They are popular souvenirs and regularly find their way into the luggage of visitors to Ethiopia: Ethiopian scarves in vibrant colours or pure white, with colourful decorations, sometimes a bit stronger at other times delicately woven into a light fabric. But not all scarves are the same. Each one has its own meaning and purpose.
Deressa Regassa’s life revolves around gabis and netelas. He lives in Abune Ginde Beret and is a known weaver in Bake Kelate. The cloths he weaves are traditional scarves. Gabis are strongly woven cloths, almost as big as blankets, and are worn by men. Netelas, on the other hand, are worn by women. They are fine cloths, but kept in white just like gabis, and decorated with a colourful interwoven edging.
A new loom for Deressa
The production of these scarves requires a certain skill, and of course a weaver who produces particularly artful decorations can sell the beautiful pieces for a better price. To learn this, Deressa attended a weaving course from Menschen für Menschen. There he not only learned how to improve and refine his technique, but he also worked with a modern loom, which he bought at a subsidized price following the course.
In the past Deressa worked traditionally, just like his fellow weavers, with a foot operated loom for which he had to dig a hole into the ground. Today he sits at his new loom in the house. “I’m not faster now,” he says during a short visit to his home, “but the quality is much better. I also don’t injure myself anymore. I could only operate the old loom with my toes – barefoot -, and often injured my feet doing that.”
Weaving - men only?
A woman taking up professional weaving is a rather uncommon sight in Ethiopia. Typically, weaving is a male dominated job. So naturally, the weaving courses by Menschen für Menschen are full of men like Deressa. But women like Yeshi are proofing that women are able to weave just as well. She's attending courses to improve her livelihood with the knowledge received. It's especially hard for women to generate their own income. Menschen für Menschen weaving courses represent a great opportunity for women to earn money without relying on agriculture and found their own endeavor.
"The weaving course by Menschen für Menschen is a great opportunity for me. If I continue to work hard, I'll be able to earn money and support my family," says Yeshi. She lost her husband when she was young and had to support her children since then. Even though the mother of four can read and write, she still had to rely on unskilled labor to keep her family afloat.
After finishing the course Yeshi will be able to produce the cloths at home. She and the other participants have the opportunity to buy a modern loom - at a pegged price - at the end of the course. Each day at the course, the participants receive a daily allowance. With it, people like Yeshi, that not only support themselves, but also their family, are able to participate at the course. And if the participants spend their money sparingly, they'll even be able to afford their own loom at the end of the course.
"Weaving is something I can do at home. That way I can work and still take care of my family."
The loom allows Yeshi to produce two to three scarves per day, which in turn can be sold for 200 Birr - equal to roughly 5 Euro. With the extra income Yeshi has big plans already: She wants to open her own small shop and enable her kids to receive an education. Thanks to the course, Yeshi and her children now have a brighter future ahead of them.
Your donation helps people like Yeshi and Deressa to a better future.