Women’s Stories

When a woman has a job, it is statistically proven the impact she has on herself and those around her is profound. Behind those statistics, though, are real stories of pain and joy and overcoming. We invite you to read through some of the stories so that you might know them a bit, and that you might find that we all share in common a desire to be known and to be loved

With ever-growing web accessibility to all corners of the globe, some names have been changed.

I AM ABLE
To Send Myself To School

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I AM ABLE
To Have Peace in my Life

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I AM ABLE
To Be a Leader at Work and in my Family

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Addis Alem is 20 years old. She works in the ‘sewing’ department at Modern Zege, and hope to become a professional sewer and start her own business some day. In her free time, Addis likes to watch movies in her free time.

She has gained respect and confidence as a working girl from her friends and family, and is proud for having a job. Addis was not able to pursue her studies after high school, but now she is ABLE to earn enough to start her college education at Abyssinia College and is studying Accounting.

“When I was 20 years old I came to Addis to live with my aunt because she promised to send me to school, but she did not. Instead, I worked as a maid and I was not happy at all. A woman who lived in my neighborhood dressed well, and that interested me. So she showed me I could work at a bar and be a prostitute. I had a baby, but my family took her from me because they didn’t want her to repeat my life style.

When I joined fashionABLE I changed my life. When my family saw this they gave my daughter back to me and now I now have great joy & peace in my life. This means a lot to me because now I can say there is a God who is for me.”. ~ Anchinalu

“I have been working for Modern Zege for 9 years now and started as a stitcher without any knowledge or training. But I have been given training and helped with my education so that I can now be in a place of leadership. I am currently the quality control manager at Modern Zege. My family is very important to me with 2 children, 1 daughter that is 3 years old and a 7 year old son. Raising my family has been my greatest challenge but also my greatest joy. Through my work opportunity I am able to provide not only for my family but my extended family too.” ~ Fikire

I AM ABLE
To Raise my Family Well

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I AM ABLE
To Develop Professional Business Skills

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I AM ABLE
To Have Confidence & Dreams for my Future

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~ Alem

“I look forward to the day Rift Valley Leather is recognized as the best leather design house in Africa. I would like to gain a professional qualification in accounting.”

“I have developed professional business skills. Personally I am able to support my family (I have recently installed electricity to my parents’ home). And I am a respected member of the team.” ~Heta

“I am still young and have done a course for basic computer packages. I would like to pursue further studies in a business related course – either in administration or sales & marketing. After working here for a year, my eyes have been opened and one day I would like to have my own business.”

“My current work has given me self-esteem. I now have financial self-reliance, am able to contribute to my parents for household expenses, and have savings for emergencies and education. I have self-confidence. I love having progressed to the point where I can now construct many different products!” ~Irene

I AM ABLE
To Support My Family

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I AM ABLE
To Love My Job

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I AM ABLE
To Live up to my Potential

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“I am now much more confident & proud to be working here. I live a much better life since joining the company and can now help to support my family and afford small luxuries for myself.” ~Agnes

““I am 25 years old and have a nine year old child. I married young and never had the opportunity to get an education. I first got a job at Trio Craft as a cleaner, but I have become an expert weaver. I am so grateful for this work and I love my job.” ~Aster

“My name is Eden, and I was born and raised in Addis Ababa. I grew up in a family of 5 children. When I was 21 I got my first diploma in clinical nursing but after graduation it was hard to find a job so I worked as a counselor until my friends at fashionABLE saw a potential in me and gave me an offer to work with them. // It was the best decision I’ve made. Because of fashionABLE and the business we have, I am able to see many women being a leader in their community and gaining their dignity back.”

I AM ABLE
To take care of my kids

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I AM ABLE
To Face New Challenges

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I AM ABLE
To Provide for my Family

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Eyerusalem is married and a mother of two, aged 13 and 5. She works in the sewing department at Modern Zege and aspires to become a professional and earn a good income. She has gained respect and dependability in her family as a working mother and is proud and confident for having a job.

She is grateful that they employed her without any technical (certified) skill in sewing. Modern Zege has helped her practice and gain the necessary experience and gives her raises as her productivity gets better over time. Eyerusalem likes to spend her free time with her kids, and because of this job she is ABLE to send them to school and take better care of them financially.

