Salam! I am Eric Lesner, a finance major from Oswego, Illinois. I am excited to be traveling to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia through Lumos to work with Ellilta Women at Risk and Ellilta Products. I first got involved with these organizations through my work with Enactus, an organization on campus that helps non-profits, both domestic and international, reach self-sustainability.
The organization I am working with is called Ellilta Women at Risk. This organization is a rehabilitation program for young women in Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia. In this city of almost 4 million people, many young women turn to prostitution because there is not much opportunity for employment. Women at risk provides mental and physical rehabilitation for these women while also providing valuable job skill training for them. The program has a 90% success rate. Ellilta products is the enterprise that provides the income for Women at Risk to continue to operate. Ellilta products hires some of the women from the job skills program, employing as weavers. These women weave scarves which are then sold. The sales proceeds then go back to fund the operations of Ellilta Women at Risk.
My goal on this trip will be to enhance the sales of Ellilta Products by building its domestic market. Currently, the scarves are exported to the U.S. and sold under various brands. However, this has created problems in the past with the women being misrepresented and taken advantage of in their marketing material. In addition, the exported scarves only sell for about $13 (costing about $12 to make), while they could sell for closer to $20 in Addis. The market for these scarves will be mostly tourists and businesspeople in the area. On our last trip to Addis in October, we saw large groups of tourists that were looking for nice handmade Ethiopian goods. I am excited for the opportunity to work with this organization and further my financial and business skills!