Once a month at 6pm a growing number of women convene at the Hilton Addis Ababa. They come together out of their “busy” schedules to make time for themselves as they understand that one can never be too busy to grow. The notion of growth and development is the bedrock of what the Association of Women in Business (AWiB) is about.
In its modest beginnings AWiB offered women from diverse backgrounds and with diverse dreams, to come together and explore each other’s paths – the challenges, the triumphs, the perseverance, the learning and ultimately the growth each one experiences in the multitude of encounters that surround one’s personal and professional lives.
The increasing number of women at the monthly events demonstrated that AWiB was filling a key gap as it related to addressing issues of personal and professional development. Hence, in its restructuring, AWiB gave birth to a 15-person strong leadership team that resolutely works out of their own volition and volunteerism to support and enhance the growth journey of AWiB members and fans.
As a platform for mid-level career women and business owners, to date AWiB has brought prominent personalities, corporate CEOs, representatives from government agencies and international organizations, to address current issues, raise awareness on pertinent topics, and point out new trends in the business and investment world.
One of AWiB’s core attributes is in the provision of a networking platform for its members and fans. Not only does AWiB bring prominent people to engage with the audience in a highly accessible environment, but AWiB is also committed to profiling and introducing to its audience up and coming women and women whose work and contribution to society in their respective industries has not been exposed. AWiB believes in the power of creating and expanding networks for success, moving culturally imposed notions of reservation out of the equation. By promoting the value in building relationships, AWiB espouses the idea that a vision shared is a vision realized. During networking sessions audience members are encouraged to leave their safety zones and engage in conversation with women they have not discovered yet. AWiB also affords its members an online forum platform where discussions on various topics can be continued at the comforts of their homes or offices. All it takes to start a conversation is to log-in.
AWiB is also committed to collecting and disseminating knowledge. News, reports, career and investment tips and other pertinent information related to the business environment in Ethiopia, are some of the items presented to its audience through the highly interactive, personalized and dynamic website. AWiB believes that information is power and aims to keep its members in the know by not only serving as an information repository but also through disseminating gathered information through a newsletter delivery system right to the inbox of AWiB’s audience so they are always connected. Where the full potential of complementing face to face interactions with an online presence has not been explored by other associations, AWiB’s uniqueness lies in the dynamic content it provides to those who seek dynamism.
In an effort to enable the skills development of its members, AWiB is highly relevant in its provision of an e-learning or electronically supported learning platform. To date, it has successfully launched a personal development 12-week course led by an internationally certified life coach, and aspires to bring more offerings to the repertoire of e-Education for personal and professional growth. Further to this approach, some of the monthly meetings and annual forum sessions are premised upon skills transfer by bringing in established trainers and facilitators to engage participants in conversation and exchanges.
At the helm of AWiB’s aspiration for its members is that a culture can take shape and emerge where networking and sharing amongst the professionals and business owners that it comprises will enable strengthening of the pool of women in leadership positions by not only teaching but living the notion of sponsorship in addition to mentorship – where women pull each other to where their dreams take them. In all its endeavors AWiB strives to instill a “can do” attitude amongst its members, and provides them with the knowledge, skills and attitudes to transform the “can do” into “done”.
AWiB is also highly driven by its moral compass of “giving back to the community that sustains us all”. We find enterprising women who dare to dream but have not the capital, women who have the drive to make their dreams come true but not the means and we give them the monetary push to begin their journey.
In essence, AWiB is about living and leading our lives with curiosity, zest and engagement.
AWiB is the product of two dynamic and magnificent women, Nahu Senay Girma and Roman Kifle. For Nahu, to create a women’s networking group had been her intention for the six years of the eight since her return to Ethiopia from the US. In her consulting endeavors and discussions with women led businesses, she noted that there was gap that needed to be filled. The filling was to be bold, innovative, norm-defying and risk-taking in its approach.
Nahu Senay Girma (Left) and Roman Kifle (Right)
This opportunity to ignite the AWiB fire began in early 2010 when Nahu gathered about thirty professional women to support an international NGO working on confidence building among female youth, by launching a mentorship arrangement. While the mentorship arrangement did not catch wild fire, the prospect of the thirty-women gathering transforming into something much larger and ambitious, sparked uncontrollable flame of interest amongst the women present. Roman Kifle was one of them.
On April 8, 2010, these women came together for the first meeting of what would be the birth of AWiB, at Panorama Hotel. Roman and Nahu initially named this fire Ethiopian Women in Business (EWiB). For Roman, the name carried with it an element of celebrating the inherent beauty of the women – Ethiopia’s “Woub”.
With growth however, comes structuring and formalizing. Towards this end, EWiB was officially registered as an association adopting the name Association of Women in Business (AWiB) rather than EWiB as from the legal perspective, using the name Ethiopia required a presence in more than five regions.
The complementary nature of Nahu’s and Roman’s union was evident in the early days of AWiB, where the two personalities, similar and yet so dissimilar in their philosophy or what each envisioned for AWiB, provided fun and comfort to those watching them in action. Nahu says fondly, “we had fun bringing AWiB to fruition. I wanted a more serious agenda for AWiB and she wanted it light hearted. She liked to kiss, I liked to rub shoulders. She liked to talk more than I thought was necessary but she put up with my seriousness and task orientation by allowing me to do what I needed to do. In the process we were both honest with our feelings and what we wanted to do or where we wanted to take AWiB.”
And this is the AWiB story – the meeting of two hearts and minds that aspired to transform the purpose for which and how women came together – to support, to grow, to unleash potential!