As part of our giving program at Seventh Generation (I oversee a program that gives 10% of our profits to sustainable organizations and those that help women and families), we support an amazing non-profit called WAGES
. That stands for Women's Action To Gain Economic Security, and was founded in the San Francisco area 15 years ago with the goal of empowering Hispanic women to attain economic parity. Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting with Hillary Abell, director of WAGES, along with the amazing women who make up the group's female-operated cooperatives , which are housecleaning services. There are presently five co-ops and each is owned by 10 to 20 women who work five days a week cleaning homes with non-toxic and natural cleaning products. Since this was my first visit with the "socias," which is Spanish for cooperative members, I focused on understanding how these women came to be part of WAGES and what dreams and aspirations they held for themselves and their families. The recurring theme was a sense of pride in owning a business of their own. Many of the socias are single parents who are seeking better opportunities for their children. By working for themselves -- and by promoting a way to clean homes without toxins -- they see themselves as agents of change for the societies they live and work in. They are very proud of introducing their clients to household cleaning products that do not contain harmful chemicals. As I listened to these women and their stories of hope, I felt an emotional connection to them. My involvement in helping them become agents of change is deeply rooted in my belief that as a society we need to invest in women in order to bring change to the lives of children and their ultimate role in society . When women are self employed and feel valued by society, they can focus on their children's well being, and in turn create positive, goal-oriented future citizens . We can all make a difference in the lives of others.