"Fair Trade for Peace Initiative: an Opportunity for Social Change
Achoti (Sister) – for Women in Israel
About Achoti Organization:
Achoti (Sister) - for Women in Israel was founded by feminist social activists who recognized the need to set topics of social justice at the center of the public discourse and to enhance women’s solidarity with women from disempowered socioeconomic classes. Achoti is a Mizrahi feminist organization based on the principles that established Feminism of Color, which address the needs of women who are not a part of society’s social hegemonic culture. The Achoti Movement is a pioneer in the work of setting an alternative agenda within Israel and facilitates nationwide grassroots projects with the explicit goal of supporting cooperatives of women in unique and innovative strategies of income generation. Through Achoti’s empowerment strategies, economically disadvantaged women are encouraged to develop self-organizational skills, organize community cooperatives and/or partnerships, and develop new and creative ways of earning money. Achoti addresses issues of economic rights and social justice of women and gives priority to the development of strategies to respond to the escalating economic crisis. Women suffer disproportionately from the deepening of the recession and the rise of unemployment in Israel. Achoti’s target population consists of women ranging in ages from 19-75 from disadvantaged and low-income communities in the cultural and geographic peripheries across Israel. Achoti supports groups of non-working and underemployed women on the margins of Israeli society, in their endeavors for economic dependence and the development of business partnerships. Achoti believes that once all women have means and access to practical and theoretical resources, then women will be able to self-empower themselves and become strong leaders within their families, community and society as a whole. Achoti offers cooperatives, courses, lectures, workshops to build upon the women’s already exiting skills and transform their ‘domestic skills’ into profitable trades and products.
Through these empowerment strategies economically disadvantaged women are encouraged to develop self-organizational skills, organize community cooperatives and/or partnerships, and develop new and creative ways of earning money. In addition, Achoti's agenda is tailored to the unique-cultural context in Israeli society by celebrating the diversity of Israeli women from different cultures and origins. This alternative type of initiative offers a socio-economic option for women within Israel, by not only formulating an alternative type of feminist economic model, but by influencing the existing structure.
Achoti was amongst the first to recognize that, as the majority of Israel’s poor are women, economically empowering women would have an immediate impact on poverty reduction in Israel. Consequently, Achoti has initiated and supported different economic empowerment grass-roots initiatives of women's co-operatives in Israel. Achoti launched the Fair Trade Initiative: an Opportunity for Social Change in order to provide an all- encompassing response which will not only equip women with proper skills and tools to establish businesses but will also present them with opportunities to expand their businesses and sell their products. This initiative combines women's sustainable financial empowerment alongside a nation-wide promotion of education to ethical consumerism which relies on the principles of Fair Trade. In other words, instead of providing the women with fishing rods and fish only, we will also provide them with lakes to go fishing in.
Though recently accepted to the OECD, Israel is reportedly its poorest member, a society with the widest social gaps. As in all countries of the world, poverty in Israel affects women most. Women make up more than half of the unemployed, and most women who are in the labor-market are concentrated in insecure, temporary, unsafe and low-wage work. Israeli women earn on average 37% less than men, which is nearly 20% lower than the average gender wage-gap in the United States; over 70% of the minimum wage earners are women; 90 percent of the single-mother households subsist under the poverty line; poor women make up the majority of state income support recipients, 23% of women state supports recipients have reported that they had been forced to forgo food because they could not afford it .
Achoti was amongst the first to recognize that, as the majority of Israel’s poor are women, economically empowering women would have an immediate impact on poverty reduction in Israel. Consequently, the organization has been initiating and supporting different economic empowerment grass-roots initiatives of women's co-operatives in Israel. Fortunately, our example was followed; today Achoti is one of dozens of different organizations in Israel supporting women’s economic empowerment. The most prominent economic empowerment initiatives for women focus on supporting them in developing their own small businesses and have produced a significant number of promising micro-enterprises. However, similar to the problems that women producer all over the world face, many of the local women’s products did not find a ready market nor a fair market place. Moreover, in the context of initiatives aimed at promoting social change, the majority of successful initiatives transformed only the lives of individual women but did not manage to spawn coalitions between the local micro-enterprises, nor function as catalysts for a broad improvement in women’s opportunities and options.
