In 2005, activist Barrett Ward founded Mocha Club, an organization whose members give up the cost of two mochas or $7 per month to back relief and development projects in Africa. Ward later moved to Ethiopia, where he stayed for a year and came across Women at Risk, a group that rehabilitates former sex workers. In Ethiopia, many women resort to prostitution to support themselves and their families due to generational poverty, hopelessness, and lack of meaningful resources. While these women often wish to leave the sex industry, the absence of opportunity and rehabilitative assistance keeps them in. Ward saw how Women at Risk restored the dignity of former sex workers and learned that one of the biggest things that could prevent women from turning to prostitution is gainful employment. Thus, in 2010, he founded fashionABLE, a non-profit that creates sustainable business for women in Africa.
Currently employing 25 women in Ethiopia, fashionABLE sells 100 percent cotton scarves that get women off the streets and ultimately out of poverty. But the social enterprise does more than just provide jobs. Having partnered with Women at Risk, fashionABLE is dedicated to educating the women in their program to help them sustain themselves eventually. The women receive job skills training, as well as counseling and education that facilitate their holistic healing and rehabilitation. The ultimate goal of fashionABLE is to see these women become productive members of society and an indispensable part of a developing economy.
fashionABLE’s scarf production facility is located in Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia. The scarves are handmade by the women in the program and other local sources that include men and women. Each scarf is named for a woman whose life has been changed by fashionABLE and includes a note of her story. Every purchase of a fashionABLE scarf provides opportunities and gives these women a new choice.