Humanity at its Finest: Disrupting the Norm…

Dr. Jember Tefera

Dr. Jember, a woman of courage, passed on to another plane and was memorialized by friends & relatives who gathered to honor this one-of-a-kind being at Petros Paulos Orthodox Church on Sunday, January 24, 2021.

Jember Tefera came from a privileged family but learned the hardship of others less fortunate while in prison serving time persecuted for the very reason she was born into—upper class. With her husband, Dr. Hailegiorgis (a scientist with many patents internationally acclaimed and registered invention but his country never acknowledged for his brilliant mind & love of country), Jember was detained for 5 years. A nurse at the time, Jember served her fellow prisoners equally—those who were reason for her detention, & those from her class and being persecuted because of their lineage.

Throughout her journey on this Earth, she persevered many crises: suicide of a son because of untreated depression as a result of being left alone without a parent under the most harsh and unimaginable circumstance—losing both parents to a prison; the death of her husband—a love of her life; tending to her 2nd son’s acute need of convalescence until she took her last breath; and hardship of unbearable degree from local officials and a neighborhood business because the school property she built—for her marvel project to eradicate urban poverty and worked all her life—was needed for the development of “better” projects. Nonetheless, Jember stood firm. She fought, argued and educated in the process. She disrupted the norm and her thinking that comes from privileged upbringing…that helping the poor was a top down approach but after her experience in prison she knew and practiced throughout her life that the needy know their needs best. That’s what she did and lived for….fighting to eradicate urban poverty, the harshest of all. She taught us all that brutality is under our nose. “Don’t wait for the gun to fire” she told & awakened us to turn our eyes to our neighbors that languish under our nose…

This woman who dreamt of becoming a physician but curtailed because of yet another family misfortune—losing a father to a previous coup—Jember had a knack for turning her misfortune to the best solution for others. She received a master’s degree in Primary Health Care (PHC) and brought healthcare in some fashion to the community. Her ambition to see healthcare equalized made her a champion using her education in nursing and PHC…an outstanding example, establishing an accredited healthcare program for the prison wards and graduated 87 to be health assistants while she served her term in prison. She turned hatred into love. Later on in life she used her ministry as a doctoral candidate in theology to sow love and be done with revenge. Jember was a beacon of light in any darkness!

Dr. Jember left an indelible mark in her community which was also worldly accepted and recognized. She single-handedly raised 200,000,000 birr for her poverty eradication program. She helped build 4,000 houses and revamped the slums in Addis Ababa, Kebele 30, 41, 42 and 43. A devout Christian, she fulfilled her mission to the end.

AWiB in 2012 celebrated this woman of excellence at a gala dinner with 10 other women of excellence and in 2013 bestowed upon her a “Lifetime Achievement Award” for her work of understanding, voicing and acting upon the injustice of the grinding poverty & relentlessly bringing to the attention of the public at large. Dr. Jember left a legacy of being a voice for the voiceless. Ethiopia lost a giant who helped her become a better nation. We all lost our sensibilities. May you rest in peace our lady of higher purpose!

To know more of Dr. Jember’s work and inspiring story please refer to: Dr. Jember Teffera Download PDF

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