Antigua, Guatemala attracts thousands of tourists, students and volunteers each year for its colonial architecture, mild weather and quaint small-town vibe. Actress Jessica Alba and designer Rebecca Minkoff were recently added to this list.
The pair traveled to Guatemala to partner with a local organization called FINCA for their new handbag line. Alba and Minkoff bought hand-made textiles from weavers in Guatemala that they incorporated into a clutch and diaper bag for The Honest Company.
FINCA provides loans for small businesses in developing countries to promote economic independence. They work in over 20 locations in Guatemala, where more than 50 percent of the population lives under the global poverty level. They target women in particular because this money usually supports their family and children.
Shifting the power dynamic
“Having the loan changes the power factor so that they are now the providers of the household,” Rebecca Minkoff told FINCA. “It changes the dynamic and makes them empowered as women.”
Minkoff first heard of FINCA’s work a few years ago and was inspired to work with the organization, she told Glamour. She then brought Alba in on the collaboration.
The pair told Glamour that their own experience starting a business made them want to support other female entrepreneurs.
Alba and Minkoff are not the first celebrities to support an important cause in a developing country. Angelina Jolie, Bill Gates and Bono are all known for their charitable outreach. But some question if this work really benefits the local communities.
Connecting with a charity can increase a celebrity’s popularity and promote a positive image, according to a study by University of Manchester and Sussex University.
Professor Mark Wheeler told the New Internationalist that using one’s own fame to bring attention to a cause can be a positive diplomatic gesture. Professor Ilan Kapoor describes these celebrity gestures as a way to increase record sales rather than address root causes of global inequality.
A Forbes report in 2010 found that some celebrity donations helped nonprofits run efficiently, but other charities funded by celebrities racked up large numbers of expenses.
FINCA works to make women financially independent rather than financially dependent on an organization.
“Not to be a man basher,” Alba told Glamour, “but investing in women is such an untapped source.”
Check out this video to learn more about Alba and Minkoff’s visit to Guatemala: