By Elyse Wurm
Usually the site of serious economic discussions, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) witnessed purchasing power firsthand last Saturday as enthusiastic market-goers from every corner of Addis Ababa gathered together for the annual Diplomatic Bazaar.
Broad-brimmed hats and sunglasses were the fashion of the day, as the hot sun bore down on the rows and rows of white tents that filled the compound’s cobble-stoned courtyard. A crowd of over 8,000 turned out to peruse stalls held by 62 countries and 15 NGOs, eager to do their bit for local charities and enjoy some live music and great international food while they were at it.
Organized by the Diplomatic Spouses Group Ethiopia (DSGE), the Diplomatic Bazaar has been running in some form for 30 years to raise money for women, children and vulnerable people throughout Ethiopia. Diplomats from embassies throughout the city hold stalls to sell food, crafts, clothing and other goodies from their home countries with 100 percent of the profits being donated to local charitable organizations.
Proceeds from the event are still being counted but a final figure is expected to be reached by early January. With last year’s event managing to raise 3.9 million birr, organizers are expecting great things again this year as more tables were held and immense support was shown by the sponsors, UNECA, government and public.
Project Matrix, a sub-group of the Diplomatic Spouses Group, is responsible for distributing the funds to charitable organizations throughout Ethiopia. Johnette Stubbs, a member of Project Matrix and board member of the DSGE, was very pleased with the response to this year’s event. Previously being held at Millennium Hall, she thought the new outdoor location gave the Bazaar a more laid back vibe.
“Everybody thought it would be a very different ambiance being outside, and it was. People were able to bring their families and the Kid’s Corner was quite successful,” she said. “People were able to relax a lot more and come and go as they pleased.”
The Bazaar gave a great snapshot of the colorful multi-cultural community that calls Addis Ababa home. Countries from all over the world were represented with stalls that had both their traditional treasures and national pride on display.
Kenya paraded beaded jewelry, vibrant scarves and wooden bowls etched with the large majestic animals that have made the country famous. Many people could not walk past Switzerland’s stall without buying a block of their illustrious chocolate while Russia won people over with ornate jewelry boxes and babushkas.
But a clear crowd favorite was Norway. The top seller at the Bazaar for two years running, Norway’s secret weapon was salmon – a delicacy no matter where in the world you are from.
Uta Henrich-Gaarder has helped manage the Norwegian stall for the last couple of years and was impressed by the lively atmosphere at this year’s event.
“People were having fun, looking for a good deal but also being very generous in raising money for charity,” she said. “It was a great pleasure to be involved again.”
When looking for some respite from the heat, people retreated to the Heineken tent for some shade and a bottle of their refreshing ale. A major sponsor of the Diplomatic Bazaar, Heineken had printed each beer bottle with the name of a different city around the world, including London, New York, Sydney and Addis Ababa, which reinforced a sense of unity and camaraderie amongst attendees.
The money from this year’s Diplomatic Bazaar will be used to support a number of different charitable projects throughout Ethiopia. Stubbs indicated that Project Matrix will work alongside local organizations to offer support where it is needed most.
“Funding is always for the most vulnerable in Ethiopia; women, children and the most vulnerable. We do a lot of work with registered NGOs and social enterprises. The travel restrictions have also been lifted so we can do funding outside Addis Ababa, which is really great,” she said
In previous years, the money has been used to buy reference books for rescued children, provide sewing training for destitute mothers, drill water well in rural Tigray and support surgeries for children with clubbed feet. These projects, amongst many others, have helped enhance the health, education and future prospects of a significant number of people throughout Ethiopia.
As an annual event, the Diplomatic Bazaar will not be taking place again until the same time next year. But in the meantime, if you would like to help Project Matrix continue to make a difference to the lives of vulnerable Ethiopians you can offer support by contacting the Chair of the group, Michelle Hejcova, through [email protected].
Ed.’s Note: The writer is on an internship at The Reporter.