The factory we visited was in the heart of Addis Ababa (which everyone shortens to just one word, Addis) and employs women whose live are transformed. I heard some of their stories and they have a similar theme: I needed money; money to sustain myself and keep a roof over my head and food in my stomach; a friend told me to turn to prostitution, I made money. Over half to three-fourths of the women who work there are mothers whose stories were powerful. The only criteria to be able to work at FashionABLE is the desperation of a life change. No one is recruited or forced to leave the life of a sex worker, but they are given an opportunity to be trained in a myriad of skills that lead to making scarves.
There is the usual influence and support from NGOs and places like Women First, but it was truly their life stories that make this work. Dying the fabric and weaving them are a part of the program, certainly, but it’s the rehabilitation of the women that make this holistic program work. For instance, one of the first things they teach the women is to sleep during the night since they are used to being awake at night and asleep during the day.
There is brokenness, abuse, and trauma but it’s the fact that they address it and aren’t satisfied with just saying, “Here. Have a skill. Good luck.” The children are cared for as well with school funding and uniforms. But, as a family unit they are offered parenting skills, counseling, and health checkups. That’s the part I didn’t know about or understand prior to visiting. The part about being a mother and feeling desperate and wanting to change your life resonates deeply with me. I think a lot of mothers feel that way.
I think a mother’s heart is pretty radical. It is capable of just about anything.
It is an amazing thing to watch what this transformation does.