The Beauty of Dignified Work: Introducing Ellilta

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Here at Noonday, one of our main goals is to see people thrive in their communities, encouraging each other and building one another up. In pursuit of that goal, we are excited to partner with a growing artisan group in Ethiopia that provides reliable employment and a fair wage for marginalized women in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital. Through their work with a Non-Governmental Organization called Women at Risk, they also help provide skills training and job placement opportunities for women emerging from prostitution, a desperately needed outreach.

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In Addis, many women are drawn into lives of prostitution as a means of providing for themselves and their families because they lack job opportunities. Often, they have moved to the city from rural areas to seek a better life, and find themselves unable to face the challenges of urban living with no job skills or training. In addition, prostitution is frequently a generational cycle, with daughters following their mothers into the industry.

These women often feel trapped by their circumstances, but Ellilta seeks to provide a safe way out by training them in a craft, such as weaving, and creating a marketplace for their products through collaborations with companies like Noonday Collection. In addition, they receive counseling, participate in a professional recovery program, and share the support and love of the other women employed by Ellilta.

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On a recent trip to Addis, we had to opportunity to get to know one of the amazing women employed at Ellilta. Mulu is one of those women that just radiates light, with a warmth that is contagious. When Mulu was young, she married a man she fell in love with and they had a daughter together. However, they were from different tribes, so her husband never fully accepted Mulu. After much harsh treatment, he disowned her and forced her out of the community. Tragically, she was forced to leave her daughter behind, because she could not afford to care for her as a single mother with no job prospects. After 20 years, this devastating memory still brings tears to her eyes.

Mulu traveled to Addis in hopes of finding employment, but with no job skills, the only opportunity she found was a life in prostitution. She had been working as a prostitute for eight years when she found out about the opportunity to work with Ellilta through Women at Risk (WAR). “I had heard of what WAR was doing through my friends,” Mulu says. “I was at my absolute end. I prayed to God to…get me into the program.” The next day, a WAR representative came to speak to Mulu and asked if she would consider joining their program.

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Mulu has been working as a weaver for seven years now. With her wages, she has been able to support herself, send money back to the community she left in order to help pay for her daughter’s schooling. She is proud to say that she is now eligible for Ethiopian government housing and is hoping to be a homeowner in the near future. “Someday, I’d like for my daughter to come and live with me” she says. Until then, she remains committed to her job and is proud of her ability to provide for herself and family through dignified work.

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For hundreds of years, Ethiopia has been renowned for its beautiful textiles, and the women who create our scarves are proud to carry on this tradition. We love that from raw materials, like fine Ethiopian cotton, to finished piece, every scarf is 100% Ethiopian in creation.

The opportunity to create something with their own hands and to earn a living has given these women a new sense of their own dignity and purpose. After working with Ellilta making beautiful woven scarves, the women now say that they feel hope for the first time in years and know that no matter what lies behind them, they are worthy and loved.

Check out Ellilta’s first creation for Noonday, the versatile Amhara Scarf!
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Meet Jessica Honegger

Jessica is Noonday Collection’s Founder and Chief Dreamer. Jessica spends her days inspiring others to live lives of purpose—from empowering our Ambassadors to be powerful storytellers and stylists, to visiting and encouraging our Artisans partners across the globe. After hours, Jessica can be found relaxing with her husband, dancing with her three children, and enjoying a good book.

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