ONEMoms in Ethiopia: Bridging worlds with handmade scarves

FashionABLE scarves

Sometimes an idea seems so obvious, it's a wonder no one's ever thought to do it before. Such is the idea behind FashionABLE, an Addis Ababa-based non-profit.

Weaving scarves as a sustainable employment alternative to sex work

Without access to a sustainable way to earn an income, many women are forced to turn to commercial sex work to feed themselves and their children.
FashionABLE founder Barrett Ward noticed the beautiful, handmade scarves commonly worn by Ethiopian women, and knew these scarves would be marketable in the United States. What if, by making these scarves, women could learn a valuable skill and earn a sustainable wage without having to turn to prostitution?

More than just a new job: training for a new life

A simple idea, but making it work is remarkably complicated.

FashionABLE partners with Women At Risk, an organization that reaches out to and rehabilitates prostitutes by providing counseling, health care, job training, and a small stipend so they can support themselves during the year-long rehabilitation process. We met with the Director of Women At Risk, Cherry Teketel, who shared her passion to connect with and help these women build a new life.

Watch this video: I think you'll see why Cherry captivated us.

FashionABLE fits into the picture as a source of employment once rehabilitation is well underway.

Hearing the women's personal stories

Not only were we able to join the women as they dyed cotton, spun thread and wove the delicate scarves on large, twig-based looms, we were able to listen as they told us their stories.

Saba (with Cherry) telling us her story.

Saba and Mulu (with Cherry translating from Amharic) each told us about the different, desperate paths that led them to the streets, and then, to FashionABLE. Each expressed great pride in their ability to not only to produce something of beauty and value, but to support themselves while doing it. 

As Saba said simply, "Here I have found peace."

Each FashionABLE scarf is named after a women who works there, and each bears a hangtag with her handwritten note. This is Saba's message:

Because of you, I am ABLE to feel pride in my work. Thank you, Saba

Buy a FashionABLE scarf!

 Soft, delicate FashionABLE scarves are an ideal gift — for you, someone you love, or your favorite teacher.

Each purchase supports a job for a woman who needs it, and all the profits from the sale go straight back to Women At Risk, helping to reach out to even more women.

Dyeing cotton
Dyeing cotton

Spinning thread
Spinning thread

Weaving scarves
Weaving scarves

Pick your favorite colors and patterns at

Photo credit: ONE/Karen Walrond

Tomorrow, we leave Addis for a two-day stop in Bahir Dar, a city in Northwest Ethiopia and the site of Lake Tana. We will be learning about agriculture and nutrition, and will get a glimpse of rural life. I hear the Internet connection can be spotty, so fingers crossed. Cell coverage seems fine, though, so keep an eye on the #ONEMoms hastag on Twitter and Instagram.

* * *

I’m in Ethiopia as an expense-paid guest of the ONE Campaign. ONE is a non-partisan organization that fights poverty and preventable disease, primarily in Africa. 

The idea behind the ONEMoms partnership is simple: the connection we share as parents extends around the world. When we recognize that connection and come together, we can make real change.

ONE will never ask for your money, just your voice. If you're moved by what you're reading here (or on any of the ONEMom teams' blogs) please consider joining ONE, and spreading the word about our ONEMoms journey this week!

Follow along with ONEMoms happenings on the ONEMoms website, or use the hashtag #ONEMoms on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. You can also find ONEMoms on Facebook.

More: Posts about ONEMoms


  1. Laura says

    Thanks for posting – the stories are so inspiring. And the scarves are fantastic; I just bought a gorgeous Feleku style, and am glad to know the money is going to a good cause. My kind of shopping.

  2. says

    THANK YOU, Laura! You have no idea how happy that makes me. This organization is absolutely remarkable, and your purchase makes a real difference in the lives of the women who work there, and in the lives of women who have yet to find an alternative to a life on the street.

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