In 2013 through the support of USAID, Bhavana introduced Eileen Fisher Inc. to Desta Mender,  a 60-acre farm village outside of Addis Ababa that teaches fistula survivors the skills they need for economic independence—dairying, poultry keeping, gardening, baking, sewing and knitting.

We believed it was possible for the women knitting at Desta Mender to knit for Eileen Fisher Inc. but we knew a trip to see the potential and the limitations of the project would be needed to explore the possibilities. Sammy Abdella, our long term partner had worked with both organizations and was our natural choice to facilitate the collaboration at a local level.

The knitters are survivors of obstetric fistula, a debilitating condition caused by long, obstructed labor. In Ethiopia, women with fistula are shunned by their family and do not have access to medical care in their communities. After reconstructive surgery, many women with more complex recovery are nurtured at Desta Mender while receiving training to improves their livelihood options after care is complete.

Carol Montoya, who designed the scarf the women would knit and was part of the team that traveled to Ethiopia says, “Working with the knitters is a true labor of love. “For me personally, it means a lot to help fistula survivors on their journey to confidence and dignity,” For the company, it’s a project that resonates deeply with our mission to empower women.”

Learn more about the issues women with fistula face in Ethiopia through the documentary: A Walk to Beautiful.