Minka Kelly's Work With Women Around The World Cannot Be Ignored

Photo: Erik Pendzich/REX USA.
In 2008, Minka Kelly lost her mother to cancer. Since then, she wanted to become more involved in charitable causes. That's when she met Barrett Ward from fashionABLE, an organization dedicated to creating sustainable businesses in Africa for vulnerable women. The women make hand-crafted goods, like greeting cards, candles, and scarves. A year later, Kelly traveled with Ward to Africa to meet the women the organization helps, and according to the actress, many women were working to get away from the sex industry. "Their stories were just so inspiring. These women didn't go into the sex industry by choice or by making bad decisions," she told Refinery29. "They were making really heroic decisions. One of them women was telling me she went into the industry because she needed to pay for her sister's breast cancer [treatments]," she told us. "I had a really big lesson in courage and sacrifice. I was really moved by it." Kelly knew she had found the right opportunity to help.

Six years later, the Friday Night Lights alum helped design a Hibret Zippered Pouch for fashionABLE. She designed the clutch after visiting the organization's leather factory in Ethiopia, and she saw an opportunity to make an on-trend item that could help spread awareness about the women in Africa. Yet, some wonder why Kelly has taken her charitable efforts abroad. "A lot of times people are like, ‘Why don't you just help people in the United States? There's people who need help in our country, too.' But, the women in Africa don't have the opportunity we have in the U.S.," she explained. The women she helps through fashionABLE are filled with so much joy and love, and they allow her to connect on a deeper level she doesn't believe she would find in the U.S. "We're hugging each other, holding hands, kissing each other, loving each other, singing and dancing, and connecting on a level that you just don't get here [in the U.S.] because we're all moving so fast, working, consuming, and everyone's so busy here," she said. "It's really hard to just stop and look someone in the eye and connect on a deep level." 

Kelly's work with women abroad is inspiring. But, she's also completely aware of the struggles women face here in the U.S., too — including women in Hollywood whose lives are so often in the media. "I think you can look online and find anything nowadays. Of course, the most common thread is this shaming without any empathy, and it sort of feels like sometimes we're all just comic book characters without hearts or feelings," Kelly said, speaking about the way female friendships are portrayed in tabloids. "You just have to suppress any curiosity you might have in wondering what someone's saying about you and just live your life." She does, however, remain hopeful about women's relationship with the press. "It does feel like we're making a turn and women are taking a stand," she told us.

Of course, Kelly's got a solid support system of women — both at home and abroad — to make her feel so loved. "All the women in my life are really inspiring to me — they are better than me in every way. I have really great girlfriends. And, they're all so dynamic and different. That's a really lucky thing to have women in my life who are teachers. We teach each other every day through vulnerabilities, our strengths, our fears — we share them, and we learn and we grow together."
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