The Achoti Movement has been spearheading women’s empowerment in Israel by addressing the needs of women in developing towns and disadvantaged neighborhoods, leveraging their initiatives to reconstruct women’s political, economic, and social environments. In the past three years the Achoti Movement has been promoting Fair Trade in Israel based on a Feminist approach.
Fair Trade is one mechanism that has successfully created a fast growing market for micro-entrepreneurs and underprivileged producers that is also combining social, environmental and economic values—and has successfully raised awareness and mobilized solidarity with the poor and underprivileged around the world. The concept is aimed at economically empowering producers in the global South by creating a fair market for their products in the global North.
In 2008 Achoti decided to adapt the Fair Trade concept into a social movement to promote social justice within the multiethnic societies in Israel. The population in Israel is made up of natives and immigrants from over 100 countries all over the world. Each of these communities is in possession of unique cultural traditions and artistry, and many of the marginalized producing women draw on these unique cultural heritages in their products.
Fair Trade promotes values of ethical consumption by introducing the consumer to the story that has brought about their product, offering a chance to learn about the piece of world where the people who manufacture the products they buy live, and how they profit from the consumer’s choice to purchase this product. Achoti's "modified" Fair Trade concept for Israel is unique in that it is on the one hand focusing on the local female producers and propagating values of a feminist economy, and on the other hand it is aimed at introducing consumers to the rich cultural diversity that makes up society, and to learn about the fates and lives of the women who are striving to make a change – a change for themselves, a change for their families and a change for all women in Israel.
Up until the opening of Achoti’s Fair Trade Shop the concept has been largely unknown in Israel. Ethical consumption of products produced in the framework of economic empowerment initiatives has been associated in Israel with the ‘charity purchase’ of low quality products that do not meet consumer and market demands. In this sense the introduction of Fair Trade products, as ‘social goods’, that are both of high quality and are conveying an ethical value, has been a profound innovation. There is good reason to assume that the idea of buying something beautiful, original that at the same time serves to make this world a better place, will become as attractive as it has become all over the Western world during the last decade. Moreover, the possibility to produce kosher culinary goods and Judaica make Fair Trade goods accessible to the large Jewish public in Israel and the Jewish communities around the world.
Achoti’s Fair Trade approach is up-to-date in that it adopts the "vertically integrated marketing model": In order to make the various micro-enterprises successful and sustainable while transforming consumers' general attitudes and behaviors the entire process from production to sale must be designed so to guarantee that everyone involved from the producer to the consumer will perceive the initiative as a true opportunity to bridge the gaps between rich and poor. In practical terms: a) we support the women in raising the quality and range of their products, and promote the establishment of empowering networks between the various producing women who work as individuals or in cooperatives; b) we guarantee that women’s products are made in fair and safe working conditions; c) we promote collaborations between the producing women and the local and international industry; d) we build coalitions with the various economic empowerment initiatives and other organizations committed to the promotion of social change throughout Israel; and finally, e) we work to provide women and their products visibility and a sustainable market place. Since its opening in the summer of 2009 Achoti’s Fair Trade Shop with its original and unique products has received much attention and fulfilled many women’s dream of social recognition and economic empowerment. 250 women between the ages of 20 – 75, from 40 towns and villages and from various ethnic backgrounds are now producing goods that are sold in the Achoti fair trade shop and other locations.
About Achoti Fair Trade Project:
In 2008, Achoti’s established the Women's Fair Trade Coalition unifying 16 organizations (NGO's women's collectives and private businesses) which work together to promote the principles of Fair Trade in Israel with an underlying feminist approach. We established Financial Cooperatives throughout the country in which qualified women producers from underserved communities gain knowledge and skills to establish small businesses. Two of our main Cooperatives are the Ehete Center in Kiryat Gat- an Ethiopian Embroidery and Sewing Center and the Community Kitchen - an innovative social initiative that aims to enhance the ability of women culinary entrepreneurs in local communities in Jerusalem. In order for their grassroots initiatives to be successful, Achoti encourages the women to sell their products in its Fair Trade shops. Achoti's Fair Trade shops, opened in 2009, received much attention and fulfilled many women’s dream of social recognition and economic empowerment. On the one hand, the Shop, the first of its kind in Israel , focuses on local female producers and ensures that any proceeds go directly to them. On the other hand, it introduces consumers to the rich cultural diversity that makes up society and to the fates and lives of women who are striving to make a change. Due to the unprecedented success of the first shop and the growing demand, 2 additional shops were opened in Abu- Gosh and in Tel Aviv. The products sold in the shops vary from arts and crafts, fashion items and culinary products, made by the finest women producers who are Ethiopians, Mizrachi, Arab, FSU new immigrants, Bedouin and others. The products are collected from underserved communities throughout the country, and provide a unique retail experience which combines added values of contribution to society, equality and just consumerism. In order to assimilate the values of Fair Trade on a national scope and encourage just consumerism, Achoti conducts a national campaign to raise public awareness to the topic. The campaign includes marketing of the Fair Trade Initiative in all media mediums: online, printed, televised. Additionally, in 2012, Achoti will publish a book on feminist economy and fair trade which will be one-of-a-kind, for it will focus on feminist economy and fair trade while emphasizing feminist values.
