Meet the Ethiopian rebel changing the image of her country, one shoe at a time

Bethlehem Tilahun AlemuBy Florence Beaugé - LE MONDE/Worldcrunch

ADDIS ABABA – Initially, her idea was to provide work for her family in her native village of Zenabework, about 30 kilometers from Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital.

When she announced that she was going to start her own company on a plot of land lent by her grandmother, everyone said: You are crazy! You are a woman. Worse yet – an African! You have no chance of making it!

Bethlehem Alemu did not give up. Eight years later, her company has earned her international recognition and helped changed the image of Ethiopia. Using artisanal craftsmanship, soleRebels makes shoes that are cool and comfortable, but also good for the planet and certified Fair Trade.

SoleRebels only uses materials produced in Ethiopia: organic cotton, organic jute, koba plant fiber, leather and… used tires. The soles are made from recycled tires, just like the sandals worn by the Ethiopian rebels as they were fighting off the Italians in 1935. Hence the name – soleRebels. Read more