Born and raised in Addis Ababa, Yoadan (Yoyo) Tilahun, Founder and Managing Director of Flawless Events, finished high school at Lycee Gebremariam and left to the US for further education. Upon completion of an MBA, she worked as a marketing agent at a commodities marketing company. She also worked for World Bank in HR department. After 15 years in the USA, Yoadan decided to move back to Ethiopia. “When I moved back, it was like I never left. But it also felt like, finally, real life began,” she says. She was energized by Addis, by its chaos as much as the people she came across on the street.
While she was living in the USA,Yoadan regularly attended events in the DC metropolitan area. Many of the events gave her the impression that there was much amiss in how they were organized and how the logistics were handled. Her drive to deliver flawless events is what eventually brought her events management company to life, with its aspirational name.
Mulualem Genene was born and raised in Addis Ababa and spent most of her childhood in a town called Dembi Dello in Wellega region where she attended primary school. When her family moved back to Addis, she continued her secondary school at American Mission girl’s school later called “Yehiwot Berhan”. After accomplishing her secondary school, Mulualem continued her higher education at the Addis Ababa University and graduated in Chemistry with an honor while working at night as an assistant chemist quality control.
After three years of working as a chemist, she left the job she loved dearly because of the health problems that was caused by the chemical reaction in the laboratory. Nevertheless, Mulualem used this situation to search her true passion and purpose in life. Then she made the decision to teach. Mulualem has been teaching at Nazareth Girl’s School, for the past 30 years.
“Keep away from people who belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.” ~ Mark Twain~
As AWiB marches on with great ambition to develop strong women leaders of this nation, we salute those great people who march on with us believing this is the only way and not just about having a voice but about changing the conversation that is required to enable growth, innovation and opportunity.
Partnership is defined among other things as a cooperative relationship between people or groups who agree to share responsibility for achieving some specific goal. Corporations have an obligation to the society that hosts them; some call this notion as Performance with Purpose – achieving business and financial success while leaving a positive imprint on society.
From left to right: Sara Tadiwos, Mekuranesh Abebe, Semhal Guesh, Metasebia Shewaye Yilma, Sewit Haileselassie
Six years on AWiB has been counting her many blessings!
Over 72 monthly events, 5 May Annual forums, 5 annual Women of Excellence Award events celebrating 35 extraordinary women; more than 70 bi-monthly roundtable discussions, severalself-confidence and conversational English workshops; 3 public seminars on women’s leadership and many other activities later, we are blessed and grateful. Behind the success and fruition of all of these movement building and social transformation activities are Ethiopian women from various backgrounds that have given countless hours to gain countless self-actualization benefits.
Centred, comfortable in her own skin, sitting in the colourful Salem’s Ethiopia compound, affectionately giving a little girl, an employee’s daughter, some snack: that is how I found Salem as I paid her a visit. And to me, that is a representation of who Salem is: a creative social entrepreneur empowering Ethiopian artisans, and envisioning a future in which Ethiopia’s beautiful crafts, art, and its artisans, become recognized all over the world.
Raised by Strong Women
Born in Addis Ababa, Salem was raised by her great aunt, a nun. Indeed, her parents separated when she was just six months old. But out of the negative, Salem reflects, the positive comes in the form of a blessing. Her aunt believed in education, and raised Salem, as one of many children (including cousins and uncles), in a private boarding school, while also feeling cherished and appreciated. She recalls growing up with women, ‘strong women’, she asserts, and this enabled her to become assertive, not submissive or ‘broken’ as a human being. Her family, she explains, did not have wealth, but ‘every hole was filled with love.’ Looking back, Salem sees how those years shaped her sense of self, and developed her faith in God, wanting to give back for all that she had received.
Born and raised in Wolaita, Worknesh Munie, is a wife and a mother of three but lives in Addis Ababa with the elderly people whom she found worth living for. She worked in different organizations but her life changing path happened as she recovered from her fatal health problem and felt that she received a Divine call to take care of the elderly who were abandoned in the street.