“I had no happiness in my life before. I didn’t trust people and was very negative. My behavior was bad and I had a lot of problems and no boundaries. // Now, I can support myself, face challenges, and see the positive in people and situations. Being able to work has changed my life and brought me joy.” ~Feleku

“In 2006 I got a divorce then I started facing the challenges alone and didn’t have any option to raise my children well. One day one of my “friends” gave me advice to start a prostitution business and I was convinced by her idea. I rented a small room in Addis and started. Some days I went to my house without getting any money and wasn’t even able to feed my children. I would then beg for food that I would bring home to my children. This was the biggest challenge in my life. // The happiest day in my life is the day that I joined the program. It was a big moment for me because I didn’t like my previous work. Now I am able to provide for myself and my children.” ~Frehiwot

I AM ABLE
To be part of a community

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I AM ABLE
To embrace my role as a mother

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I AM ABLE
To Be Independent

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“My name is Alem Gebeyew. I was born in the countryside, and my family was very poor. When I was 10, they sent me to the city to live with my uncle so I could go to school. But after for 4 years he hadn’t sent me to school, so I ran away and found a group of women and started a bad life style. // I was able to get help with Women at Risk and the counselors taught me how to look forward with hope. I have a 3 year old daughter, and I’ve turned my life around working at Ellilta products. I now feel part of a community.”

“I don’t remember my birth mother, and I was brought from the countryside into the city of Addis at age 3 by an aunt who promised my family I would have a “better life .” Instead, I was groomed to be a housemaid and given so many responsibilities that the load of work became impossible. By age 12, I ran away and began living on the street. I felt lost and I was continually raped . Eventually, I became pregnant . With a baby at 15, I learned to have sex for money so I could support her. I coped with life through drinking, drugs and smoking. // I enrolled in counseling to work through my addictions, my childhood trauma, and learn ways to reconnect with my now 7-year-old daughter. I am thankful to be working where I am surrounded by friends who love me. I have a job that provides dignity, and I am now able to embrace my role as a mother to my two daughters.” ~Genet

"I was born in Addis Ababa and my family moved to Nazarette in Ethiopia when I was 5 years old. My father was a driver and my mom didn’t work…. we were a middle class family. I went to a public school to finish high school, and after that I took training class in sewing. I used to live with my brother and I was dependent on him for everything. So I applied for a job to make scarves and Ellilta products gave me a chance. // Now I am able to be independent and have since moved out from my brothers home and live on my own. Because of Ellilta I am able to see many lives get change for the better." ~Helen

I AM ABLE
To make big goals for my life

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I AM ABLE
To work hard and get promoted, too!

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I AM ABLE
To send my two children to school

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“When I was 13 I was orphaned as my mother and father passed away. I was able to move in with my aunt and uncle however I found it very challenging living with them as they did not treat me well. // Now i am 22 years old and work as a stitcher and samples maker. After getting training from the Ethiopian leather institution, I was able to find a job at Modern Zege. I love to design and hope to continue my education and one day become a designer in the leather industry in Ethiopia.” ~Kalkidan

“I am 24 years old, and I support my husband. I’ve been working at Modern Zege for 4 1/2 years, since I graduated from the Leather Industry Dev’t Indstitute. // I have loved being trained and upgraded in my knowledge of stitching. I am working on increasing my productivity, with the goal of getting promoted to the position of quality control.” ~Mamuye

“I am a single mother to 2 kids: a 17 year old girl and an 11 year old boy. I’ve been working in the coloring department for 8 years at Trio Craft. Before this job, I did not have a sustainable income and couldn’t provide for my family. // This job has changed my life, and Trio Craft is more like a family than an employer. My boy has special needs, and it is because of this job that I am able to support both him and my daughter, and send them to school.” ~Mehari

I AM ABLE
to send my son to school

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I AM ABLE
To love others well

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I AM ABLE
To feel confident

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“My husband and I got in bad disagreements. When I was 25, I left and took my son and started sleeping outside a church’s door. I met this woman who had a prostitute business, and she offered me money and a house to rent. This is how it began… // My neighbors said there was a company who helps women with situations like mine. Now I work here making scarves. My job has taught me how to love, have self-respect, and it has been a positive change in my life.” ~Meselu

“I have one older sister and one older brother. My dad passed away when I was a child. I started the prostitution work because I was worried about my family and wanted to support my mother. At the age of 15, I ran away from my family and worked in the prostitution business. I worked for 13 years on the streets. Over all these years I’ve seen a lot of challenges in my life, and I have been hurt so many times by many people. // I am so glad to join the team at FashionABLE. I have so much more joy at this job compared to my life on the streets. And now, I can love people well because I know God.” ~Meseret

“I was 22 years old when I started as a prostitute. My husband told me to go to the city and continue my education, and he would come join me later. But he never came, and I got into prostitution in order to forget him. I felt like sleeping with different men would help me move on. It’s the most horrible, cheap, and disgusting life. // I have nothing to be ashamed of anymore. I have peace and rest, and I am very happy. I want my daughter to be in a good place and have the best life.” ~Mulu

I AM ABLE
to learn new skills

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I AM ABLE
To have independence + confidence

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I AM ABLE
To feel confident

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~Niguse

“Rekik is 21 years old. She comes from a poor family, and is finishing up her high school education. In her free time, Rekik likes to watch movies. Working at Modern Zege has given her independence and self confidence. She even restarted her school during the night because she is now able to pay for her education. Rekik says her current job has inspired her so much that she wants to be a designer of leather products in the future and would like to own her own shop one day!”

