Gulele is known for traditional, hand-woven textiles. Historically it is the men who work as weavers, while the women are relegated to heavy, manual labour. A PfC-supported project has enabled women in the area to start up their own weaving business and become financially independent.
Gulele, in the northern area of the Addis Ababa region, is known for its beautiful, hand-woven textiles. It is the men who have the honour of producing this traditional, cherished craft. The women have to settle for hard manual labour. Many earn their living by gathering firewood. They travel far – often for more than five hours a day – to fetch firewood and bring it back to the village. The wood loads they carry weigh 80-90 kilos! The hard work wreaks havoc on the body and provides little income. A woman can earn as little as USD 15 per day, which is not enough to feed herself and her children.
To give the women in Gulele the opportunity for economic independence, the Women’s Health Association of Ethiopia, sister organisation to the Norwegian Women’s Public Health Association (NKS), has established a weaving mill. At the weaving mill women who earn a living gathering firewood receive training in traditional weaving techniques from renowned and highly qualified teachers.
The women own and operate the weaving mill themselves. Everything is handmade – they spin, dye and weave. The work is significantly less physically strenuous than gathering firewood, and they earn enough to provide housing, food and schooling for their children.
In the wake of its success, WHAE was looking for a partner that could contribute financially to expand the business to meet the demand. There was a need for more looms and more equipment and to refurbish the premises and establish a retail outlet to professionalise the business. PfC and WHAE had cooperated previously and PfC obtained funds from the Norwegian Foundation “Et rikere liv” (A richer life), which allowed the business to expand. This provided employment for more women. The expansion also meant that the weaving mill was able to agree to deliver a large order of carpets to Finland, which gave work to another 50 women. “Et rikere liv” (A richer life) is a foundation run by the employees of PFC’s main cooperation partner, Formuesforvaltning AS.
Now thanks to the support from Et Rikere Liv the women are partnering with a leading Ethiopian designer, Paradise fashion. The women are producing high end scarves and carpets and even selling in the duty free in Ethiopian Airlines as part of this partnership.