Alumni Spotlight: Tali Weinberg

 
Tali Weinberg
Tali Weinberg participated in AJWS Volunteer Summer in Ghana in 2001 and AJWS World Partners Fellowship in India 2005-2006. She currently manages programs at Global Goods Partners in New York City.

What motivated you to participate in AJWS's service programs?

I participated in Volunteer Summer because it seemed ideal for me. I'd been involved in social justice work already, and I was very interested in becoming more involved in global justice work. I was also excited about the possibility of finding a space in the Jewish community that felt more at home for me—I wasn't otherwise too engaged yet in Jewish life on campus.

I did the World Partners Fellowship after I had a degree in international development from NYU and had been working in public policy for a year in Washington, D.C. I really felt the need to reconnect with the communities that I was advocating on behalf of in D.C. I wanted to get back to grassroots work and this was a great opportunity to do that.

How did the trips impact you when you came back home?

Volunteer Summer was a key experience at the beginning of my time in college. I went abroad again to Africa for a year after coming back from Ghana and ended up with a degree in international development. The World Partners Fellowship was a reaffirming experience. It was very important to me to figure out what it meant to really support and work with these communities that were doing incredible social change work around the world and also to understand what it means to live responsibly as a US citizen. My experience gave me a better sense that I did want to pursue these interests in my life—and that I could.

What do you at Global Goods Partners?

Global Goods Partners (GGP) is an organization that supports primarily women-led community based organizations all over Africa, Asia and the Americas by helping them access the US market with their handmade products. My role involves working with our global partners on capacity building, community development, fair trade work and also communicating their message to our audience in the US.

We use the products as an opportunity not just to generate revenue for the human rights and community development work that these organizations are doing on the ground, but also as an opportunity to raise awareness here in the US. We work a lot with students and schools who use us as a socially responsible fundraising program—rather than selling chocolate or wrapping paper, they're selling these fair trade crafts and learning about these communities. It's really valuable to me that there are always multiple levels of impact.

What do you like most about your work?

What's different about GGP in relation to other fair trade retailers is that when we're selling products, they are for the community organizations a jumping off point for even further social change. It's much more than income generation. For example, the revenue helps create community spaces for women and marginalized, at-risk communities can come together.

One of the most powerful things I took away from my time in India is inspiration from the women that I worked with on the ground there. They were absolutely incredible, facing challenges every day and still coming together and working so hard to take care of their communities. It's something we want to get across when we're working with young people who use us as a fundraiser. We want people to say they're excited to buy this product because they understand the impact beyond fair trade principles and that they see these community organizations and these women as models of social change, not that they're buying it just because the women are poor.

Do you pursue any other issues or interests beyond your work with GGP?

I don't feel that my activism outside of work and at work is different. Fair trade and responsible consumption have been important to me for a long time. I participate in the Fair Trade Coalition here in New York on behalf of GGP and out of my own interest. I try to understand the multiple layers of impact that I have in the world and remain conscious of that. So some of my activism is policy related and going to anti-war rallies; some of it is that I consider going to the farmer's market and the way that I shop—or when I choose not to shop—part of my activism.

How do you sustain yourself doing this type of work?

Having a lot of people around me that also care about the same things, and a supportive work environment, is really helpful. Every time I hear from one of our partners/community organizations on the ground and talk to one of the women, it really motivates me. I feel like a lot of activists that I know—including me—could learn how to balance more. For me, talking to my friends and mentors keeps me in check, and also having great conversations with people who are inspiring. If I'm getting too overwhelmed with everything that I'm doing, they help point that out to me and keep me balanced.

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