Ephrem Tesfaye, a former street kid in Ethiopia started working at this factory after finishing at a rehabilitation center. He has thrived in this environment!
“I moved out the rehabilitation center and I started living on my own. I have a roommate but I can support myself now. I can pay for things I can buy clothes and things that I need. I also got inspired to continue my education so I started going back to school at night. The thing I enjoy most about working here is the teamwork and my favorite product to create is the leather backpack for Sseko.”
Yeshiwa has been working for this partner for 12 years. She is now Fringing Supervisor. Yeshiwa went to school until grade 8 but then dropped out. Yeshiwa is a single mother. She has three children; an 11-year-old, a 9-year-old and a 5-year-old.
“Before coming here, I was not working. Sometimes I was supported by my family but often, I was begging for money. People did not want to speak with me or be with me. People did not respect me. I was ashamed of what I wore and who I was. I remember, whenever I went places, I would wait for everyone to go in front of me before I would move. I didn’t want anyone to see me.
When I joined this company, there were only 10 people in the company. I did not have a specific job. All of us did everything. I worked making bobbins for the weavers, I washed the fabrics and things like that. When the company grew, I specialized and started working in the finishing department.
My job has changed a lot. Before I was just doing finishing work. It was the same task all day long. I would sew on labels, cut off the excess threads and prepare the products for export. Since I have been promoted to Quality Control and Fringing Supervisor, I relate with our export buyers. My job is to check quality. I am still trying to understand the type of products that need to be exported. I am also learning how each of the materials needs to be handled. It is much more detailed work than what I did before. My salary is also increased from before.
I like to give my opinions and my ideas in meetings. I can talk openly with my supervisor, which I really like. I saw that our system for managing the fringing staff was not very professional. I suggested a new system to the HR department and her supervisor and they accepted the proposal. They are now modifying the way in which the department works.
When I got the promotion and when I went to India, I have learned so much. I really want to learn more and be able to communicate with people better. This inspired me to go back to school. I am now studying at night school to finish my high school degree.
I was trained on how to use a sewing machine. I didn’t have the money to buy the machine so never used those skills. When I went to India, I saw that they produce a lot. If I could use the embroidery skills I have and singer knowledge, I could do more. I could open a small business. When I went to India, I realized that I have the knowledge and the skills to do more.
I went to India with the General Manager. She treated me like a person, like an equal which made me feel like a real person. I have had an unspeakable life. My friends are still struggling in the terrible situation of living on the street. I, on the other hand, am being treated with respect.
It is not even about the salary. People respect me. People talk to me as a person. My children are happy because I am not complaining so much. I am happy with my work. I can provide more for my family. I am more confident.
Before, I couldn’t even afford life. Now things are so different. Now, if I don’t have enough money, I can borrow from Sabahar. They believe in me. They know that I can work and pay the money back.
I am teaching my kids as best I can. I am teaching them not to give up. It is hard to be a single mom. It is challenging because I have to work at home, I have many social obligations, I have to take care of my children and also work. It is challenging to do it all. If one man can work this hard, I can do it too! I want to teach my kids not to give up.
My advice to women everywhere? NEVER GIVE UP!”