Celebrating International Women's Day
by Bea Rue
I’ve been a ‘Nectarette’ for nearly 3 and a half years now, a title I’ve embraced longer than any other. This is because I know that Nectar is much more than a shop that houses pretty things; its daily interactions reach far beyond the limitations of a simple retail outlet. Nectar is a hub of inspiration and hope, where people come to take their minds off daily woes and seek beauty to motivate their own creativity. It thrives on connection. Our customers don’t senselessly buy things- they commune with them, finding an intimacy that connects them to the artisan oceans away, or around the corner.
The way I see it, Nectar is a blossoming cooperative devoted to social awareness that runs on the ingenuity, honesty and sweat of just eight women. Eight strong, dedicated, and grateful women. And I’m not being cocky (intended?); I’m merely celebrating the truth. I understand that it’s a privilege for us ladies to independently participate in this great game of economics, to plainly speak our minds, explore our full potential, to proclaim the beauty of the world together in the microcosm of High Falls (or, in my case, Mexico, because I can). You see, I understand that it’s a grand privilege to be a 29-year-old woman with the choice to bear children or not, to live without fear of a forced marriage, believing, wearing, reading, eating, voting, speaking, writing whatever I want. Not to mention working in safe conditions. But not just working- choosing to work with and for women I love and admire. And yet these things should not be a privilege but a given for every mother and daughter.
I read an article recently that said the most significant element in global inequality is economic participation. According to Globalcitizen.org, “Women work two-thirds of the world’s working hours, produce half of the world’s food, but earn only 10% of the world’s income and own less than one perent of the world’s property.” They make up 70% of the world’s one billion poorest. For these women, life is a litany of injustice: infanticide, genital mutilation, imprisonment for their beliefs, poverty, sex trafficking, slavery, unfair pay, discrimination, the list goes on. This is why Nectar dedicates so much of its offerings to women-owned businesses and Fair Trade women’s cooperatives. They allow for investment in development projects to improve access to education, enhance social services, guarantee fair pay and safe working conditions, and generally support women’s livelihood. These cooperatives are support centers; they foster sisterhood and community. Nectar has the luxury of being a part of that community. We boast insanely beautiful handiwork from women around the world, and the best part is that we get to share their stories. We’re suckers for a good narrative. When a customer oggles a Raven & Lily necklace, we can tell the tale of how it was hand crafted by HIV positive women in Ethiopia from melted bullet casings, and how this cooperative empowers these women with sustainable employment, medical support, and educational opportunities for their whole families. Or how Nini Ordoubadi, third generation tea maven, started her artisanal tea company Tay Tea 12 years ago, and has always believed that “the education of young girls is key in the fight against the repression of women worldwide.” She’s partnered with the Shining Hope for Communities program, which provides free education, a network of empowerment, and poverty alleviation for girls in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya. Oh, and she once named a tea blend after Elizabeth Taylor’s ‘alleged’ eye color and famed love affair with Richard Burton. It’s called “Marry Me Again.” I swoon.
It’s stories like these that give Nectar meaning. In the very least, we hope to raise awareness about these issues, and ask you to spread the word, too. But first, we invite you to join us in celebrating the courage, strength, creativity and love of our global community of women. Here I introduce to you some of our favorite women and their unique companies. Together they are helping to make significant changes in the lives of others near and far…
CARMEN MYERS, MEYELO & A VOICE IS HEARD
Still in its first year of production, Meyelo already empowers over 80 female artisans in Kenya with a source of sustainable Fair Trade income, community development programs, and a global platform for their work, all thanks to the diligence of its founder, Carmen Myers. Sophisticated and weighty brass jewelry, hand beaded sandals, strappy leather totes and canvas messengers- each item is hand crafted and rife with character all its own. Meyelo works with its sister non-profit (also founded by Carmen) A Voice is Heard to create access to education, clean water, farming co-ops and medical needs in Massai villages. Speaking of the Massai artisans, Carmen remarks “Here, women dance in the face of adversity—adversity we will never experience. I’m inspired and humbled every single day.”
