AWiB Concludes the Year with the 2014 Women of Excellence

When we express appreciation, we tell people that their ‘being’ matters, they are valued members of the community and that their accomplishments make a difference to someone. The essence of the AWiB Women of Excellence (WOE) is to make what is excellent in others belong to us as well.

To wrap up the year, AWiBs December program brought to the stage the 2014 WOE Celebrities: Namely, Frealem Shibabaw, Dr. Liya Tadesse, Tadelech Hailemikael, Tirhas Mezgebe and Zemi Yenus.

WOE celebrities are our role models, who have worked tirelessly on behalf of others to compile a long list of accomplishments and positively transform our community.  Tonight, we had the opportunity to meet these remarkable women, hear their stories and ask our questions.

Below is a summary

Question: It is not common for women in Ethiopia to visit a gynecologist and get a routine checkup. What are your thoughts on this and how can we address it?

Answer by Dr. Liya:  Indeed it is very rare for women in our country to routinely visit their gynecologist. It is not part of our culture and this is something that requires stringent attention. Cervical cancer is the foremost cancer that affects women who are sexually active. If detected early, it is easily prevented and treated. Therefore need to be aware of cervical cancer and routinely get checked. On a national scale, there are only a few limited private hospitals that provide Pap smear and visual inspection services. As such, there is a lot of work ahead of us to raise awareness and increase accessibility and availability of such services.

Question: We hear of numerous campaigns that target maternal health. But till present day mothers are dying while giving birth. What can be done about this?

Answer by Dr. Liya. The focus on maternal health has been a recent phenomenon, maybe dating back 10 years. Nowadays, many organizations have taken this issue as their central mandate and have worked towards spreading awareness and increasing accessibility and availability of medical services. It is important to note however that even if the service was available, there are a lot of constraining factors. For example, a mother needs to believe in the importance of seeking medical treatment as opposed to cultural/ traditional practices, and she would need to be able to make decisions over her own body aswell.

Question: What strategy did you use to build trust amongst the women of the Benishangul-Gumz region?

Answer by Tirhas: Every Saturday for three years I took 5 liters of liquor to the women. I sat amongst them as they sang and danced and slowly earned their trust. This was not an easy task, I encountered many challenges.  There was a lot of negative rumors spread about me; I lost the support of my family and was outcast from my church. I therefore chose to be silent, I did not respond to the rumors and stigma. Instead I kept my promise to help these women and that was all I was committed to do.

Question: What was your experience like as a female ambassador?

Answer by Ambassador Tadelech: Working on issues pertaining to Women and Development was my brain child. In the past it was a taboo to speak of women’s rights, now it is mainstreamed in numerous policies and programs. I believe that female ambassadors are humble and have a good knack for public diplomacy. Therefore, I whole heartedly recommend more females to take up a greater role in politics. 

Question: Even the simplest of tasks requires patience and perseverance. Please reflect on your journey and explain how you did not quit in the face of hardship and challenge. 

Answer by Frealem: If I set out to do something, no one can stop me. I believe that it is my responsibility to finish what I started. It is critical that we are clear about our intentions. With a clear idea you can achieve change and produce results. And it is with a clear vision that you persevere even when facing grave encounters.  

Answer by Zemi: In the beginning of our journey we need to ask, what is the purpose of my life? What is my life’s calling? We do face many hardship in our life, and we need to use this trial to guide us towards our calling. When my child was diagnosed with Autism, I asked myself, why? What am I meant to do? Asking such questions is what led me to open Joy Autistic center. Therefore, when we ask such critical questions, we explore the purpose behind our life. I do not quit because I see need around me. Our work is not yet done, we still need to take responsibility and work towards something better for ourselves and our children.

Answer by Dr. Liya: I am still young, and I did not think I would become the CEO of a medical center so soon. I have faced many challenges and have fought through the hardship because I am passionate about health. Passion gives me hope to persevere.

Question: To turn an idea into action, and start up a business we require capital. For those of us who do not have access to capital, how can we go about our endeavors?

Answer by Frealem: You need to first identify what your passion is. This passion will attract resources. In addition, money is not the only form of capital you should be seeking. You also need good will i.e social capital.

In wrapping up this insightful evening, AWiB president Seble Hailu reminded members the importance of celebrating and honoring our women leaders. This evening was a chance to say a big Thank you for our 2014 WOE celebrities. These women have been involved in building our community from different levels and sectors. Let us learn from their stories, take responsibility and play our parts in our community.

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.
John F. Kennedy

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