IT SHOULD NOT ALWAYS BE ABOUT POVERTY ALLEVIATION, WE CAN CREATE WEALTH FOR PEOPLE.
“I wanted to find a way to share my love for the amazing artisanship of Ethiopia with the world while creating well-paid meaningful work for the people in my local community while leveraging their immense creative skills”… Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu
Just as they always say, “Change can start with you”, yes, change does not happen when the entire world comes together, change can begin in a little room somewhere. It all boils down to who wakes up. Even mighty revolutions just needed one person to think about it and wake up and that is exactly what Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu did and is still doing. She woke up to something she wanted to change.
Women are really taking the forefront in many world activities and Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu is one of such women who is joining the fray of glass ceiling breakers. Her background did not dictate what she needed to do or who she needed to impact, she was never limited by the circumstances in which she grew.
Drawing inspiration from home
Photo: Carola Frentzen dpa (to dpa KORR: “Rebels on quiet feet” from 24.02.2012)
Most of Bethlehem’s inspiration comes from her root in Africa and her brand effects this by bringing about the exposure of local African creativity to the global market.
She is the founder of soleRebels, the fastest growing footwear brand in Africa. As an artist who likes to draw inspiration from the world around her, she took it upon herself to do something that was born from her environmental experience. Most innovators are born from the desire to solve problems and this was her major drive, though she took another approach. Everyone was doing poverty alleviation, but she came from the class of prosperity creation. Through this scheme, world-class jobs came to being and various levels of community empowerment came into existence.
Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu was born in Zenabwork/Total area of Addis Ababa, which many have in the past known to be a very impoverished community in Ethiopia. She created soleRebels after she finished college in 2005 and from thence she started creating jobs for people and today her footwear company is the first and only World Fair Trade Federation (WFTO) FAIRTRADE certified footwear company in the world, also as a footwear brand from Africa it is the first global footwear brand from a developing country.
Before she established her company, she was already in retail partnerships with giants like Amazon, Endless, Javari, Amazon UK and the EU’s number one footwear retailer, spartoo.com, hence, when she launched soleRebels, she could reach a global level.
Why footwear and nothing else?
She had the desire to create a better life for others and she knew firsthand the creativity that lies in Africa, hence she used only local products to drive full force by creating a footwear brand. This required no importation, and all materials needed could be gotten locally. She also did this to showcase to the world the kind of craftsmanship that the people of Ethiopia have and this could be said to have been successful because the footwear products by soleRebels are enjoyed in over 30 countries in the world.
SoleRebels is a historical depiction and it is a way to promote eco-friendly products. The age-old tradition of recycling was fused into footwear making as they make footwear from recycled tires, organic fabrics, fibres from organic pure Abyssinian Jutes and pure Abyssinian KOBA. This footwear does not only make things better for the artisans, they also make the world a better place.
The Impact of the Nike of Africa
In a continent where there is a huge rate of unemployment, soleRebels prides itself as an organization that has been able to bring about prosperity in developing countries as it has been recounted that it has led to the creation of about 600 jobs in whichever country it exists.
Women should never be limited and the future of women should really be anticipated. Bethlehem is great proof that the world could use more women in the economic space, hence, nothing should be given to chance when it comes to women’s empowerment. Women should be lifted. Africa can prosper too and the African women can be the facilitators of this development.
Written By: Joyce C. Nwezeh Obi-Akejelu (Writer, Social media manager and graphic designer with Africa4AfricaWomen/Assert/PAWES).