I admit that like a lot of you, that it can get really hard, day after day, learning about yet another violent incident around the world; another area facing political unrest, turmoil, and terrible conditions, especially for women and children. But as I recently heard Nicholas Kristoff describe at a ONE Girls + Women’s summit, every time he visits these countries he returns feeling less discouraged, not more so. Because there’s always one person, one group he encounters, doing absolutely remarkable things to help the lives of other people.

Maybe that’s why I’m always looking for these kinds or organizations to support; it’s a necessary reminder for me that there is a whole lot of good in the world, even in the midst of the bad. And it makes me feel like there’s something small I can do, if only buying a bag or a necklace to help contribute to the income of the women who make them — or spreading the word here, so that collectively we can make a greater impact.

Related: To The Market: Fashionable gifts that reinvent women’s lives

So I’m happy to discover another truly admirable fair trade organization that’s empowering women in the tumultuous Democratic Republic of Congo through their handiwork: The Peace Exchange.

This is one organization truly making meaningful change in the lives of their artisans.


The Artisans of the Peace Exchange

The women are building marketable skills for themselves through creating cheerful, colorful accessories and home decor pieces that create better lives for their families in really tangible ways.

Every piece makes me smile just looking at it.

There’s a new beach collection with great cotton beach blankets or picnic throws, yoga bags; but my own faves are probably the bags (because you may know me and bags) like a reversible market tote, a lightweight book bag  and similarly, a beach bag which is also great for a quick overnight or a run to the store. There are also napkins, tablecloths, and plenty of design options that may fit into more urban decor.

I also love that as with organizations like FashionABLE, the woman from The Peace Exchange who made your item actually signs the tag too.  This is not factory-created stuff.

And this is not charity. It’s empowerment.


Peace Exchange: Fair trade cotton pillows in gorgeous colors that support women

Cheery cotton napkin sets via the Peace Exchange

Fair trade book bags and totes from the Peace Exchange that support women's lives + education

Peace Exchange fair trade beach blankets + picnic throws
Cotton fair trade yoga bags and tote by Peace Exchange that support women who make them

In case you hadn’t thought about it, Mother’s Day is coming up. Or if you’re thinking affordable teacher gifts, tuck a fair trade coffee gift card into one of those makeup totes for a gift that’s all kinds of excellent.

I am so taken by the stories of how purchases like these are allowing women to send their kids to school, enroll in literacy programs themselves, get medical care they need, improve their overall quality of life, and even become safer; what may have moved me most is that The Peace Exchange connects the women with local officials in the region to be sure they have advocates in government positions against abuse and sexual violence.

That’s some good work right there.

Visit the Peace Exchange to learn more about the non-profit’s work, and check out a great collection of handmade accessories and decor on sale at Bead and Reel. You can also read up on the lives of the women actually creating these accessories, here.

[thanks, Cathleen!]