September 6, 2015: St Paul, Minnesota - Fair Anita is proud to announce a partnership with a talented Ethiopian women’s cooperative. Our organizations’ combined efforts will result in a beautiful jewelry line with a profound message. 150 Female artisans of the collective collect and melt down bullet casings from the Ethiopian-Eritrean War and then craft them into beautiful necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. This artisan collective operates on Entoto Mountain, in the surrounding villages of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital and most populous city. This cooperative provides refuge, health care, and a chance at a new life for Ethiopian women who have survived war, domestic violence, and societal oppression.
Most of the artisans who work in the collective suffer from HIV/AIDS, or fistula, a condition which causes them to leak urine or blood constantly. They acquired these conditions because of the sexual violences they have faced through no fault of their own. Oftentimes it is hard to admit to oneself the reality of a HIV positive status and seek out help because the stigma is so greatly internalized. One artisan recounts,
“I came to this community 12 years ago, right after my husband and daughter passed away. It took me years to accept that I have HIV/AIDS in my blood. It has been 6 years since I started with this artisan group, and I’m very thankful for it because through this job I have started living again.”
This collective provides these valuable, but disenfranchised Ethiopian women with the healthcare and community they need so that they can go on to lead successful lives despite the injustices and great losses they have suffered. The mental health support that this community provides is crucial to success as one artisan details,
“It has been 10 years since I discovered I was HIV positive. At first, I wanted to take my life, but joining this artisan group has enabled me to have friends who understand me and a job to build self-esteem. I have also started dreaming for my future.”
Oftentimes these diseases tear apart families through death and stigma. This happened to Mekdes, who
“found out that she had the virus [HIV] after her husband died. She left her three children to live with relatives because she was unable to raise them alone, but since she started making jewelry, which became her source of income, Mekdes and her children got a chance of living a happy life together again.”
These women strive not only to provide for themselves and their families, but also to break the cycle of impoverishment and resist the patriarchal structures that are forced upon them. They choose to reject society's marginalization of themselves in favor of courageously moving forward to bring about change in their own lives and for others. In this way, these women represent the beautiful result of fighting for what is right, both in the jewelry that they make and the story that it tells.
For more information or to request an interview, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 612-524-9570