At Starfish Project, we help exploited women do three things: experience freedom, establish independence, and develop careers. Today we want to share more about what it means for exploited women to develop careers.
When Starfish Project’s jewelry enterprise began in 2007, we were not sure if the women joining Starfish Project would ever progress beyond making jewelry with their hands. We hoped that we could train women in higher-level skills, because the job market is so competitive where we work that a handicraft job’s wages are not enough to provide for a family.
In the ten years since we began, the women of Starfish Project have blown us away with their resilience, adaptability and capacity to learn. If you came to visit our office, you would struggle to know which women were formerly exploited and which women were hired as staff! Formerly exploited women fill critical roles in production, accounting, quality control, photography, inventory management, and sourcing.
When a woman arrives at Starfish Project, she may have never opened a laptop before. Our Vocational Training program covers basic computer skills, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint and Microsoft Office. Many of our women take official tests to get certified by the Microsoft Corporation in each software program. So far, the women have a 100% passing rate (sometimes they need two tries!). When a woman passes her Microsoft Certification test, we hold a special ceremony to present the Microsoft certificate and frame her photo in our office. These certifications mean so much. Credentials from a respected company make it easier for women to get hired outside of Starfish Project. Passing the test gives women confidence they can succeed beyond Starfish Project. Recognition reinforces their sense of accomplishment and dignity.
For women who want to develop further skills like photography, Photoshop, or accounting, they can enroll in courses outside of Starfish Project. One woman became so proficient in Photoshop that she taught a Photoshop course for everyone else at Starfish Project, and our computer teacher attended her class! It was a huge statement to the entire office for a woman without any degrees to be teaching the teacher with a bachelor’s degree. She did an amazing job!
Our jewelry social enterprise is a great environment for women to develop careers. With so many different sections of the business like photography, accounting, design, and shipping, each woman can get real experience and find out where her skills and interests lie. Whenever a woman is promoted into a new role, she apprentices with someone who is deeply invested in her success. She has low-risk opportunities to exercise her new skills, where it is safer to fail than it might be in a regular company. Our work environment is designed to accommodate her emotional needs as a formerly exploited woman.
When an exploited woman develops a career, she regains control over her life and her future. Starfish Project’s jewelry company provides an incubator where formerly exploited women can develop a career. As a Starfish Project family, we are grateful for your jewelry purchases that make it possible for women to develop a career.