Did you know that two-thirds of the illiterate people in the world are female? That’s a shocking figure — one that needs to change.
In honor of International Women’s Day, we recently discussed how volunteering empowers women both at home and abroad. Continuing on that theme, we’re excited to introduce you to a new company launched by the founders of The Culture-ist (one of our favorite websites!).
Meet Humanity Unified, a socially conscious clothing line striving to empower Rwandan women through a variety of educational programs.
We talked with Maria Russo, Humanity Unified’s co-founder, to learn about her vision and future plans for the company. We hope her words will inspire you to support their mission — and create change!
1. When and why did you found Humanity Unified? Who designs your clothing?
Anthony and I are avid travelers and after visiting almost 30 countries, we felt a responsibility to give back. Last November we traveled to Rwanda where we saw firsthand how the effects of the genocide has threatened the well being and livelihoods of many women. We partnered with Aspire Rwanda, a local organization providing literacy and vocational skills; counseling; nutrition and family planning programs; and training in sustainable agriculture methods that provide food security and economic opportunities.
We launched Humanity Unified to inspire travelers, dreamers and changemakers to make purchases that in turn inspire and educate others and support a greater mission.
We work with two talented young female designers who create the graphics for our tees. We currently source our shirts from Bella + Canvas, a WRAP certified company, but will be moving towards partnerships with companies that use sustainable and organic materials.
2. What’s been your biggest challenge in founding HU? Your biggest success?
Neither Anthony nor I have a background in fashion, so creating a lifestyle brand has been interesting to say the least. As we expand the line, we want all products to have a minimum impact on the environment, and we are finding that that can be extremely challenging when working in the fashion industry. We also hope to begin employing female artisans through cooperatives, so right now it’s about talking to anyone and everyone, researching and finding communities that need economic opportunities.
Our biggest success has been creating awareness among young people in particular on the importance of empowering vulnerable women in developing nations.
3. Why did you choose to work with Aspire?
Aspire empowers women to rise above poverty through effective programs that allow the women to be self-supportive after graduating from the organization’s 12-month program. Many of the women go on to be entrepreneurs, farmers, cooks, hairdressers and caregivers at Aspire’s child care centers. If these women can support their families, their children, daughters included, can attend school and hopefully break the cycle of poverty for themselves and future generations.
4. Why do you feel that supporting women is so important?
Here are just a few reasons:
– There are still 31 million girls of primary school age out of school. Of these, 17 million are expected never to enter school.
– Two-thirds of the 774 million illiterate people in the world are female.
[bctt tweet=” ‘If all #women had a secondary education, child deaths would be cut in 1/2.’ @HumanityUnified”]
– Women continue to participate in labor markets on an unequal basis with men. In 2013, the male employment-to-population ratio stood at 72.2 per cent, while the ratio for females was 47.1 percent.
– It is calculated that women could increase their income globally by up to 76 percent if the employment participation gap and the wage gap between women and men were closed. This is calculated to have a global value of $17 trillion.
– When more women work, economies grow. An increase in female labor force participation — or a reduction in the gap between women’s and men’s labor force participation — results in faster economic growth.
– Women and children bear the main negative impacts of fuel and water collection and transport, with women in many developing countries spending from 1 to 4 hours a day collecting biomass for fuel. A study of time and water poverty in 25 sub-Saharan African countries estimated that collectively women spend at least 16 million hours a day collecting drinking water; men spend 6 million hours; and children, 4 million hours.
5. What are your plans for the future of the brand?
We hope to expand our work with organizations around the globe that empower women.
6. What would you say to someone who wants to make a difference in the world, but doesn’t know where to start?
Tomorrow when you wake up, write down where your passions to help lie; maybe it’s in education, maybe animal rights, maybe you want to help bring community gardens to poor communities — whatever it may be, decide where you want to help. Then start reaching out to people in your community — tell anyone and everyone — and offer to volunteer. The more you talk to people, the more opportunities to become involved will arise. You just need to get started — take a leap and go!
[bctt tweet=” ‘Decide where you want to help… Take a leap and go!’ @MariaCultureist”]
A huge thanks to Maria Russo for sharing her inspiring vision with us! Please support her new venture by shopping at Humanity Unified.