Recap of February Meeting

Ethiopian Women in Business (EWiB), a networking professional women’s group, opened the Feb. session by revisiting the constitution or MOA if you will. We discussed in detail about our Motto: RISK; Rope….to support and pull each other; Integrity…no explanation needed but nothing worthwhile happens without integrity; Sincerity…that makes life a whole lot easier, doesn’t it! Kindness …no need to say much on that one!!! In order to achieve anything meaningful we need to Risk. We risk when we love because there is always rejection even in loving others…the highest form of humanity. We have to risk to be courageous, sincere and ethical. We need to risk to live…”Bekka”.

Our constitution includes commitment but that is another story but we talked about the benefit that we get from joining EWiB. Sorry guys; you had to be at the meeting to find that one out.

Our responsibility for joining the group is not financial, or committee chores or even not joining a board. It is to come together and get to know each other and develop our businesses and ourselves simply by showing up. Our group includes leaders in every aspect of businesses including non-profit organizations. (Unless we run non-profit org with business principles, we would not have any NGOs to speak of). We have students and retirees. We have business owners– from starters to matured establishments. We have people of culture, arts and film makers. We have hoteliers, restaurateurs, marketers, bankers and financiers. In short we have everyone who stands for broadening their horizons and reaching out to others. We are nurturers, fighters, and human right activists. We are aspiring business leaders and those who made it and want to show others the ropes to getting to the top. We are Diasporas, Lameboras and those in between. Simply put we are multi tasked, multi sectored and multi desired…we are simple, complex, sophisticated and down to earth. As Roman put it we are “Woubet” of Ethiopia or Ethiopia’s Woub. We are of Ethiopia, for Ethiopia, by Ethiopia.

EWiB is led by Roman and Nahu, the founders and co-chairs, but as a responsibility to develop leadership in our community, we are for changing guards every six months. Some people feel that is too short so we relented and agreed to serve six more months. We will be a year young in April and it is our wish that a bunch of you will step forward to campaign for this great position….to serve your country???? Perhaps not… but to support and develop other women.

Our program is designed in such a manner — one month we present, for the 1st half of the program, two members’ profile; who they are, how they got where they are today and what kind of support we can lend these members, and discussion on interesting topics the 2nd half. A few months ago, we had a discussion on an article by a Diaspora from Canada, titled “why can’t Ethiopians work together”. It was quite an eye opener for all of us who participated. We really got to know us as Ethiopians and earned a great respect for the peoples of Ethiopia, for the culture, psyche and history. That is what we don’t get at school and by simply coming together and discussing issues that we wouldn’t touch otherwise; by doing so we stretch our minds a bit. And the following month, we have a speaker’s forum. We attract wonderful speakers on pertinent topics and that is one of the benefits we give members…connection, connection and connection. Our last speaker was Ken Ohashi of World Bank. He stayed with us till the end of the program and we had a great opportunity to know him as a person. That is connection people. Our next speaker is Brutawit Dawit Abdi, CEO of Zemen Bank. And the following speaker’s forum in May presents Alessandra Tissot, country Director of UNDP.

Now on to the next program and that was member’s profile, two wonderful and astonishing ladies were show cased. Azeb Retta, GM of Global Hotel and Saba G. Medhin, Director of Network of Ethiopian Women Association (NEWA) an indigenous NGO that stands for women’s empowerment.

Azeb came from a family of ten siblings (I felt for the mother) and was educated for the most part in all girls school — the former Empress Mennen School, simply know as Mennen even today. She told her story by expressing her gratitude to the Ethiopia she grew up in; the Ethiopia that offered vaccination, vitamins, snacks, great teachers, sports, arts and French language in addition of course to great Amharic and English lessons. She went on to Europe to get a college education and none other than Paris. She told her experience in Paris that stretched her brain and fed her vivid imagination to the max. She learned about art, history, culture, literature and how the rest of the cultured lived. Azeb, after graduation came back to her country she loves and appreciates so much and joined Hilton Hotel and started a family of her own.

During the Derg’s regime, where many have perished she was lucky enough to have a great job that gave her the opportunity to develop her talent by relocating her to other parts of the world; first to Egypt and then to the States. All in all she worked for Hilton Hotel for 20 years becoming an expert in all areas of the hospitality industry. Azeb of course returned to her beloved country to give back and take some more. She is the head of Global Hotel mentoring the future generation. And that is the highest form of giving back. Azeb’s story doesn’t end there but with a few like-minds, she is contemplating a new venture to package Ethiopia’s reputable cuisine so a larger consumer all over the world can experience it—“from the microwave to the table”. She needs support from those experts in the packaging industry and some know how from exporters as well.

Azeb is highly spiritual and takes her Catholicism seriously. She abides by a philosophy that nurtures humanity and she takes it as her responsibility to share that with those who are willing to listen. Her flipchart presentation with a diagram that sustains her and nourishes her life as a person attests to the fact. Azeb tells her story with enthusiasm and with all the passion she could muster. She tells it as only a loving mother, a successful executive and an ethical and grateful citizen can tell it. We can learn so, so much from a person like Azeb and that’s why we appreciate the stage that EWiB affords us.

Saba is a lawyer by training and she has experience with our justice system as a judge and a prosecutor. Saba was raised by a strong and loving mother who gave her children the best education.

Saba is a giving person and always believes in bringing changes to others and empowering women. Perhaps because she was raised by an empowered woman and went to all girls-school, Nazareth, I believe, she has no tolerance for those who abuse women and is not afraid to speak out. What we saw during the process of changing the existing NGO law– Saba speaking out and arguing to the unfairness of the whole shebang– was testimonial to her commitment to women’s cause.

After a short brush with the law she joined NEWA as a director. NEWA was founded by another conscious citizen, Selome Tadesse, and took strong root under Saba. Because of the new NGO law that passed a year ago, NEWA naturally as advocate of women’s rights, had to stay as an indigenous NGO—meaning all means of funding from outside sources dried. This organization that Saba and her colleagues nurtured for long and brought a great deal of change to the Ethiopian women especially to those in the rural areas is under threat of not being so powerful. It takes a strong leader like Saba to sustain this organization but all privileged woman of Ethiopia like members of EWiB have responsibility to sustain it. In her presentation Saba called for all women to stand up together and support NEWA. NEWA has acquired a piece of land in “Gourd Shola” to build a center for all women to come together as one. This construction, the future headquarter of NEWA, is also envisioned as income generating. It needs our support to finish the construction. We call upon all of you to help out by selling” dabokolo” in your neighborhood and by starting a movement…. EWiB for NEWA! Let’s be creative and come up with a plan to fundraise for this great cause; eventually we do it for all of us. As the saying goes, life without a purpose is not life at all.

Saba has done a great deal that I wouldn’t dare to put in this short narration; she is amongst those who have made history for the Ethiopian women and she is also one of us. We sleep a little better because of people like Saba. They do our bidding in a sense. This soft spoken but very articulate woman is a national asset and she is our EWiB. She belongs to the core group of EWiB and we need to support her.

Our next meeting is Thursday the 3rd of March at Panorama Hotel @ 6PM. Please bring your friends and join us. We have marvelous stories to tell you and let you tell us yours.

With much appreciation and love,


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