We just celebrated International Women's Day and Mother's Day is around the corner. Already the shops and the Internet are filled with Mother's Day cards for mom, flowers for mom, bathrobes and bon-bons for mom.
However, most moms don't get bon-bons on Mother's Day.
The fact is that most of the world's women live in abject poverty, and most of the world's women are mothers. This also means that, since most of the world's women live in poverty, their children do as well. The good news is that we can all make a difference and we can honor our mother and all mothers in the process.
joinFITE.org (Financial Independence Through Entrepreneurship) is a new microlending website powered by Kiva.org to benefit women entrepreneurs in low income areas of the U.S. and 56 other countries. joinFITE is providing small loans to help at least 25,000 women to start or grow their businesses worldwide, and in turn, provide jobs for others in their community. The really beautiful thing about joinFITE is that ordinary citizens all over the world can help give a woman a hand up simply through a minimal donation and the click of a mouse. I couldn't think of a better Mother's Day gift to honor your mother and mothers all over the world.
I am so excited to be a part of joinFITE, and I am not alone! People from all walks of life and all over the world are joining FITE too. There are celebrities, companies and their employees, NGOs on the ground, parents and kids, all inspired to make a difference. We did it as a family and our two teen daughters are tracking the success of the women who received loans. It does not matter the age or gender of the individual, the way in which she or he embraces FITE are truly endless. On this note, I have to give a shout out to a particular mother and son. The mother, Amy Haber, a colleague of mine at Dermalogica, has a 12 year-old son, Harrison, who recently chose FITE as his Bar Mitzvah project and then went on to start a tee-shirt business called "R3DIRECT" ("redirect"), with a portion of the sales also benefiting FITE entrepreneurs. We can all take a page from this sort of initiative and follow through in paying it forward. I am thrilled to share that as a result of everyone's enthusiasm and participation, joinFITE has already funded over 1,600 women entrepreneurs since its launch 11 weeks ago. Together, we can all give a hand up and make a difference.
One of the women entrepreneurs who recently received a hand up from FITE is Noelia from Texas. When she was 4 years old, Noelia and her family came to the United States from Mexico to work as migrant field workers. As a child, Noelia worked in vegetable and cotton fields with her family when she was not in school. When her father was diagnosed with cancer, her mother pulled Noelia out of school to sell tamales in order to pay the hospital fees. Their neighbor worked as a notary public from home and taught Noelia how to complete income tax returns. At the age of 14, she started completing the income tax returns for all the field workers for free so she could get experience. Noelia knew at a young age that she wanted a different life for herself and her family. After graduating, she started helping people complete their tax returns out of her house. Soon this developed into a full-fledged business.
Noelia's loan helped her pay for computers for her business -- the upgrade was instrumental to increasing the number of clients. Currently, Noelia employs her husband and family at her office and she continues to offer free tax services to field workers who cannot afford her services. Noelia's loan is allowing her to realize her dream of creating a better life for herself, her family, and community. Together, we can help many more women like Noelia empower themselves and lift up their families.
In fact, my own childhood and my own mother's journey toward financial independence very much made me who am today. I am the youngest of 4 girls, originally from Scotland. My mother was a nurse and my father a major in the army -- both were stationed in India during World War II, where they met and married in 1944. Once my mother was married, she was prohibited from working as a nurse in Scotland. In 1952, we suffered a devastating loss when my father died of a massive heart attack -- I was two years old at the time with three older sisters. After my father's passing, my family was literally left with nothing. My mother was committed to keeping our family together so she took on a number of jobs to support us and one of these was a nursing job she managed to secure with the help of one of the women who was my father's nurse.
It was exactly at this pivotal time that I became acutely aware of how important it is to have a skill set that allows a woman to be financially independent. At my core, I believe that every woman should be equipped to sow and harvest the seeds of financial independence. In fact, when I started my own company, Dermalogica, I couldn't get a traditional loan and I had to borrow money from my girlfriends to start. Twenty-five years later, we are the number one skin care brand and we are paying it forward for thousands of other women entrepreneurs--honoring them and the women in our lives who have inspired us.
joinFITE helps women entrepreneurs and mothers all over the world realize the beauty of their dreams and create a substantial social return for themselves, their families and communities in the process. I've always had a broad streak of optimism. joinFITE reinforces this optimism for me. It proves to me that there are potential solutions to global issues which, some days, seem overwhelming. With each woman entrepreneur, there is hope. There are tangible routes to action we can all take. This Mother's Day, I will honor my own mother's resolve and fortitude in providing for me and my sisters by helping a woman entrepreneur in another part of the world with the same dreams and hopes that she had in Scotland sixty years ago. Thanks Mom.