Meet AWiB 2016 Women of Excellence Honorees’


AWiB proudly presents the 2016 Women of Excellence (WOE) nominees. Every year as we celebrate outstanding Ethiopian Women who serve their communities and country tirelessly, this year,  we bring you 6 magnificent women who have reached their summit. Their full story will be posted on October Focus and they will be celebrated on October 30, 2016 at a Gala Dinner held in Sheraton Addis.  To get closer to these women and catch their fever, we urge you to join us at the AWIB 2016 WOE Gala Dinner.

The candidates:

Emahoy Fekerte Mariam Bekele, Head of Gethesemani Nunnery, Sebetta

Emahoy is a feminist, a reformist and a revolutionary who has evolved to a higher self to help thousands nuns in the church community, to know their place in society, and why they came to this world—to serve God but not to be dominated by others. Emahoy has been the force to bring about attitudinal change and complete transformation in the way nuns think of themselves and how orphans should become model citizens. She has been influential not only in the nunnery she manages but in the Orthodox Church  and how the church views women must lead their lives—subservient.

Emahoy fought and resisted male dominance in the nunnery because her conscious was that of equality and parity.  She believed, if the nunnery is for female, it must be run by women. When she first joined the nunnery in 1974, she found the place run by all men and the women were completely dependent on male administrators for their existence. And the financial order and system was out of order and nothing to bring prosperity to the system.  She professes to be a follower and a hard worker are not opposite phenomena but  complement each other. A  consciousness of prosperity benefits the world and fights absolute poverty. Emahoy models the way!

Hermella Wondimu, GM, Drop of Water (DoW)

Drop of Water is a project Hermella started with her friends in their junior year of college. They all saw the dire need for clean water supply in the neighboring villages and decided to take action to eradicate this problem. Today there are two undergoing projects and 28 projects complete with supply development, which give clean water to 16,000 direct and indirect recipients under the Management of Hermella Wondimu.

During their last years of University, Hermella and her friends worked hard to spread word of the cause to the students on campus and beyond. Since it was a worthy cause, many willing students joined as volunteers and helped DoW grow. Even after graduation, Hermella took it upon herself to run DoW as the General Manager while the other founders ventured out into other businesses. During the past years, she has dedicated her full time into building an impressive NGO that has accomplished so much. DoW has grown into a large community with over 5000 members.

“I was born to live for others. I also understand there is much more to life than “just I” and that matters most! I never wanted to forget how DOW was established and I have always kept it anchored to its roots — working with university students volunteers”. Hermella assures us.

Hermella is a young woman on a mission. Being a woman and young demands its set of requirements. She must work extra hard to gain the trust of high-level organizations, government officials and society at large. Her commitment to her work doesn’t allow any down time for projects to lose momentum. She is very humble at the same time unwaveringly believes in her extraordinary potential. Her enthusiasm and restlessness to see that change comes to life motivates the people that work with her. DoW has a vision of providing 100% access to clean drinking water, adequate sanitation and hygiene in all parts of Ethiopia.

Sabella Belaynesh Abay Kassa, Founder & Executive Director, the Other Face of Ethiopia (TOFOE)

Sabella started her journey as a self-appointed cultural Ambassador one fateful evening at a diplomatic dinner party in Peru.  A white woman sees Sabella, admiring her beauty and Ethiopian costume – asked where she was from. Sabella tells the lady that she is from Ethiopia and in response, the lady nods and adds ‘you are lucky to be married to a Westerner and join us at this party’. While this was new to her, Sabella took the time to think about what the lady could have meant. She later realized that it was because of the media coverage of the 1985 Ethiopian famine and the ‘single story’ told about Ethiopia, which is still prevalent in Western media.

Sabella then started an initiative called “The other Face of Ethiopia” presenting Ethiopian art, history, culture, and cuisine by organizing parties, events and shows at her own home, community parks, ball rooms and carnivals, and anywhere she could find a platform. Sabella made it her life’s mission to promote the beauty of Ethiopia to the world insisting that a nation without a strong identity will not amount to much.

Birhan Ethiopia and Birhan Adwa are two initiatives under Sabella’s organization. Birhan Ethiopia is a cultural museum that represents what can arguably be called ‘mini Ethiopia”; a walking museum where art, culture, history of the entire country is so elegantly and impressively put together.

