“Now I’m focused and have a purpose – I’m ready to conquer”

Blen Legesse Asrat's vision is to revolutionize the local textile industry. That is one of the reasons why she applied to the Swedish Institute Management Programme Africa (SIMP).

You work as a part time consultant and as assistant General Manager at locally owned garment factory in Ethiopia. Tell us about what you want to achieve professionally?

– Fifteen days before I came to Sweden I started working part-time to have time to focus on my dreams. I’ve wanted to do my own thing for a long time, but being employed in the corporate world, especially so high up in management, doesn’t give you the time. So I decided I needed to make a bold move – it’s now or never for me.
– My vision is to revolutionize the textile and garment industry in Ethiopia and to make it more environmentally conscious. I also want bring recycled yarn into the spotlight and make green fashion labels affordable. I’m going start by launching my own brand, which is only going to use natural fibres and natural non-toxic dyes, and develop products employing disadvantaged women and disabled people. Once I’ve got into the spotlight we can talk about what the industry is doing to our landscape, to our social construct, and how we can be more conscious as consumers and as producers.

Has SIMP helped you develop as a change maker?
– Coming here I had a very vast idea of what I wanted to do and this finally helped me find the point where I could start. I still want to go big, but I know I have to start small. It’s like one of my fellow participants said: we don’t get out of our mothers’ wombs and start running.
– I’ve grown personally and as a leader, and in terms of achieving my dreams. If it wasn’t for SIMP I would still be confused and stuck. Now I’m focused and have a purpose, and have been reinforced with knowledge and experience. I’m ready to conquer.

When you get back home, is there something practical you will approach differently because of what you learned at SIMP?
– Yes, absolutely. In terms of encouraging creativity and innovation, in terms of thinking about diversity and inclusion, and in approaching the sustainability goals intentionally – having clearly laid out steps and plans to achieve them. Also in terms of how I need to invest more time in the people around me; family and future team members.

Do you have any recommendations for someone thinking of applying to SIMP? 
– Be open-minded when you come to SIMP. Be like a clean, dry sponge, ready to absorb everything. Prepare yourself physically and emotionally. It’s really intensive – when they say it is, they are not joking. But if you come here with an open mind, this is the best programme you can have, for your life and world to be shifted in all the right ways.

Read more about the Swedish Institute Management Programme Africa (SIMP) here.