She found a purpose in life and a passion to pursue – restoring dignity to the elderly people. Studies show that there are many senior citizens who are neglected and abandoned in streets and they live by begging. She found that was very humiliating and dehumanizing. Senior citizens can live in dignity contributing their knowledge and expertise if they have support system that sustains them through their old age. However, their dire living and social conditions was so dehumanizing that at the age where people would feel respected and celebrated, they are in streets begging. This prompted her to establish a caring system whereby they live in dignity.
Her impact as a haute couture wedding gown designer has gained industry–wide respect and a top 5 designer ranking. Manale is iconic in American bridal fashion circles. Receiving the Magic Johnson Award for her achievements in 2000 was an indication of her reach and talent.
Gondar, Ethiopia is where Manale’s journey begins. Her parents, members of prominent warrior families, are an unlikely love story. An arranged marriage brought them together, and they proved a perfect match! Inseparable and interconnected, they were recognized locally as a loving couple who respected and admired one another. Manale’s fashion eye may have been a result of her parent’s union. Fashionable dressers, bold and fearless, they both expressed themselves with flair and flamboyance, while remaining ever humble.
“You cannot have maternal health without reproductive health. And reproductive health includes contraception and family planning and access to legal, safe abortion”.
Genet Mengistu Haile is Executive Director of Family Guidance Association of Ethiopia, an organization that is devoted to improve the sexual and reproductive health of women, men and young people in Ethiopia. She joined the Association as an ED in October 2012 and oversees more than 700 employees working in eight branches of the Association and 56 health facilities located in nine regional states and two city administrations of the Country.
Genet served in the area of population and reproductive health over three decades at different capacities. As Director of Population Affairs Directorate in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development (MOFED) and Department Head of Reproductive Health, Women and Youth Affairs at the National Office of Population, she was responsible for the coordination of the implementation of the National Population Policy of Ethiopia and worked very closely with government and non-government implementing partners to achieve the target set in the population policy and create conducive policy and legal environment. Genet has also served at Central Statistical Agency of Ethiopia from 1982 to 1992, where she had engaged in conducting, analysis and dissemination of various surveys and the first and second National Population and Housing Censuses.
Spend a few hours with Kathy Marshall, in the welcoming Sabahar P.L.C. compound, and you will surely leave feeling inspired, hopeful, and with an expanded mind, full of innovative ideas.
A voice for Ethiopian weavers, in a decade, Kathy has nurtured a business which employs 74 artisans, who produce high quality, exportable silk and cotton products. The lives of such artisans have been uplifted through such a stable employment too.
Kathy is committed to sustainable development, representing Ethiopian weavers in the international arena, and bringing an authentic Ethiopian product to 15 countries, through Sabahar’s 40 clients. At the same time, she shows up as a very present and radiant lady, so humble and amicable.
What is the secret behind her leadership and the impactful work she is generating?
Walking into Woineshet’s office on a sunny afternoon, I immediately noticed that her humble office is well organized and staffed by friendly employees. Everyone I met while waiting for Woineshet to finish her phone call greeted me with a huge smile and offered a warm beverage. Enter the General Manager of Equal Opportunity for Disabled Women who live with HIV – Wrt. Woineshet Mulusew.
Eleven years ago, Woineshet established a non-governmental organization which advocates for equal opportunity for disabled women who live with the HIV virus. Herself a blind woman, Woineshet decided to be an activist up on finding out she was living with the HIV virus. The organization that she leads is aptly named” Equal Opportunity for Disabled Women who live with HIV”. Before delving into the activities of the organization, I wanted to know about her background and therefore asked about her upbringing, education and experience prior to working as a General Manager of the NGO.Woineshet was born in Gondar town. She attended elementary school and became blind in grade 8. She then attended brail education at Catholic Mission School in Gondar. Later, she came to Addis to continue her education in Menilik secondary school.