Years ago, gender expert Desiree Zwanck, who lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo, told me that helping women to make money can also help them heal after sexual assault. Often women who survive sexual assault are stigmatized and lose the respect of their communities. When women have and manage their own money, she said, “the family respects them more, and so does the community.”
Here are some businesses, exhibiting at a global meeting on ending sexual violence in London this week, whose wares help women heal.
2. From London to Kabul and back
Renowned British jewelry designer Pippa Small goes to Afghanistan twice a year, where she buys precious stones like lapis lazuli and helps local women craft jewelry based on traditional Afghan designs. Her workshop in Kabul, run with the group Turquoise Mountain, is women-only, making it a comfortable — and rare — place for women to refine their skills and earn an income.
3. Delicate needlework from Damascus
Two years ago, Itab Azzam decided to help Syrian women who’d lost their husbands by teaching them embroidery. Today, she sells their handiwork through Mattar, which means “rain,” which is “a good sign,” she says, because it’s so rare. The women work in safe areas of Damascus and in the south, where many have taken shelter after being displaced from the epicenters of violence in the north. The group also runs drama therapy programs.
4. Coffee can help heal
Panzi Hospital in South Kivu, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, treats 2,000 survivors of sexual violence a year. supported by the Panzi Foundation USA, where you can buy a pound of Congo Coffee Project beans, brought to market by Equal Exchange. The fair trade coffee producer donated more than $16,000 from Congo Coffee Project purchases to Panzi Hospital in 2012.
5. Gem Therapy
BACA teaches survivors of trafficking how to make jewelry. The company believes the creativity and focus required to piece together necklaces, bracelets and earrings can help survivors conquer their trauma. At the Global Summit on Ending Sexual Violence in London, attended by officials from around the world, BACA sold enough jewelry to train eight more women in jewelry-making in London.
6. Guatemala’s “Trama Textiles”
The Workshop Coop designs contemporary bags and other accessories with textiles from Guatemala. It works with in the highlands of country, where civli war and genocide destroyed communities. The women of Trama Textiles, which works with The Workshop Coop, have lost husbands and sons to the violence and use the earnings from their weavings to sustain their families.
7. Fashion for justice
Women working with the International Justice Mission, which assists survivors of sexual exploitation to seek justice, sell bags from Global See Saw, a UK-based seller with a plethora of products handmade by women from around the world who were trafficked into prostitution.