Birhan Adwa is another one of her flagship projects. Convinced Adwa is not only the victory of Ethiopians but also that of Africans, Sabella has worked hard to draw attention to Adwa, the place and the victory. Last year, the celebration received more attention by the government and announcing that a Pan African University will be erected in Adwa: a testimony to Sabella’s unrelenting effort to drill home that identity matters.




Selome Tadesse, CEO, Emerge Consultancy & Training, PLC

My passion in life is excellence and creating impact. Whatever it is one is doing, don’t be mediocre at it. Excellence is also related to and measured in self–?worth”.

A Business Executive, First General Manager of Ethiopian Radio and Television Agency; Founding Executive Director of the Network of Ethiopian Women’s Associations (NEWA); A diplomat, A champion for women’s cause,   a charismatic communicator, one of the most influential leaders of our community, Selome’s stature in society belies the simple, approachable personality that she is, that many crave to have as a friend.

For more than a decade, Selome has been an activist on behalf of women, both in her consulting business and as a motivational speaker and community volunteer.  Inspired by the power of collectives, Selome is renowned for mobilizing masses in the “Ande Birr le Ande Wogen” campaign in 2003 which managed to raise Birr 12 million in cash and in kind for Ethiopian victims of famine. The significance of this achievement for Selome was not only in the amount of money that was raised, but the paradigm shift it provided in enabling many to see that they could contribute their part regardless of their status in society.

In 2005, Selome was selected by British Council to lead their InterAction leadership program in 19 countries, including Ethiopia with the aim of identifying, networking and supporting an emerging generation of leaders. The unique value of the program was that it was designed for African by Africans and was then replicated in other countries, including but not limited to the UK, Pakistan, Poland, Yemen and China.

With a strong belief in service, Selome is often the voice of courage in many platforms enabling others to own their voice and also challenge the status quo.

Senait Fisseha, MD, Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology & Director of International Program, Susan Buffett Foundation

Being of service to others is Senait’s passion in life. The desire to ameliorate human suffering and promote social justice has been part of her tapestry ever since she was a young child. Throughout her academic career, years of collaborative engagement in Ethiopia and now running a foundation, Senait’s life journey has revolved around women’s health, reproductive health and reproductive justice. She is a firm believer in the fact that investing in girls and women is investing in the community and nation at large.

Dr. Senait is the founder of Center for International Reproductive Health Training (CIRHT).  She founded CIRHT in 2014 at the University of Michigan to increase the number of health professionals providing quality, comprehensive reproductive health care support in nine Medical schools in Ethiopia including St. Paul which under her umbrella turned as a center of excellence for reproductive health care professionals. St. Paul had only one male gynecologist when CIRHT program began and grew to more than 15 in a few short years. Her aim is to train compassionate doctors that provide quality, respectful and women centered care.

Senait strives and lives to bring a more just, open and inclusive community, where everyone has a fair shot at life, where gender equity is the norm, where boys and girls, and men and women have the same opportunities, benefits, access to power, resources and responsibilities. She is not only a physician but also a lawyer so she could legally fight  for women’s reproductive rights. Senait holds the office of the purse for she understands a cause that is well endowed makes a larger impact.

Tsehay Röshli, Founder, Selam Children’s Village

The famine that happened 30-years ago had changed the course of Tsehay’s life. And because of it Tsehay has positively changed thousands of lives, raised hundreds of children that became exemplary citizens, created lasting impact in communities that contributed to the development of Ethiopia.

Selam Children’s Village is a center of excellence. It is one of the top 10 Technical and Vocational Training Centers in Africa. In this selection process, Ethiopia won first place because of Selam followed by Tunisia and Senegal. The village is in the process of expanding into Polly Technique Institute and TOT center. Selam has the facility, equipment and a well-developed human capital. The hospitality training center always scores 100 percentile in Certificate of Competency (COC) while the national average is 64.

Tsehay and the institution strongly believe in education and skills training.  Selam enables its children by giving them practical trainings in workshops and various entrepreneurship programs.

Speaking of her passion, Tsehay says “I used to feel that I was too insignificant to make significant changes but gradually, when I saw the children growing and changing, I became grateful of what I could contribute with the small means I had. Now I realize that any small contribution I make matters. So that is my passion which keeps me going”.