NINI ORDOUBADI, TAY TEA
Nini Ordoubadi’s muse, her great aunt Noushafarin Saad, was a celebrated bon vivant, poet and tea maven, and has always been the inspiration for Tay Tea. Founded in 2003 in the sleepy town of Andes, NY, Tay Tea specializes in hand-blended, artisanal teas, with sought-after signature blends like “Better Than Sex” and “Kaapstad.” Nini proclaims, “Tea is my art. It mirrors my soul , one that is steeped deeply in Persian culture and hospitality. Through my tea blends, I tell my stories and connect to other’s stories. I invite new friends into my world.” In addition to partnering with SHOFCO, Nini founded her Pow Wow Club last year- a networking group for working women in New York City and Upstate New York. They meet once a month to exchange ideas and support each other with creative, business and fundraising projects. Nini comments, “In sharing, you expand your life.”
HEATHER & KATIE O’NEIL, MUSHMINA
With an incomparable passion for “designing change” in a world too often seeped in inequality and injustice, founding sisters Heather and Katie O-Neil have combined their design prowess and social entrepreneurship to launch Mushmina, a Fair Trade company steeped in cultural preservation that produces stunning handcrafted jewelry, clothing and accessories with a sincere social mission. “Our business is about expression, creation and sisterhood,” says Heather. “We wanted to highlight the beautiful craft of North Africa, and our dream was to employ talented artisans, and women in particular, to do it.” In Morocco Mushmina works with over 9 different women’s cooperatives, employing over 85 artisans.
ELLEN DORSCH, CREATIVE WOMEN
Simple and elegant, Creative Women’s hand-woven textiles are timeless works of art for everyday use, each imbued with their own character of shifting warp and weft. The Vermont-based women-run company was founded by Ellen Dorsch in 2003- “I realized that by finding markets in the US, an opportunity existed to improve women’s lives and to maintain a centuries-old art form.” Creative Women sources their line from women’s cooperatives around the world, namely Ethiopia, to promote long-term reliable employment that ripples out into improved healthcare, education and support programs for these women and their families.
PA MANG & NU SHWE, YOYAMAY
Yoyamay supports several women’s cooperatives for Chin artisans in Myanmar that produce incredibly detailed textiles and home accessories. Traditionally these textiles were reserved for weddings and special ceremonies or to be given as dowry, always considered family heirlooms. Anthropologist Pa Mang and Nu Shwe founded Yoyamay to help families in the region generate income while simultaneously passing on the knowledge of traditional weaving. Yoyamay currently employs about 200 weavers, and continues to grow with every purchase made.
AMY & KATIE CARSON, BITTERS CO.
With a sincere appreciation for handicrafts, sister duo Amy and Katie Carson founded Bitters Co. in 1993 to showcase their Fair Trade designs, working with artisans around the world. Utilizing reclaimed and recycled materials to create beautiful household goods to last a lifetime, and then some, Bitters Co. specializes in everyday essentials. Our favorite is their 100% recycled glass tumblers that are handblown in Mexico using age-old techniques and sustainable methods of production, ensuring that each glass is truly exceptional.
COURTNEY APPLE, HAND IN HAND
When (Nectar’s) Jenny and Nina initially fell in love with Hand in Hand’s products at the NY Gift Show this past January, it was the beautiful packaging and unique smells that first caught their attention. But it was hearing Zofia Wolicki, their Director of Sales and Marketing, tell of her experience first hand- witnessing the expressions on the faces of an entire village as the water they had piped in was turned on for the first time -that sealed the deal. “You have to understand, the women of this village formerly walked three hours every day to a clean water source and back. You should have seen them…” Zofia explained. Six hours a day for clean water. Courtney, Hand in Hand’s owner put it another way: “The goal was to come up with a household product people use every day, that had the power to save lives. After 3 years of brainstorming, we came across an article reporting that each year over 5 million children die of diseases caused by poor water quality and lack of proper hygiene. It was at that moment that Hand in Hand was conceived.” Sustainably sourced & ethically produced, Hand in Hand offers soap (both liquid and in bars), sugar scrub, lip balm, lotion, candles & bath salt. For every item purchased, a bar of soap and a month of clean water is donated to children in need in Haiti. “We shared a nice big hug with Zofia and then happily wrote up an order,” said Jenny. “Why would we not want to help support more of that?” And gratefully, we do.