A Global Friendship is a not-for-profit that works to improve the standard of living in developing regions through “tackling gender inequality” and “empowering women around the world who are living under $10 a day”. AGF creates and builds sustainable businesses for artisans by providing business training and market access, and currently works in Thailand, Indonesia, Peru, India and the USA.

I spoke with Jess Bergeron of AGF to learn more about the organization and their current Kickstarter Project, the Sage Braid. Jess has combined her passion to help and background in fashion to work as Development Manager for AGF.

AGF helps women break the cycle of poverty. The AGF model targets women because of the vital role women play in community development. According to my conversation with Jess, “children of an educated mother are fourteen times more likely to get an education themselves, and that, “A woman’s resourcefulness with money has an immeasurable impact on family, community, and future generations.”

Not only does AGF help women who are stuck in a cycle of poverty, but most importantly, their model empowers them.

“We (AGF) aim to encourage women to take strong leadership roles in their community, as they are the ones who understand their community needs and can educate us about where the funds would be most useful. By leaving these decisions up to the local women, we are giving them the power to tell us how we can most effectively aid their communities. We aim to show these women that their voices are being heard and are making an impact. We never make a decision about how to help their community without their vote.”

AGF Founder, Elizabeth Firgeleski, began the organization after experiencing the generosity of the Thai people during the 2004 Tsunami. The organization developed as a program focused on empowering women and communities internationally, but now also works with impoverished populations in the US. Firgeleski decided to bring the program to the Pine Ridge Reservation after her partner worked on Diane Sawyer’s special, Children of the Plains, and she learned of the conditions in which the people of PRR were living.

Women of Pine Ridge Reservation - Photo courtesy of AGF
Women of Pine Ridge Reservation – Photo courtesy of AGF

Pine Ridge Reservation is a Native American reservation in South Dakota. The Sioux of PRR, many of whom are skilled artisans, are suffering from an 80% unemployment rate due, in part, to a lack of opportunity to produce and market their items.

AGF developed the Sage Braid project, as a way to support women artisans there. The project aims to sell handmade bracelets made of leather and sage, a blending of traditional craft methods and contemporary design to express the rich culture of the Sioux. According to Sioux tradition, sage symbolizes long life and wisdom, and wards off bad energy and harnesses power. The sage used to make the bracelets is picked directly from the reservation.

Proceeds of the Sage Braid project will benefit the entire community, with the potential of helping generations to come. All proceeds will go toward creating three sustainable businesses on the reservation, and providing educational programs for high school girls there. The suicide rate among high school girls on the PRR is more than 3 times the national average.

“The Sage Braid: A Global Friendship Bracelet isn’t just an accessory, it’s a way of telling people you shop responsibly. To take it one step further, you will know that you’ve pulled twenty women and their respective families out of poverty. It’s time we help people in need with our everyday purchases. Let’s change the world one bracelet at a time.”

There are 10 days left to back the Kickstarter Project, and receive your own Sage Braid bracelet!

Wearing the Sage Braid - Photo courtesy of AGF
Wearing the Sage Braid – Photo courtesy of AGF

Other ways to get involved with AGF include becoming a shopping ambassador, joining an AGF campus club, hosting a Trunk Show of products, or donating to the 100% model. Visit the AGF website to learn more about contributing, to buy more accessories, and to read about other AGF projects that empower women globally.

Jess Bergeron and Elizabeth Firgeleski are examples of women using their own opportunities to close the gender gap. Organizations like A Global Friendship are making gender equality a reality! Support the Sage Braid project, and take part, too!

Featured image courtesy of AGF.

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