“My name is Rita, and I was born and raised in Addis Ababa. My family sent me to school, and afterwards I went to college and got my diploma in accounting. I was a stay at home mom until I was able to work with fashionABLE. // Now I am able to see other women becoming providers for their families as well.”

I AM ABLE
to be a leader in my workplace

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I AM ABLE
To see that my children are proud of me

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I AM ABLE
To have dignity + respect

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“My name is Seble I was born in Addis and grew up in Ethiopia with my family in the capital city of Addis Ababa. I was the middle child in my family. Growing up, I had a great role model in my mom. She was a single mother and a strong woman. My siblings and I went to a public school and after high school I went to college and got my diploma in IT. // I have worked in different companies but I now have a job that I am passionate about. I manage my coworkers and am able to be a leader in my workplace.”

“I grew up in a big family, but fled to the city when I was 15 because I didn’t want an arranged marriage. I started as a housekeeper, and worked for 3 years. When I was 18, I was introduced to the life of prostitution. I had two children, whose father I will never know. I never got to see them because of working at night and sleeping during the day. // But now, the change and opportunity I’ve experienced through a “real” job gives me a joy that cannot be expressed. I am confident now, and my children are the pride of my life. And even they have changed, as they are proud of me, and the work I am able to do.” ~Sisay

“Sewunet is 21 years old and lives with her family. She worked in the Middle East for a short period as a housemaid, trying to support her parents, until she was deported back to Ethiopia. She felt bad when she came back, but is happy to have found a new job. With this work she feels more respected and dignified. She’s grateful to no longer be a burden to her family, and to now be able to support them. She dreams of specifically being a pro in leather seaming and stitching.”

I AM ABLE
to save for my future

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I AM ABLE
To support my little sisters

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I AM ABLE
to dream of my future again

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“I enjoy socializing and traveling– I want to learn more about the world beyond Kenya!”

“I want to develop more skills in the leather manufacturing business and advance to become a designer.”

“I love that I’m not dependent on a boyfriend, but I can be self-sufficient. I am able to support my little sister through her college, and to save for my future needs.” ~Susan

“I live with my family and support my little sisters. I’ve been working at Modern Zege for 5 years, ever since I graduated from the Leather Industry Dev’t Institute. // I came in with no experience, but they trained me well. I am always looking to improve my skills at work and to be a more valuable employee.” ~Teshome

“When I was 12 years old my father passed away and it put a lot of pressure on me to help provide for my family. This often does not lead to a bright future for young girls. // I started in the leather industry after receiving training and a certificate from the Ethiopian leather institution. I have been working in the leather industry for 6 years as a stitcher and sample maker. I am very happy with the opportunity I have working and even dream one day to open up my own business.” ~Tigist

I AM ABLE
to achieve my dreams

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I AM ABLE
To support my daughter and give her a great education

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“I was born in the country and came to Addis when I was 17. I got married and we had a healthy son. A few years later, my husband got very sick. As his situation worsened, we found out I was pregnant. We moved to live with my husband’s parents and they suggested that I get checked for HIV. The results came and it turned out that I had the virus, too. I felt like my world had ended and I stopped caring for the baby inside me. I was too sad to get medication to protect my unborn child, and I struggled in those dark days. My baby girl was born with HIV, and the guilty was eating me up. Then, while I was trying to find work to pay for our growing medication costs, my husband passed away. // I left my older boy with his grandparents and found a shelter that gave me and my daughter a safe place to stay and get treated us with medicine. After a while, we re-checked my daughter for HIV and she was free from the virus! It was a miracle. I felt like I was given a second chance, and I had a new desire to work and support my family. I found work with Entoto Beth Artisans, which has made me achieve my dreams and makes me the happiest! I’ve been promoted 2 times, and I am able to send my daughter to school and feed myself and support my older boy with his grandparents. I love my job and I want nothing more than to see my children grow & be successful.” ~Tizita

“I am really interested in educating myself, and my hobby is to read books!”

“I am a single mom to a 5 year old daughter and my dream for the future is to send her to the best school and see her achieve great accomplishments.”

“My husband left me and our daughter few years back and I am raising my child all alone now. So my current job makes me able to support and fulfill my daughter’s needs. It gives me so much dignity because I take care of myself and my child in a better way.” ~Zemen