Just over a year ago, when I stepped onto African soil for the first time, I didn’t know what to expect. What followed were ten days that still rank among the best in my life; not necessarily for what happened there, but for what has happened since.
Shortly after we returned from Ethiopia we received an email from the founder of FashionABLE. Inside were words on which I am still unable to place a value. “We had to hire three more women,” he wrote. And, “Thank you.”
Compared to the number of women in the sex trade in Ethiopia three seems like such an insignificant number, but at the same time three lives forever changed seems like such a tremendously unfathomable thing for which to be somehow, for lack of a better word, responsible.
Roughly 75% of the women engaged in the sex trade in Ethiopia end up with HIV, the money they make is astonishingly little, they’re often unable to feed and house themselves and their children. Women who come to work at FashionABLE have made a personal decision to break the ties they have with that world, they go through job and life skills training, and the company pays them both a living wage and for their childrens’ school fees to ensure their children are educated and have the opportunity to break the cycle of extreme poverty in their own lives. It’s something that I would be floored to have been a part of for even one woman so when, within mere weeks of our visit, we got news of being a part of that opportunity for three it was not an insignificant moment.
Through the end of this week FashionABLE is celebrating their third birthday. That video embedded above is part of the celebration, and as a token of their appreciation for the business that has allowed them to grow into this stage of their mission they are running a third birthday sale. Everything in their store is 30% off — and it’s really great stuff that supports an even greater cause. The new Sebel scarf in gunmetal grey and scarlet is my favorite fall scarf right now. And their Tigist leather clutch is the sort of soft, supple leather to die for. The Genet scarf served me well at the Western Wall. And the first FashionABLE scarf I ever owned, the Etanesh Stripes has travelled with me across three continents.
With Christmas coming up I know where I’ll be doing my shopping, and I hope you’ll consider it, too. Having had the opportunity to meet the women at their factory in Ethiopia, it’s a little bit of good in the world that is very close to my heart.
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BONUS: My dear friends, Christine Koh and Asha Dornfest (who were both in Ethiopia with me last year) are donating all royalties from the sale of their book, Minimalist Parenting, to Help Women at Risk. A collaboration with Women at Risk is how FashionABLE came to staff women who previously worked in the sex trades in Ethiopia. It’s a great cause, and an awesome book. Check it out!
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Picture at top courtesy Karen Walrond; taken during our time in Ethiopia, October 2012.