Tadesse at 64 years old is Sabahar’s oldest weaver and one of the most experienced. Tadesse’s wife is a spinner, and together they support their six children. Tadesse grew up in a family of farmers in Chencha, an area near Arba Minch. Before working for Sabahar Tadesse was employeed by one company for 33 years: “The conditions were not good. Long hours, unfair pay, dirty work conditions. Now, working at Sabahar, my life has changed for the better. I feel secure and happy. The staff are kind and we all respect one another; the grounds and work environment make it a nice place to come every day.”
Before working at Sabahar Kalema and her daughter lived with her mother and sister, where Kalema worked as an unpaid employee. As Kalema said: “I wasn’t allowed to leave the house very often back then and felt trapped. I wanted more for my daughter.” After beginning work at Sabahar, Kalema says she feels empowered for the first time in her life, “I get to go to work, I get to go to a place where I am needed. I can provide for my daughter, for myself. What I do feels important. It has made me feel important.” Today, she and her daughter live in their own home and Kalema is financially independent.
Bidulu, 22 years old, has been working at Sabahar for the past three years. He grew up in the southern countryside, born to a family of peanut and wheat farmers. As a teenager he made his way to Addis Ababa where he was hired and trained as a weaver. For the years before working at Sabahar, Bidulu wove on his own loom in his small home in Sheramida, the weaving district in Addis Ababa. “Life was harder then, when you weave for yourself you don’t have the same security. You’re worried about shortages of raw material, you’re worried about not having enough money to buy the raw material that is available, you’re worried about price changes, you’re worried about your loom breaking..you’re worried a lot.” Bidulu supports his wife and two young children with the income he earns at Sabahar. “Working at Sabahar has improved my family’s lifestyle. I no longer need to worry; I get paid a good consistent salary everyday without fail. I work hard and I get rewarded and acknowledged for it.”
Etalemaw, now 28 years old, recalls when her family fled to the capital nearly twenty years ago because of violence and instability in her birthplace, the Oromia region.“We used to be farmers. Wheat, sorgum, tef, barley, but with war in our area, we had no choice but to abandon it all.” Today, Etalemaw is married with one daughter. “My daughter is in the 8th grade and doing very well. It is wonderful to see that she is learning” Etalemaw has worked at Sabahar for nearly six years.“I feel really lucky to have such a wonderful place to work. The staff, the surroundings, the textiles. But more than that, I feel happy to work outside the home, to have a place to come to every day.”