Toronto store provides more than accessories, empowering women overseas

TORONTO- The Me to We Store in Toronto claims it’s accessorizing in order to change the world.

“Me to We is a social enterprise and it provides people with an opportunity to make great consumer choices when they decide to spend their hard earned dollars,” Roxanne Joyal, CEO of Me to We, said,.

The charitable partner of Me to We is Free the Children, an international charity and educational partner working both in Canada and abroad to empower and enable youth to be agents of change.

“Through each item purchased at Me to We 50 per cent of the net profits go back to Free the Children and the other 50 per cent is re-invested back into Me to We to make this social enterprise sustainable. So each item purchased at me to we makes a huge impact overseas and that’s implemented by our charitable partner Free the Children,” said Joyal.

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One of the programs at Me to We is the artisans program which employs women from Kenya as “Mamas” and sells their beads in Canada. Mama’s from Kenya make beaded jewelry which gets shipped here and sold at the store. The Mama’s are paid fair wages for their work and are empowered by earning a pay cheque to support their families.

“Why I shop here, it’s because the pieces, to me they tell a story, they say something about hope and courage and empowering women, and they impact other people’s lives and that’s an important contribution,” Viviane Ducharme, a frequent shopper and supporter of Me to We, said.

Me to We brought some of the artists to Canada, including Mama Leah, one of the first people to be part of the artisans program.

“My life was so tough, I had a lot of challenges because I live in a family where we leave when we are seven and it’s take me a lot of time to struggle for food for my kids, and to work… So it is hard because we live far away from where we are going to fetch water and where to go and get food, and life was so difficult because I didn’t make it because I didn’t have any job,” said Mama Leah.

The Maasai Mama’s bead using techniques that are passed down from mother to daughter and the artisans project gives them the opportunity to turn their traditional handiwork into a livelihood. They often make up to three times what they would if they tried to sell them in the oversaturated markets in Kenya.

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“I am now really empowered. Because in our community doing great things, always men do, but now I’m proud of being a part of Me to We artisans because I am enable, for now I have build a big structure for my family, I have both cows, I have both goats, and I am educating my kids,” she said.

Mama Leah has two sons in university in Canada and she said education is expensive but because she is earning an income from Me to We Artisans she is able to afford it.




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