Teki [ተኪ] Is an Amharic word that comes from the verb “Metekat”, which means replacing. Teki Paper Bags is a social and environmental enterprise developed for and by the deaf community. Their goal is to create sustainable employment to empower deaf women while building a plastic bag free Ethiopia.


They make paper bags, with social and environmental impact.

For deaf women, life can be very tough in Ethiopia and opportunities for employment and independence are extremely rare. This lack of work opportunities leads to deep social exclusion and stigmatization. At Teki, they aim to make a real and lasting change in the lives of deaf women by providing a meaningful employment, a social life, plus the ability to found a family and take care of their children through entrepreneurship. At Teki they created our own two-step plan the Teki Movement — The first step focuses on selling paper bags, especially to big companies willing to support their cause. We sell our products ourselves in sign language, with the help of interpreters.


Mimi Legesse is the deaf entrepreneur and the proud mother of two children, Sititaw and Maril. “Since I was a young girl at the orphanage, I have always felt the need to help other deaf children. Being deaf in Ethiopia is very difficult but it is up to us to accept our disability and move forward in life with confidence.


Being deaf does not make me unable. I started my entrepreneurial journey when I was pregnant with my first child. I would produce crochet bags and hats in my spare time. When I went back to school to complete my education two years later, I tried to turn it into a real business by teaching some of my classmates to crochet. But the market was too small and we couldn’t sell enough bags to make it successful. However, I understood something important. People were and are willing to support us. We only need to produce something that is more useful and affordable”.


The second step of the Movement is to distribute free paper bags to small businesses owned by women. They started distribution in 2017 in Addis Ababa with the help of the Switzerland Embassy in Ethiopia. The free paper bags helped these women entrepreneurs to save extra money as a reward for fighting against using plastic bags and supporting Teki.  More than 200’000 free paper bags have already been distributed and their popularity is beyond expectations.


The Teki team is composed of amazing deaf women who function like a growing family. They designed tools and production tables to overcome their disabilities and be able to produce the best paper bags. To help and support them in this journey, they also employ sign language interpreters. Although they have always wanted to work with deaf people, interpreting jobs are also rare. At Teki they have now found a home where they can find happiness and use their skills to be the voice of our company. Deaf mothers now have enough time with their children and others to further their education.


Sixty years ago there were no plastic bags in Ethiopia. The country was clean and coped well without them. Did you know that it takes more than 500 years for one plastic bag to decompose? Just imagine! That means the first plastic bag that ever came to Ethiopia is still around somewhere. Every Minute on Earth Over 8 Million Plastic Bags are Used.


Nowadays every time we buy something, we always get at least one plastic bag. The more stuff you buy, the more plastic bags you get, and everyone thinks it’s normal. But these bags that we accept and use without question make our city very dirty.  They contaminate our rivers, poison our animals and create flooding on the roads when it rains. We need to stop that, and make Ethiopia plastic bag free again for our children.


Phone: +251 939 26 26 26

Contact: reachus@tekipaperbags.com