Celebrating the 2014 Women of Excellence – The Diamonds

\”The quality of a woman\’s life is in direct proportion to her commitment to excellence, regardless of her chosen field of endeavor.\” Sherman Alexie. 

One of AWiB\’s major programs is the Annual Women of Excellence (WOE) Celebration. This is the third year we announced to the public to nominate women based on the criteria we set. This year, 21 were nominated and 12 were shortlisted. My session with the person I was assigned to interview has changed my whole perspective of what it means to have a life worth lived for. I would say my life has taken a different path at least at the mind level. Later on, preparing the seven women\’s profiles for the magazine and website took me closer to their way of thinking and living. I wanted to share with you my take from their lives.

Bogalech Gebre is the woman who changed the history of female genital mutilation in the Southern part of Ethiopia from 100% to 3% in ten years’ time.  She contributed a lot to stop the tide of different forms of abuse and focused on enriching the core to womanhood.   She started dealing with what was close to her life and ended up realizing that addressing one aspect of life would not bring about sustained change.   She then moved to addressing deeply rooted issues that hinder women from being what they were created to be at different levels: personal, family, community, national and beyond.  I found her enthusiasm was contagious and the impact of her work is wide spreading nationwide.

AWiB brings forth such a woman of excellence, who knows no impossibility to deal with core issues of humanity, to front to celebrate her life.

Frealem Shibabaw was my inspiration to see possibilities in each problem.  She changed her need of sending her child to nursery to a business idea of opening a school, now has 2300 students in Bahirdar.  The hunger need of one of their students prompted her to address the nation-wide school-meal initiative programs that enhance education quality. This is endorsed by the Prime Minister’s office to be included in the second round of Growth and Transformation plan of the country.  Moreover opening doors for women to access  financial resources to build their business has opened my eyes to notice that women need to think beyond small and micro and aim high.

AWiB brings forth such a woman of excellence, who has clear direction in life, to the front to celebrate her life.

Dr. Lia Tadesse taught me to focus on the top two determinant factors that increase quality of life: health and education.  Hearing, reading and profiling her story brought me back to my university and hospital experiences.  She was strategic to address brain-drain issues of losing educated intellectuals by creating enabling environment both for students and their instructors to serve their country. Our health system woefully needs creative ideas to improve.

AWiB brings forth such a woman of excellence, who focuses on quality, to the front to celebrate her life.

Rachel Mekuria showed me that it requires using clear strategy to reach the multitude.  She is a pioneer in using TV to broadcast education.  Large scale impact can be achieved if one uses mass media as a communication strategy.  Mass media brings information closer to targeted individuals.  My take from Rachel is that I need to be clear about using the best communication strategy to reach out to many people.

AWiB brings forth such a woman of excellence, who focuses on availing information that help people make informed decision, to the front to celebrate her life.

Ambassador Tadelech Hailemikael fascinated me in how she devised ways to handle gender equality.  She used her position to establish structural change and placing women in a position that they make higher policy level decisions.  As the former Minister of Women’s Affairs, she ensured creating a structure at the department level and allocating budget line for the departments to operate in all Ministry offices.  Gender mainstreaming would be a joke if no structural change, Articles that affect women in the Constitutions is not in place.  Women can now make decisions at the parliament, ministry and department levels.  My take from Tadelech is that we need to use our positions, knowledge, skills and resources to enable others.

AWiB brings forth such a woman of excellence, who created enabling structure and law, to the front to celebrate her life.

Tirhas Mezgebe is my other enthrallment.  She was saddened by the tragedy of women’s death while giving birth, due to a misconception and false belief held in the eastern part of Ethiopia.   She committed her life to changing that mind-set and hence their practice, by identifying herself with the community.  She drew my attention to the fact that building trust with the community comes only by living their lives, feeling their pains, and being identified with them.  Deeper problem requires deeper solution which may demand the dedication of one’s entire life to address it.

AWiB brings forth such a woman of excellence, who focuses on changing mind-set for sustainable health, to the front to celebrate her life.

Zemi Yenus captured my attention when I read that she used her successful experiences from abroad to pioneer business in providing training in beauty as well as open an autistic center where there was none.  I have worked in the health sector for some time and known that the government’s health priority is to address public health issues.  The magnitude of problems and immediate impact are taken into consideration to require higher level interventions.  In spite of that, she made sure that people know about autism that was close to her heart and now this is opening doors for others to take her footsteps.  I learned from Zemi that it requires persistence, knocking several doors and pushing it to increase public awareness and ownership to address issues.

AWiB brings forth such a woman of excellence, who is bold enough to bring about attitudinal change, to the front to celebrate her life.

By bringing women, who have been working on system, structure, attitude, mind-set, quality, fairness and practical issues that affect the multitudes, AWiB fulfills its mission of the best way to create a generation of capable leaders is by presenting models of excellence whom others can identify with and learn the way to excellence.

I read about the characteristics of diamonds and learned that most natural diamonds are formed at high temperature and pressure, not easy to melt.  The word diamond came from Greek word meaning unbreakable.  I found it fitting to describe the 2014 Women of Excellence the unbreakable diamonds, who passed the test of life’s pressure and temperate yet came out shining like a diamond.

As Sherman Alexie stated, these women’s quality of life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.   On 19th of October, we celebrate these diamond women and let them shine in their different field and walk of life.

Where do you see yourself, are you in the path to excellence?

Seble Hail