Up to date, we succeeded in raising the quality and range of the women's products, increased their visibility through media coverage and raised public interest, which resulted in increased sales and higher income for the women. We also promoted collaborations between the women's cooperatives and the local and international industries to ensure the market's sustainability for their products.
Today Achoti’s Fair Trade project is the only platform that provides marginalized female producers and their products with visibility and a market place in Israel. The project is unique in that it offers female producers all over the country and from the various economic empowerment programs in Israel a direct encounter with the Israeli consumer and public. The project’s success is crucial and important not only for Achoti, but also for all organizations that work in cooperation with Achoti to empower women in Israel economically.
The program seeks to propagate values of a feminist economy and promote Fair Trade in Israel by providing workshops for 250 underprivileged women to help them establish sustainable micro-enterprises based on their skills in traditional arts and crafts; creating marketing and business opportunities through women's networking; publishing a book on Fair Trade and Feminist Economy to encourage private individuals and government and financial establishments to adopt fair trade principles; organizing a Fair Trade Conference to expand the fair trade market in Israel and raise awareness to the initiative; and creating an umbrella uniting all economic empowerment initiatives for women in Israel. The program is a true opportunity to educate the public on ethical consumerism of high quality products made in the framework of economic empowerment initiatives. It also raises consumers' awareness to the stories behind the products and the lives of the women who are striving to make a change.
• To promote the "professionalization" of the women’s products and expand the range of products made by women to be sold at the store.
• To increase the sales and distribution of women's Fair Trade products.
• To raise awareness of the issue of marginalized and underprivileged women and Fair Trade in three spheres: civil society, political leadership and business sector of Israeli society.
• To publish a book on Fair Trade and Feminist Economy and its principles to promote Fair Trade and Feminist Economy values to the Israeli consumers and the Israeli public as a means to support and participate in the effort to reduce poverty in Israel and to reach out and impact figures in governmental and financial establishment, social organizations and businesses to adopt, implement and support principles of the alternative feminist economy and Fair Trade. –
• To organize a Fair Trade Conference for the publishing of the book on Fair Trade and Feminist Economy to expand the fair trade market in Israel and to increase sales and raise awareness to the initiative.
• To create an umbrella as well as support groups to unite all economic empowerment initiatives for women in Israel and to affect maximum possible micro-enterprises of marginalized and underprivileged women.
• To conduct a campaign on Fair Trade to promote Fair Trade and Feminist Economy values to the Israeli consumers and the Israeli public
• To reach out to the international market and promote the products of underprivileged women from Israel in international Fair Trade markets.
• To continue to create new relationships to expand the number of sales in Israel and abroad in order to promote the products of Achoti –Fair Trade shop.
• To organize tours for groups of women and artists to create new networks and increase the number of co-operatives.
• To promote Fair Trade values by conducing workshops and organizing a Fair Trade convention that will be open to Israeli public.
• To recruit additional women and women's groups for the project.
• To expand our marketing strategy by media campaigns, advertisements and catalogues.
• To approach decision makers to promote the principals of fair trade economy in Israel.
• To increase the Fair Trade Feminist Network in Israel and connect additional groups of women.
• To increase the number of small businesses and the number of women employed
• To increase profits and the number of products.
• To offer professional information and knowledge to advance women.
