With the holiday shopping season gearing up, many people are looking for unique gifts for their families and friends—gifts with a special, personal, handmade touch that just can’t be found at the mall. Not only are there wonderful, one-of-a-kind gifts to be found, but many of them benefit people in need – especially women in the developing world.

Artisan Christmas Angel

The global artisan sector is on the rise. According to United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) data, international trade in art crafts totaled $17.5 billion in 2002; by 2012, that number had grown to more than $34 billion. And as UNCTAD maintained in its 2010 Creative Economy Report, “the creative economy can… play a catalytic role in promoting gender balance in the creative workforce, particularly in developing countries.” When crafts make up a bigger part of the economy, that’s good news for women in particular.

The Coca-Cola Company recognizes that while women perform 66 percent of the world’s work, they only earn 10 percent of the world’s income. In 2010, the Company launched 5by20, its commitment to empowering five million female entrepreneurs in its value chain by 2020. Supporting women artisans is a key pillar of this initiative. To date, there are 5by20 artisan programs in 13 countries. 

Artisan Christmas decorations

Recycled cans and bottles, as well as other recycled materials, can be made into new products by the skilled hands of women in the developing world—and these products make perfect additions to gift lists at this time of year. One cooperative that features and sells these items is UPAVIM, a women’s cooperative comprised of about 80 women in Guatemala. According to UPAVIM, all of the women in this organization are “mothers and homemakers, some widows, and some abandoned,” and many of them “are the sole providers of economic support for their families.” Purchases directly benefit community educational and medical programs, which are overseen by the women in the cooperative.

UPAVIM offers a wide range of Fair Trade gifts suitable for all ages:

  • Jewelry made from aluminum pull-tabs, are a great idea for a fashionista looking for a little bit of sparkle around the holidays. Check out these trendy bracelets and necklaces and stock up!
  • Any gift recipient who is interested in needlework would love this finger pincushion, with a recycled bottle cap base.
  • There are also plenty of items for the kids on your list, such as this cute Rufino the Rhyming Reindeer doll.
  • Is there someone on your list who loves holiday decorations? UPAVIM offers several varieties of ornaments, including this adorable angel ornament, made from a soda can and a tab.
All of the above items are currently available for purchase on the UPAVIM Fair Trade Crafts website.

Giving the perfect holiday gift can be extremely gratifying. But items like those offered by UPAVIM not only make fantastic gifts for the people on your list; they also give the gifts of economic empowerment and hope to women artisans around the world.