Tihitina Legesse of Waryt on the move

\"\"The 2014 Swedish Institute scholarship was the first of its kind for Africa.  It has in the past made scholarship offers to the Far East and Eastern European countries.  In 2014, this scholarship opportunity included Africa by selecting 5 East African countries: Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Zambia.  It was first announced on May 2014. The objective of the scholarship was to train four leaders in senior management from each countries on corporate responsibility and leadership training. This training takes place in Stockholm and Nairobi.

The competition to qualify for this scholarship award was tough. In Ethiopia alone, 500 people applied.  This opportunity was publicly announced on major newspapers, the Addis Ababa Chamber of Commerce newsletter and through the Swedish Embassy networks.

The requirements of the Institute were clear: those in senior management from 35-45 age group with innovative responsible leadership initiatives in relation to post and business that they are involved in.

The program was organized by the SWEDISH INSTITUTE (SI) in collaboration with KPMG, a well-known audit and advisory firm.  Both Institutes had to send representatives from their respective offices to the five countries to make the interview face-to-face with the applicant.

Ms. Tihitina Legesse Zerihun, the General Manager of WARYT Mulutila International plc, a successful furniture supplier involved in the importation and manufacturing of furniture and water purifier, was one of the 500 applicants.  Tihitina has been working in this family owned business for over 15 years–the last five years as GM of the company.  She says “my father always tells me positions have no gender.  It is the free will of the individual as well as a true coach that will make a difference in all.”

Tihitina, one who is always up to challenges, never shied away from this competition even though she understood how tough and slim the chance of getting in could be.  She was positive in ways that she had already cleared her schedules for the training dates as she knew that she will make it.  Even at work, she likes to try something others have given up on as she likes the challenge and thinking without the box instead of outside the box.

Out of the 176 applicants, 80 succeeded in getting the interview and only four got in the program. Tihitina was the only female candidate to qualify. It was unbelievable she says, “but it is a project that I still hold close to my heart and wish to have other passionate people join me as I would like to make a difference to people’s life”.  This came for Tihitina at the right time as she was thinking of a way to expand the company’s involvement in its social responsibility activities.

The concept of corporate social responsibility has often been perceived by our country\’s corporations as giving out cash or making a contribution in the development of a certain project. But it is far more complicated as it also has to do with the well-being of the society, the employees within the corporation, fair process and procedures along the particular business.  Awareness to the environment, anticorruption, and the economy are factors of sustainability.  A corporation may say we have done this or that but what matters most is compliance and persistence.

At WARYT negative Impact minimization or elimination is one of the things always considered when doing business says Tihitina. She also believes that whatever wastage produced from manufacturing or importation shall have at least one use that can make a difference or a positive impact to the society or the country at large and make a significant positive economic impact back to the society.

The initiative that she presented for the Swedish Management institute was to transform plastic bonding straps as import wastes to be used to make bags and other materials that can be of use by adding value so that it can benefit mothers who are not able to send their kids to school.

In collaboration with Meseret Humaniterian Organization ((MHO), a local NGO whose focus is underserved mothers and children, the target group is selected.  The raw material is packed and ready but what remains is finding trainers who would give their service free of charge to complete this noble project. In a society where giving back to the community is not practiced at a larger scale, Tihitina says this one is the most challenging.

This is the material she says that they have been throwing away for over eight years now.  The idea came to her when she saw a beautiful bag that was made out of this particular bonding strap that they have been throwing, fetching a good price on the market.

Tihitina will attend the second module of the program this month in Nairobi. Tihitina’s wish is to see the movement to change people\’s life without the involvement of money would get the attention of those who would want to make a realistic and responsible difference in our society.

AWiB congratulates Tihitina and applauds her courage and insight to make this world a little better than she found it.