Counting Flowers visits Sabahar
2014-10-19 - Anyone who ever visited Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, in ‘winter time’ knows that a scarf here is no luxury. Because of its high altitude this city can be chilly, even cold! No wonder that the Ethiopian women love to wear their traditional, very fine but surprisingly warm cotton scarves.
Sabahar builds on Ethiopia’s age-old knowledge to turn high quality cotton into soft, comfy scarves, but not without giving it its own twist.
Counting Flowers’ board member Melanie recently visited Ethiopia. Below a report of her visit to Sabahar, a local Fair Trade organisation that Counting Flowers is collaborating with since last year.
Judith, sales manager at Sabahar, enthusiastically shows Melanie around. The weaving and all related activities take place in different buildings, scattered over a beautiful green garden and connected by narrow cobblestone stairs – a pleasant green oasis in this dense and somewhat grey district of Addis Ababa.
It is not just its location that is striking. The enthusiasm of the management and the dedication of the staff clearly stand out. No wonder that extraordinary scarves are being created here!
Sabahar’s designs are not traditional but contemporary, adjusted to the Western market. The organisation also experiments with the combination of cotton and silk.
The initiative to produce and process so-called eri silk is unique in Ethiopia. By doing so Sabahar not only aims to create more variety in its products, but also to offer a new source of income to farmers that have learned to produce silk.
Sabahar recruits its employees in its direct neighbourhood. The team of spinners, dyers and weavers counts about 100 people. As per tradition most men do the weaving, while women take care of the spinning. Sabahar also collaborates with the nearby hospital.
Women who, due to pregnancy complications, have a longer stay at the maternity ward can still earn an income by doing some spinning for Sabahar.
The artisans working at Sabahar show quite a difference in age. This is, as Judith explains, because Sabahar doesn't consider age as a criterion for recruitment. Everyone, young or old, earns the same income.
Working hours are from nine to five, five days a week. Overtime, if required, is paid out and can also be done at home, at the weavers’ own loom. This way the work is easier to combine with family life and domestic worries.
Sabahar pays the artisans a fair salary, which enables them to put some money aside for savings. Apart from the salary, Sabahar offers insurance, education and, once in a while, social activities.
This is all very much appreciated, as shown by the fact that many artisans work for Sabahar since it was founded in 2004.
Miss Etagen, one of Sabahar’s older employees, holds her spinning wheel for a moment to confirm this. She used to work as a day labourer when she heard about Sabahar, now about seven years ago. She was lucky that Sabahar was in need of artisans, she says. “Until today I still work here very happily.”