How does Sera Helsinki ensure fair salary and good working conditions in Ethiopia?

Anna Suoheimo, the CEO and founder of Sera Helsinki lived herself five years in Ethiopia. She knows the culture and people and organizations that she works with. Sera Helsinki pays higher product price compared to the local level. We don’t believe that higher price is enough to change lives. Sera Helsinki works with Finnish and Ethiopian Non Governmental Organizations (NGO). The network of NGO’s is specialized with disability inclusion. We renovate workshops and educate management and artisans. For example we build ramps, so that people with different disabilities can reach the premises. Together is more effective to tackle complex problems that people with disabilities face.

Why do you work with women and people with disabilities?

Every fifth person that lives in extreme poverty has a disability. Disability is also highly stigmatized in Africa. We want to show that these groups are able to create beautiful products and are talented members of their communities. The most effective way of changing circumstances in the global south is to educate and empower women. When women have an income, it’s more likely that children will be educated. In Ethiopia 74,3% of women aged 15-49 years have faced female genital mutilation (FGM). The social position of women in the society is fragile and we want to change these circumstances.

How do I take care of my Sera Helsinki rug?

Sera’s carpets are made of pure Ethiopian highland sheep wool. Thread, knotting and weaving are entirely handmade. Woven rugs: weaving is made of wool (50%) and warp is made of cotton (50%). Knotted rugs: knotting is done of wool (80%), warp is made of cotton (20%). The wool is not bleached or colored so the rug has its natural lanolin and that is why it’s very easy to keep it clean. When needed, all of our rugs can be vacuumed, cleaned in the snow and tamped. Woven rugs can be washed with water, just make sure that the rug dries entirely. For knotted rugs we recommend professional cleaning/washing. The colors of the carpets won’t release, because all the colors are natural colors of sheep.

How do I take care of my Sera Helsinki towel?

Artisans hand spin the natural fibers, pot dye the thread in small batches and weave fabric on traditional handlooms. Hand spun thread makes the towel amazingly soft. Towels are made of 100% cotton. Machine was in cold water, hang dry.

Where do the raw materials come from?

Towels: Cotton of the towels is from small farmers in Ethiopia. No fertilizers and pesticides are used in the production. Towels have WFTO, Fair Trade certificate. Cotton thread is hand spun. The thread is pot dyed in small batches with AZO free and REACH certified dyes. The towel are woven on handlooms by hand.

Rugs: Wool of the rugs is from the northern highlands of Ethiopia, especially from small villages of Molale, Mahal Meda and Tsehay Sena. These parts of Ethiopia are higher than 3 km from the sea level and the climate is cool. Sheep and wool are traditional income in these villages. Sera Helsinki has sheep breeding and wool spinning projects in these regions to create income for people with disabilities. Education of 300 people has started. No chemical treatment (bleaching or coloring) is used for the wool. All colors are natural sheep colors. Sheep shearing is done by hand with traditional methods. No mulesing is used. The sheep pasture freely in the highlands with the care of shepherds. The wool is hand spun and hand carded by a spinning wheel. Woolen thread is washed with water and soap. Cotton of the rug warps is from small farmers in Ethiopia. No fertilizers and pesticides are used in the production.