• Achoti will provide professional workshops for women who come from underprivileged backgrounds to establish and reinforce their micro-enterprises, help to define the unique characteristics of their products, use particular materials, offer continuous support from professionals in the field, and provide help in pricing the product.
• Achoti will launch a Fair Trade website
• Achoti will publish a book on Fair Trade and Feminist Economy
• With the help of Achoti’s consulting designer and through the efforts of the women participating in the Fair Trade Project, we will maintain and strengthen quality production and increase the variety of products to be sold in the stores by 30%. We will also expand networks and partnerships of female entrepreneurs with wholesale distributors of materials, sale experts, designers and potential investors.
• In order to increase the distribution and sales of the Fair Trade products, we will implement the “Store within a Store” model in 2012 - 2013.
• We will expand Achoti’s Fair Trade brand strategy –The extent to which the public adopts Fair Trade as a way to improve society and bring about social change will determine the success of our Fair Trade Initiative. In order to succeed, we will continue to promote Achoti’s Fair Trade brand in Israel. The brand is used for products that represent a unique identity and implies a significant meaning. By purchasing Fair Trade products, the consumer supports underprivileged women to achieve their dream of self-sufficiency, their ability to create a better future for their children and the possibility for social change in Israel.
• We will raise awareness of the issue of marginalized and underprivileged women and Fair Trade in three spheres: civil society, political leadership and business sector of Israeli society. In order to ensure the shop's success, we must create ongoing successful promotion campaigns and must constantly upgrade our working procedures (e.g., expand customer database, online friends community, special sale promotions etc.)
• Achoti will continue to create new relationships to expand the number of sales in Israel and abroad in order to promote the products of Achoti –Fair Trade shop.
• Achoti will organize tours for groups of artist and artisan women to create new networks and increase the number of co-operatives.
• We will promote Fair Trade values by conducing workshops and organizing a Fair Trade convention that will be open to Israeli public.
• We willrecruit additional women and women's groups for the project.
• We will expand our marketing strategy by media campaigns, advertisements and catalogues.
• We will approach decision makers to promote the principals of fair trade economy in Israel.
• To increase the Fair Trade Feminist Network in Israel and connect additional groups of women, Achoti will organise several meetings and one Fair Trade Convention in 2013-2014. We will invite to these meetings artist, artisan women, designers, Fair Trade stakeholders and experts, business figures and the general public. This activity will create a social and economic network of minority women through mutual learning and social and economic action.
• These meetings will provide an experience of mutual learning and personal development; increase the number of small businesses, number of women employed; increase profits and the number of products; provide the participants with information that will change their lives; and offer professional information and knowledge to advance women.
Target population :
Currently, over 250 women between the ages of 20–75, from 40 towns and villages and from various ethnic backgrounds are producing goods that are sold in the Achoti Fair Trade shop and other locations. We aim to increase this number by opening additional Financial Cooperative and reach additional communities. This Initiative will also benefit the general Israeli population through the exposure to the principles of Fair Trade and the promotion of just consumerism.
Program's potential for replication:
It is Achoti’s explicit goal to promote the values of Fair Trade and a feminist economy and to serve as an exemplary model to be replicated and to inspire the entire Israeli society. The Fair Trade project promotes these ideas through the establishment of shops and sale points throughout Israel and abroad. We invite producers, consumers, organizations committed to social change, local and international industry businesses and initiatives to join in and create change for underprivileged women and the society as a whole.
The Fair Trade initiative is conceptualized as an umbrella that unites economic empowerment initiatives for women in Israel and provides them with a solution for the profound need of a market and fair market place. Fair Trade aims to create an environment that demands fair trade products made by women from throughout Israel. Women's Fair Trade Coalition, established by Achoti, is a strong coalition of partners and business, fellow NGOs, and women collectives around Israel, to promote the Fair Trade project in varioussss communities throughout Israel, where women are involved in. In order to publicize the initiative, Achoti has launched its media campaign to spreads the idea throughout Israel: "Anyone can join the efforts to bring about social change in Israel".
In addition, by marketing the program through media campaigns, advertisements in the traditional and the new media (Facebook) and catalogues, we will reach new potential consumers.
Through the book on Fair Trade and Feminist Economy, the decision makers will hopefully adopt our model.
For more information please contact us:
Tel: + 972.77.4011271
Fax: + 972.3.5379601