. What things do we do on a regular basis? What is their significance? Why do we go to work in the morning? Why do we make dinner for the family at night? What’s the point?
Today, take a moment to evaluate all you did this past week–your attitude, your work, you personal walk, and how you interacted with others. What was the significance of all you did? Look at your common habits–do you criticize a lot? Do you drive to work day in and day out and worry in the car? Do you just go through the motions of cleaning the house and making the meals?
Look at your life with significance. I heard a man once say “Don’t confuse success with significance.” Just being productive in life–bringing home a paycheck, making sure kids are dressed and fed, or keeping track of daily needs–this may seem like you accomplished success, but have you really addressed the significance of what you are doing?
Going back to fair trade, the whole point is to value every aspect of the business, from giving the often overlooked and developing countries an opportunity to earn a fair wage to bringing great products and a new insight to the more developed countries. Fair trade is set up to give opportunities for business to areas that otherwise may be overlooked. With KEZA, the women of BURANGA who make the beautiful necklaces you see online work hard on every necklace. The KEZA team doesn’t just pay the women for the necklaces; they teach the women about the business. They explain the numbers and how quality really sells. They don’t tell the women how it is; they lay out the facts and allow the women to grasp and retain the understanding of what true quality products are. The women don’t just go about the process of creating each bead by hand in a robot-like manner. They know the business of it–they understand the audience that purchase the necklaces in the US and UK, and they know where every penny of the profits go–to create a living for them where they do more than just survive, they thrive, and to pay for tuition for their children to attend school, to pay for materials and rent for the business, and for health insurance and counseling for them and their families.
The KEZA business understands significance. They understand that what you do every day has to have meaning, and you have to have passion in life. This first group of women came from living a life of mere survival–from just living in sheer existence. They survived the Rwandan genocide, they survived rape and prostitution, family murders and ravaging AIDS victims. They had existed for long enough. Now they embrace significance. They embrace a life where every action has a consequence, and they can stand with heads held high, knowing their role in life is important to their children and to the world.
Let’s take note of it, and see how we make our own mark in this story that is our life. And if you are craving for more, check out this video for some little ways to make a signficant mark in the world: http://www.everymondaymovie.com/