The past two years have changed a lot in our social and political climate. Women’s rights are on the minds of everyone. It seems as though every day we hear another story about the injustices women around the world are facing. Every day there is a new battle to join, but what many don’t realize is that we have had warriors working on our side globally for years. One of these undercover superheroes is Catherine Shimony, she along with the stellar team at Global Goods Partners are working daily for women who aren’t afforded the same platforms or opportunities as we are.
Since 2005 Catherine, along with co-founder Joan Shifrin, have been working with women artisans around the world aiding in the establishment, growth, and prosperity of their business and their livelihood. Global Goods Partners is not a crutch for these women to rely on, on the contrary, the goal is to provide these women with the opportunity for growth in order to ensure sustainability.
Catherine welcomed me into their headquarters in midtown. The office space is small, but welcoming and organized. This no-frills establishment is filled with samples of the products their artisans make. Through GGP businesses thrive, women are gainfully and safely employed, communities become more developed, and over time the very DNA of these communities is altered. As she shows us around, Catherine is able to describe each item. She explains in great detail where each item was made, how the idea came to fruition, and how and where they are made. Each item has its own story, a story Catherine has etched in her memory, not only because the products are spectacular, but because each item symbolizes an opportunity and a future. Opportunity is what Catherine and GGP truly provide, and a new future is what these women can now envision.
Catherine takes the time to answer a few of our questions, and she gives us some advice on how we can help, and really make a difference!
1. Global Goods Partners (GCP), is a non-profit you co-founded that provides support and U.S. market access for handmade craft businesses led by women in the developing world. GGP has been around since 2005 and has done amazing work. Is there is one thing or event that stands out to you after all of this time?
What always stands out, is Global Goods Partners’ impact on the lives of the women, their families and their communities. We are a mission-based organization built on the principles of fair trade and the empowerment of women.
2. Your program works with artisan women from impoverished countries. Many of these women are battling cultural forces that discourage and inhibit their ability to work. How does GGP find these talented women, and is it difficult to form partnerships in countries not fully supporting your cause?
Prior to launching GGP, my co-founder Joan Shifrin and I worked with international development organizations and had the privilege of meeting many women activists and entrepreneurs around the globe. We reached out to organizations we were familiar with and word spread quickly about the mission of GGP. We were also invited by governments eager to market their countries’ artisan sector and connect us with local artisan entities. Some countries are more challenging to work in because of conflict and/or logistics. Our artisan partners engage all members of their communities and have overcome many of the barriers to women’s empowerment. We have many stories of women who have changed the attitudes of men to accepting and often supporting their economic advancement.
3. This past year has been an eye opening one for many people around the world. The treatment of women, globally, has been the forefront of many conversations. What is your take on these conversations that are taking place?
It is critically important for women’s voices to be heard and I’m inspired by the many courageous women who have come forward to share their personal stories, raise awareness and fight for justice. Without their courage and bravery, the conversation is stifled, and change becomes unattainable.
4. Would you define yourself as a feminist? What is your description of a feminist?
Feminism is about justice and I believe in equity for all. I proudly identify as a feminist and have raised my daughter to be a feminist and an advocate for women’s rights.
5. Intersectionality is a large component of feminism that many people either aren’t aware of, or don’t understand. In your opinion, what can people do to explain and better understand intersectionality?
It’s about expanding the movement to become more inclusive, focusing on our shared experiences and accepting the concept that feminism is interdisciplinary with regards to race, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender expression. Intersectional feminism is critically important today as our tolerant society is under attack, with an administration determined to tear us apart and prey on our fears. It’s more urgent now to embrace the concept of intersectionality and build on our values as a tolerant and caring community.
6. The #MeToo movement has swept the nation. Hollywood stars, men and women, are finally speaking out about the abuses they have faced and made these injustices conversations on the main stage. Do you see these movements having impact in countries like Kenya, India, or Iran?
I have seen women in Kenya and India speak out many years before the #MeToo movement started. In my prior work as a grantmaker for an international development organization, I had the privilege of supporting inspiring grassroots women leaders who served on the frontlines of social change. They challenged the local patriarchy and took tremendous personal risks to advance women’s rights in their communities and beyond.
7. What are some concrete ways everyone can aid in the fight for global gender equality?
To become knowledgeable about inequality as it exists in your local community and around the world. And then become engaged! Your voice matters and your daily choices do too! There are plenty of opportunities everywhere to become involved in a more equal and just society. You have a choice to buy fair trade products, advocate for a living wage, and protect our planet. There are organizations and apps to help you navigate which companies are most aligned with your values. GGP is a member of the Fair Trade Federation, which includes over 200 companies and nonprofits, a great resource for fair trade purchases.
8. Success is defined differently by everyone, but in your opinion, what does a woman need to be successful in NYC?
To be resourceful! NYC has something for everyone! There are so many opportunities to pursue your interests. Do your research and look for organizations to help guide you. For example, if you are interested in working for a foundation, community organization or international organization, check out Idealist.org or visit NYC’s Foundation Center. There are hundreds of worthy community organizations in the five Boroughs, some offering volunteer opportunities along with job postings. NYC is a Global is Local community!