Sabahar is an Ethiopian textile company dedicated to producing modern, handwoven goods made from locally sourced materials, while creating sustainable work opportunities for marginalized people, emphasizing employment for women.
After living in Ethiopia for 20 years, Canadian-born Kathy Marshall founded the company out of a desire to share the handiwork of Ethiopian textile artisans with the rest of the world. Marshall’s passion to preserve the craft and artistry of the country’s rich weaving tradition facilitated the creation of Sabahar in 2004.
As a certified member of the World Fair Trade Organization, Sabahar pay their employees 250% more than the industry average for the work they do. Their employees also have permanent contracts and receive benefits such as paid vacations, maternity leave, medical coverage, and pensions. In order to ensure the salaries are sufficient for rising inflation rates in Ethiopia, regular conversations are held between Sabahar management and the employees and yearly bonuses are awarded based off a percentage of the company’s profits. In addition to comprehensive on-the-job training, employees are also given time off to further their education if they desire to do so. Artisans have opportunities to meet with world-renowned designers and stylists to learn about the global market and further expand their career.
The cotton used in Sabahar’s textiles are all Ethiopian-grown and handspun by a number of women’s groups around Addis Ababa using drop spindles and spinning wheels. After the cotton is spun, it’s dyed using locally purchased, low-impact dyes before being sent to the weavers. Traditional looms are then used to weave the thread into modern designs imagined by the artisans themselves or in collaboration with general management and exposure to global fashion trends.