Book Review: Global Girlfriends

From time to time, our students will be prepare book reviews of Fair Trade books and books on other related topics.  Here, Fair Trade TrailBlazer Sara Neville shares her thoughts about Global Girlfriends.

Edgar, Stacey. (2011). Global Girlfriends: How One Mom Made It Her Business to Help Women in Poverty Worldwide. New York: St. Martin’s Press. 290 pages. ISBN: 978-0-312-62173-5.

Stacey Edgar’s book, Global Girlfriends, is a testament to the power of determination and networking. After discovering her passion for helping others, Edgar worked as a social worker for years until she realized how unfulfilling it was. She hoped to help those who suffered intense injustices in our world. She hoped to reach out to the women in our world who are treated so unfairly, so she decided to start her own business. With little more than some research about fair trade under her belt, Edgar invested a tax refund into a business involving the import of goods from global artisan groups run by women. She hoped to change the lives of these women, and over the past eight years, her business has expanded, bringing hope and prosperity to the lives of women worldwide.

Edgar’s book chronicles her journey from Peace Corps reject to panic-stricken mother to business-savvy “global girlfriend.” Her goal was to buy products from women in areas afflicted by political unrest, poverty, the horrors of the sex trade, illiteracy, HIV/AIDS, and gender inequality. By buying products from these hard-working women, she hoped to begin to eradicate the feminization of poverty worldwide. Fair trade allows farmers, artisans, and other workers worldwide the fair chance at life. Rather than being exploited by large companies, the fair trade movement works with small co-ops and farms, allowing workers to receive fair wages which help them live more fruitful, prosperous lives.

Edgar did not know much about how to start a business. Her passion for poverty-stricken areas of our world led her to research the fair trade movement. She connected with women’s groups online, and brainstormed with her friends and family who shared the same interest in helping women worldwide. She looked to successful organizations like Women for Women International, and allowed guidelines created by UNICEF and the World Health Foundation to lead her in the right direction when choosing areas to work. Edgar teamed up with her neighbor, Mary-Mike, who had studied business and could help her with spreadsheets, finances, and importing and exporting goods from global women’s groups.

Global Girlfriends reads like an email from a close friend. Edgar effectively tells her story through personal interactions with women in countries like India and Nepal. She shares her fears and successes, her hesitations and greatest ideas. Though the book is not a piece of stellar writing, Edgar was able to illustrate exactly what she aimed for: the poverty that breaks down so many people in our world today, the struggles she faced as a privileged American consumer, and the courage it took to step forward and decide to make change in today’s world.

Personally, I believe the only qualifications a person has to have to make social change are passion, perseverance, and an ounce of business savvy. Stacey Edgar was more than qualified to start this business, and has inspired others by her efforts. I see social change tricky to navigate. Many people believe it is hard to do, but Edgar’s story proves that all you need is to believe in yourself and push through the difficulties and frustrations that social problems in the world are fraught with.  Overall, I was extremely satisfied with Edgar’s story. I love how personal it was, and how the act of simple storytelling so intensely inspired me to want to make a difference in my world. The fair trade movement is something I have grown to become very passionate about, and the fact that it has the potential to positively impact the lives of so many women worldwide is what makes it even more worthwhile to me. I am desperately excited to jump into the real world and find the perfect connection to a group like Global Girlfriends, Camfed (Campaign for Female Education), Indre-et-Loire (an artisan group for women living in poverty in France), charity: water,, Girl’s Friend Nepal (a group inspired by Global Girlfriends) or any number of organizations that aim to eradicate poverty and create better lives for people living in stark, desperate conditions. Edgar’s story has inspired me by illustrating the power of networking, the importance of perseverance, and the strength of women in our world today.

-Review prepared by Sara Neville, Penn State Brandywine