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Mother's Day Goes Fair Trade


May 9 2014
Christian-founded line of handcrafted products makes its way to Wal-Mart.

In one sense, it's just another Mother's Day card from Wal-Mart. Two decorative birds on the front, a sappy poem on the inside, and a tag reading, "You are my hero, Mom."

But there's the signature on the back—scrawled in black, signed by the woman who made it by hand. That signature represents a growing movement that empowers women artisans and workers around the world.

Wal-Mart has partnered with the nonprofit social enterprise brand Full Circle Exchange to carry a line of fair-trade, female-crafted Mother's Day products in prime retail real estate at 2,665 Wal-Mart stores. It's part of the chain's Empowering Women Together initiative—which began as an online product line in 2012 and debuted in-store this spring.

Similar to companies like Noonday Collection and Ten Thousand Villages, Full Circle Exchange sells colorful, fair-trade and ethically sourced products handmade by women. For Mother's Day, the nonprofit produced scarves, aprons, mugs, tumblers, chocolate sets, and greeting cards, over 50 items in all, each with bold patterns and craft-paper labels. They come from suppliers in India, Rwanda, Kenya, Haiti, Peru, and the U.S.

Mother's Day has become a popular vehicle to promote such socially conscious gift-giving. This year, a stream of gift guides suggested "gifts that give back," and fair-trade advocates campaigned to get shoppers to "celebrate Mother's Day the fair trade way." As we wonder whether Mother's Day has become a greeting-card holiday and if Mom really needs another mug, scarf, or necklace, these products offer a distinct tie to motherhood. The women who make them are typically mothers themselves, taking on jobs on behalf of their families. And even in the aisles of Wal-Mart, our shopping dollars can do good.

"In order to create suitable economic models, we need to open up broad-based retail channels and provide an avenue for consumers to vote with their dollar,"said Mark Priddy, CEO and co-founder of Full Circle Exchange. "Stores such as Wal-mart and Macy's can use their size and scale to help us create efficiency in the supply chain that benefit everyone and builds momentum for real, lasting and positive change in the lives of women, their families and their communities."

Priddy, a Christian, co-founded Full Circle Exchange in 2009 to help women rise out of poverty by finding meaningful, creative work. At its Boise, Idaho headquarters, Full Circle Exchange--as a part of its job readiness program--employed 60 refugee women from Burma, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nepal, Ethiopia, Iran, and Afghanistan for its Mother's Day project. Full Circle Exchange not only creates jobs and access to global markets for women, but also creates long-term meaningful work enterprises.

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