CWOW brings International Fashion Show to Fort Wayne
Mar20

CWOW brings International Fashion Show to Fort Wayne

In 2014, more than 1 billion people lived in extreme poverty, and historically, 70% of that 1 billion has been women. I could employ a list of all the motivational quotes about change from world leaders we all know, but I won’t do that. Instead, I’d rather talk about world leaders right here in our community who are proving all of those inspirational quotes true—evoking change right here, out of Fort Wayne, Indiana. To those who think that there’s nothing you can do to change the world, allow me to introduce you to Creative Women of the World (CWOW). I can only imagine that now you’re wondering how a nonprofit organization located out of Fort Wayne, Indiana has made an impact on these women living in poverty all over the world. CWOW has directly helped over 150 women in ten countries. This little boutique helps these women rise out of poverty by supporting their efforts to become entrepreneurial successes. They sell artisan items created by women globally (you can also read the stories of all the artisans). CWOW of the world is committed to supporting fashion under fair trade practices. But CWOW doesn’t yield efforts there. They’re a women’s advocacy group and training organization, because they understand that simply selling their products in the CWOW boutique isn’t going to completely alleviate anyone of extreme poverty. CWOW gives these women who suffer from tragedies such as extreme poverty, HIV, abuse, human trafficking and natural disaster business training and marketing solutions. The committed and caring members of CWOW travel all over the world to help these women. They want to help support these women in more than a metaphorical sense; they want to connect with them, build relationships with them, shake their hand. Lorelei Verlee, Executive Director at Creative Women of the World says, “We learn their names. We come to know and care about their children, and we see them making a difference in their communities through their power of their own creativity and sense of purpose.” They document all of their trips and experiences in the Creative Women of the World Blog. The products sold at CWOW fulfill more than a utilitarian purpose. Each product was hand crafted by a creative and strong person, and CWOW strives to tell the stories of those people. They enable women all over the world with the opportunity to be heard…to utilize their voices and tell the world their stories of struggle, but also the stories of overcoming those struggles. Creative Women of the World continues to make strides in their global impact with an upcoming fundraising event, the Empower Her World: A Celebration of...

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Pass the Torch for Women
Feb26

Pass the Torch for Women

Not many can argue against the fact that women are a force to be reckoned with. We’ve come a long way from damsels in distress, to winning the right to vote, and to equal rights as men – all within 100 years’ time. We continue to strive to be exceptional workers, caretakers, mothers, sisters and so on.  But even in the 21st century, we find that being a woman in the workplace has its challenges. These are just a few of the reasons why Mentoring Women’s Network (MWN) was created. MWN is a nonprofit organization comprised of a “community of empowered women developing one another professionally through mentoring relationships.” In honor of International Women’s Day, MWN has launched a campaign called Pass the Torch for Women, whose cause is to inspire change and spread the message of women’s equality in the workplace.  Those who wish to help drive awareness and inspire change are encouraged to make a short video of themselves stating their commitment to help empower women. Participants are then asked to share their videos on social media outlets using the hashtag #PassTorch4Women. Individuals can also visit passthetorchforwomen.org to download a pledge card, receive campaign info and downloading instructions. Mentoring Women’s Network and its Fort Wayne chapter will be holding its 1st Annual Pass the Torch for Women Luncheon on March 11th from 11:30 am – 1:30 pm at the Mirro Center at the Parkview Regional Campus to celebrate the campaign. While trying to find more information about the organization and its mission, I had the pleasure of speaking with Toni Widman, the Fort Wayne chapter’s Market Director. Me: Can you tell us a little more about Pass the Torch for Women, and what it means to be a part of the campaign? TW: I would love to! We [at Mentoring Women’s Network] are thrilled to bring awareness to such an important mission and to get women and men around the globe thinking about how they can support the women in their lives. Pass the Torch for Women is dedicated to raising funds for women who need it most (single mothers, women in transition, women in under-served populations, college students, and women business owners). Our mission is to create a world of equal opportunity through mentoring relationships. Me: That is some powerful stuff! So, how exactly does this campaign tie into International Women’s Day (IWD)? TW:  At the luncheon we will encourage our guests to take the pledge to support women on video to help raise awareness for IWD. We will also be talking about the importance of celebrating IWD and how guests can get their community more involved through spreading...

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Creative Women of the World helps women find their voice
Apr29

Creative Women of the World helps women find their voice

Nestled in the former Continuum Art Gallery on West Wayne Street is a beacon of hope for women around the world. Creative Women of the World (C-WOW) has made it its mission to inspire creative and business solutions for women seeking to rise out of extreme poverty, human trafficking, and disasters. Walking into the cozy storefront, visitors are greeted by an assortment of handbags, jewelry, and other accessories – trendy, contemporary items, all available for purchase. But there is a story behind these items and a story behind this organization. Founded in 2011 by creative entrepreneur Lorelei VerLee, C-WOW has empowered women from around the world by teaching them viable business and marketing solutions to assist them in their start-up efforts. VerLee grew up internationally, studied art in college, and liked the idea of working with people from different cultures. At the age of 56, VerLee found herself in a primitive, rural community in Haiti where she was invited to assist an artisan-based start-up develop a business plan for distributing their unique products. Soon artisans from other countries were asking for similar business development assistance, which led to the incorporation of C-WOW as a 501(c)(3) non-profit in 2011. Since that time, the organization has offered consulting in nine countries worldwide and represents 40 countries in the shop. But, VerLee does not do it alone. “An amazing team of people have joined us and made it all happen,” said VerLee, currently the executive director of the organization. With a team of ten staff and scores of volunteers, C-WOW typically spends two weeks to a month providing in-country consulting with artisans from these countries. Artisans are trained on a range of business areas, such as product development, marketing, and record-keeping, and are encouraged to develop high-quality products that reflect their culture. These new business owners may sell their products locally or export them internationally. If appropriate, they are trained to design items for a western perspective, which can vary from local sensibilities. In the past, C-WOW has worked with tsunami survivors in Japan, HIV survivors in Kenya, and recently traveled to India where they were able to notice the stark contrast between the country’s sprawling technology sector and the rural desert area near the Pakistani border. Here, they met with women living in small, spotlessly clean, rustic homes with floors made from dung. “Our organization finds giving people access and empowerment is far more effective than charity that leads them to assume help is found outside rather than inside themselves”, said VerLee. Through these activities, the women express an inner strength and dignity that finds voice through their arts. As for...

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