‘AWiB Presents her Gems’ – recap by Nadia Waber

On July 26th evening,  AWiB presented her gems for over 100 attendees at the Hilton hotel.

‘When you know who you are, When your mission is clear and you burn with the inner fire of unbreakable will, No cold can touch your heart, No deluge can dampen your purpose.’ Chief Seattle, Suquamish Tribe

That seemed to be the message declared by three AWiB members, to a room full of 100 participants, at the monthly event held at the Addis Ababa Hilton Hotel, on 26th July, 2012. What threads created the fabric of their greatness? Indeed, that evening,

–          Senait Worku, Owner and General Manager of Antica Restaurant,

–          Dr. Selam Aklilu, Chiropractor and Medical Director at ‘1st Chiropractic Clinic’, and

–          Billene Seyoum, Writer, Blogger, and Training Programme Officer at the Institute for Peace and Security Studies,

indeed, generously shared glimpses of their being, their lives and their belief systems with us in the audience.

Senait Worku ‘A lady with the ‘I Can’ Attitude’

An Award winner of the International Business Initiative (B.I.D.), Senait learnt about leadership from a young age. She grew up with her mother and grandmother, she learned what leadership was all about from a very young age. This enabled her to responsibly work and continue her studies with perseverance.

When faced with breakdowns, Senait managed to overcome them by believing that everything is possible, ‘when one puts in the effort’, she says.

Senait candidly shared the challenges of balancing one’s personal and professional life, as she worked and raised three children. Dialogue in the family on how to manage the different aspects of one’s life were essential for her.

A fair employer, Senait does not hesitate to take tough decisions at work, when it comes to managing her staff.

With poise and conviction, Senait invited us to persist in our commitments, despite cultural constraints. She also stressed the value of acknowledging our mothers and women in our lives by contributing to, and attending the upcoming Women of Excellence Award organized by AWiB, an Association she so generously gives her time to.

I observed many participants sitting up to listen to Senait, as she moved her fan and emphatically shared her convictions.

Dr.  SelamAklilu – ‘Born to Serve’

Holding a magnetic, and yet peaceful presence, Dr. Selam, a Medical Doctor and Chiropractor, running six clinics across Ethiopia, and Founder of Wellness Ethiopia, made us smile by sharing that as a doctor, she reminds all her patients that ‘The Body Heals Itself’.

Having worked in California for 13 years, she chose to come back to Ethiopia 11 years ago, and since then has been tirelessly working in a spirit of service, with patients, but also in promoting values in healthcare through the ‘Heal the Healer’ programme.

What is Selam’s life purpose? ‘I was created for the patients I saw today’, she shares with joy. ‘I’m not an accident,’ she reminds herself often, as she interacts with others. She seems to have a soft spot for the young girls of our country whom, in her experience ‘don’t know how light and force they have inside.’ That was said with a tinge of sadness.

How does Dr. Selam get her energy? Those moments in the day when she can sit in silence and focus, when ‘her right and left brain connect’, when she can look within, are those when she gets clarity.

And in such a lady of poise there are high assessment capacities, of the self, and of others, ‘because that’s the starting point to unleash our potential’, and when those challenges come, Dr. Selam Aklilu sits down, writes the pros and cons for the actions she will take, and performs, because ‘if it doesn’t kill me, I’ll do it’.

That’s when, with her infectious smile, the room lights up and the audience joins in the laughter.

BilleneSeyoum – ‘Challenging Norms using the Power of the Pen’

There’s elegance in Billene, AWiB President Elect, Blogger of African Feminist, and a budding writer since the age of 12. Her testimony invited us into deep reflections on life, authenticity and the power of choice.

Billene openly invited us into her life experience, starting from sharing the appreciation she has for her loving parents. Her mother gave her space to venture into activities she loved doing, where she did not feel forced to do. And Billene would choose to go into her yard and help change the tyre of the car all by herself. In the audience we could picture her doing that!

It was from this young age that Billene acknowledged the capacity human beings have, irrespective of whether they are male and female. And having experienced working in different sectors when living abroad (marketing management, international relations), Billene currently serves as a Training Programme Officer at the Institute for Peace and Security Studies, as well expresses her creativity through blogging at ‘African Feminist’ and the AWiB websites.

Billene invited us not to shy away from using and living the term ‘feminism’, and as a living example, she uses her writing to share the successes and tribulations of women, as well as challenging traditions that hold women back from living their potential.

Billene recalled her mentor, a lady who supported her in discovering what it means to lead an authentic life by inviting her to ask herself: ‘What stories do I create of myself? What do I bring to the world’. And this looking inside and asking herself powerful questions awakened her Internal Observer. Such a practice is helping her in making day-to-day decisions, and learning lessons even in the situations she finds most uncomfortable.

What struck about Billene was her connection to reality, and yet embracing a contagious optimism: ‘It’s easy to be cynical,’ she reflected, and she reminded us that every day, we have the choice to be so or not.

Truly, we felt in the present of an ‘Old Soul’, as we call Billene in AWiB circles. This lady of substance truly commanded respect with her presence.

We’ll have the honor of learning from Billene again, during the September AWiB event, when she will take us through a Non Violent Communication Experience, so watch this space!

When members from the audience were invited to ask questions, silence filled the room: were we all processing the depth of what we had heard, or were we hesitating to go first? A rush of questions followed for all three speaker, the main ones being:

–      What has been your biggest challenge, and how did you overcome it?

–      How does one unleash potential?

–      How do you achieve work/life balance?

–      In our society, how can we acknowledge the contribution of mothers more?

–      As women serving in top positions, how can we develop our skills, without acting as males?

–      Have you ever felt discriminated?

–      Have you ever felt lucky because you are a woman?

A dose of wisdom and reflection followed, and two statements that stuck with us included:

‘One is actually discriminated when we choose to give away our power’, and ‘we can overcome our fears when we have the courage to make mistakes.’

From yet another inspiring evening, the following quote perhaps can describe the feeling of inner strength, persistence and optimism that these ladies left us with:

‘Whatever is defined as impossible is impossible only in the context of the present paradigm’. Arthur Koesler

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