By Brianne Smith
Since 2011, Pearls4Girls jewellery has been displayed and sold through Escape Clothing, the popular Glebe women’s clothing boutique at 703 Bank Street. With ever-present support from store owners Leslie and Kenetha, Pearls4Girls (pearls4girls.org) and Escape Clothing hit a milestone this summer by raising $50,000 in sales of jewellery to support vulnerable girls in Lesotho in southern Africa!
From the start, store employees and faithful customers have been instrumental in helping the Ottawa-based NGO Help Lesotho to accomplish its work through the sale of Pearls4Girls jewellery. As a social enterprise, a minimum of 50 per cent of each purchase goes directly to support girls in Lesotho. (The rest of the purchase price is direct costs – Pearls4Girls is non-profit). Escape Clothing has allowed Pearls4Girls to be sold in its boutique with no retail fee so that every dollar possible supports girls affected by HIV/AIDS, gender inequity and poverty.
“We have been honoured to showcase and support such a worthwhile cause,” said Leslie. “The jewellery speaks for itself, and it makes the perfect gift that gives twice.”
Help Lesotho and Pearls4Girls have been able to enroll hundreds of girls in Lesotho in the Pearl Program, which helps to prepare girls to enter high school with the knowledge and self-esteem to resist peer pressure and make healthy decisions.
Said one program participant, Mat’seliso: “We have grown up believing that if a girl is not married at an early age, other members of the community may think she must be too unattractive or ill-behaved to get a husband. But now I know that no one has to force me into marriage, I will marry when I am old enough to be responsible to choose whom I marry.”
Reabetsoe benefitted in another way: “I love the Pearl Program because it has given me communication skills. Communication is the helpline to healthy relationships with my friends.”
In the 15 years since its inception, Pearls4Girls has raised close to a million dollars, empowered thousands of girls in Lesotho and engaged thousands of volunteers in Canada and around the world.
Pearls4Girls sources and sells a beautiful line of freshwater, cultured pearl jewellery in a variety of colours, shapes and modern styles. Through each sale, our aim is to help vulnerable girls in Lesotho take back their lives, dream big and make a difference, all while accessorizing fabulous women in unique pieces of jewellery.
Why girls in Lesotho? Lesotho has the world’s second highest incidence of HIV/AIDS, devastating poverty and widespread gender inequity. Girls in Lesotho are fighting an uphill battle; through the Pearl Program, we are helping them reach their potential. This program empowers girls with confidence and self-esteem so they can make healthy decisions and resist peer pressure.
Brianne Smith is marketing and communications coordinator for Help Lesotho, a non-profit NGO located on Bronson Avenue.