Photo Credit: Mahlet B. Yohannes - Founder, Silks of Sheba
How Silks Of Sheba Advocates For Clean Drinking Water In African Communities
Silks of Sheba founder Mahlet B. Yohannes is using her business to help people access clean drinking water. Of Ethiopian descent, she currently resides between the U.S. and Africa, and is passionate about aiding communities on the continent.
She launched her contemporary African-inspired luxury brand Silks of Sheba in February 2021, offering mulberry silk scarves, apparel, and vegan leather handbags. The brand’s mission is to celebrate Africa’s timeless, mystical, vibrant tradition while empowering local artisan communities and supporting nonprofit charities that build water wells in rural Africa.
A percentage of all proceeds made from the sale of Silks of Sheba are donated to a nonprofit organization that builds affordable water wells in rural Africa. In collaboration with Charity Water, Silks of Sheba finalized its first water well project in Moliphia, Mozambique.
“I am a strong advocate for universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water set out by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” said Mahlet. “My goal is to help communities, especially women and young children, have access to clean water. In 80% of households in the developing world, girls are forced to walk for hours every day, fetching water that’s so dirty it makes them sick.”
“This keeps girls from school and keeps generations of women trapped in a cycle of poverty. We need to break the cycle and it starts with us. We can not talk about development in Africa, while the majority of our population in rural areas lack access to the basic necessity of clean water.”
Silks of Sheba is a line that reflects an effortless sense of style that upholds the dynamic heritage and cultural background of Africa. As a completely female-driven company, the brand aims to contribute to and support women, not just through partnering with nonprofits, but through the production of its products, as well.
“Women from all walks of life inspire me daily. Silks of Sheba is where tradition meets creativity. Our products are wearable works of art, highlighting the continent’s rich colors and unique patterns through versatile silk scarves, handbags, and apparel. I work closely with female artisans who each design a limited edition, full of colorful metaphors, and each product has a story to tell.”
Silks of Sheba is influenced by Mahlet’s many years of traveling the world. Having visited more than 70 countries, she immersed herself in the different cultures, languages, and experiences that she encountered throughout her journeys.
However, when it came time to select a name for her company, Mahlet was intentional in representing her Ethiopian heritage. In the ancient world, Africa was home to some of the world’s oldest kingdoms. From the Ashanti kingdom in the west to the Aksumite empire to the east, there were dynamic queens who led their kingdoms with precision and power.
Silks of Sheba is an ode to the queen of Sheba and her legendary Aksumite empire. An ancient kingdom centered in Northern Ethiopia’s Tigray region, in the city of Axum and across the Red Sea to the inner Arabian Desert, the Aksumites developed Africa’s only indigenous written script, Ge’ez.
Likewise, each product bears a story behind it with a deep significance. The Buna silk scarf, for example, is inspired by the traditional coffee ceremony of the same name that is such an important part of Ethiopian and Eritrean culture.
“There is so much depth and richness behind this ceremony that not only captivates the magnificence of the culture but also portrays a feeling of belonging.”
In addition to the ongoing water well projects, Silks of Sheba plans to work on rural education development in Ethiopia in the coming year. You can shop the brand at www.silksofsheba.com and follow them on Instagram at @silksofsheba.