The Prevailing Attitude ~ Excellence

Celebrating women of excellence for the fourth time, AWiB quoted Colin Powell, in the 2015 WOE Magazine, “Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.”  The predominant way of life in the selected seven women who were chosen for their accomplished vision, courage to live their dream, compassion to their community and generous actions was excellence.  This was exhibited in their business, professional careers and dedicated community services.  They have been reasons to get the prestigious “Women of Excellence” at the annual Gala Dinner on Sunday, 25 of October 2015.

AWiB received 33 outstanding nominations from the public.  Eighteen gave their consent to be part of the process and after interviewing and doing extensive research on the nominees, seven were shortlisted to document their lives and celebrate them.

The practice of celebration is becoming a norm as AWiB is setting the trend to acknowledge those who quietly serve their communities and bring about phenomenal results in changing the doomed status of their community one degree at a time.  The selected women have elevated the lives of others but now it is their turn to be elevated and praised publicly expressing gratitude.

A well-deserved honoree, the event started with photo exhibition of Senedu Gebru and later on was shown a documentary film on her 100 years courageous life. Senedu was recognized as a ‘Woman of Excellence’ posthumously.   As the first parliamentarian and a committed activist, who paved the way for women to assume highest law and policy making leadership positions that determine their fate, she set the tone of the prevailing attitude and action of excellence.

Metasebia Shewaye, presided over the ceremony, introducing the event and welcoming the seven Women of Excellence. The crowd, who was eagerly waiting for their glorious appearance, stood up and received them with acclamation of joy and claps.

Adding beauty to the celebration, AWiB invited the Destino Dance, Ethiopia’s first independent professional contemporary dance company, which provides dance training to disadvantaged young people in Ethiopia training them to be the best dancers in performances and events. They choreographed Ethiopian cultural dances and performances.

AWiB’s short film was presented showing that beyond celebrating the women of excellence annually, AWiB strives to unleash the potential of its members though supporting the personal and professional development of career women as well as women in business. Its networking monthly and annual forums were shown encouraging women to be members and men to be partners.

The Woman behind the elevation of other women, Nahu Senay Girma, AWiB’s Founder, took the stage to describe AWiB’s five successful years of journey.  This journey has been supported by many who technically, financially, relationally, morally and professionally standing with AWiB and investing their invaluable time and resources. She said, “These companies are not only progressive in their thinking but wise investors.  They know a birr invested in women makes the world go smoothly. So I applaud them for their courage and wisdom.”

Nahu continued presenting the 2015 honorees:

Ambanesh Kebede – for having the courage to start an empire in the pharmaceutical industry wanting to keep citizens healthy and supporting thousands of families, mentoring and giving her time and money to those who are less fortunate.

Dr. Aster Shewa Amare – for touching the untouchables when HIV and AIDS was so feared and those unfortunate ones who live with the virus were shunned and left to die a miserable death alone. She said, “It won’t happen on my watch” and did something about it including changing policies.

Etenesh Wondimagegnehu – for working with the forgotten, that society never cared much and truth be told we want them hidden and out of sight. She works relentlessly that society remembers we all have purpose in life and no less or better than the other. As human beings and creatures of the Lord, we must be given our due place. Etenesh says, “Those society condemns handicapped are but differently abled” and she fights for their right.

Professor Fetien Abay – for remembering her roots and the farmers who knew best! She went to the source to make Ethiopia remember that she is a land of plenty. She works with the farmers to educate and be educated. She uplifts them, affirms them and appreciates them so they could have the space to do what they knew all along. They can interbreed crops that sustain human life and sustain it under harsh circumstance and she is succeeding at it.

Maria Mounir – for standing by the side of a raped, destroyed and frightened little girl and hopeless young woman and telling them, “It is not your fault,” and determined to do something about it.  When these frightened and lost souls could not go back home or do not have a place to call home, simple, she made one for them.

Nigist Haile – for understanding all along, the best defense for women’s misery is financial independence and helped thousands to become their own masters without asking for fame, money or accolades doing it quietly and changing lives in large numbers.

Prof. Yeweynhareg Feleke – for loving her country with all her might, working relentlessly to improve the nation’s health because she understands a sick citizen will not amount to much. She strives to build the system by educating the best and the brightest, researching and publishing pertinent material. I am told the minister of the health ministry is her protégé.  Hurray for the Professor!

Senedu Gebru – for her courageous life to stand at the parliament as the only woman, not bowing down when her ideas and proposals were discounted and she told all her male colleagues, they could rumple on her ideas because they found her alone back then but she said, “Soon, we will be many and we will be too strong to be defeated, or be ridiculed.”

Nahu continued,Seneduwould be disappointed if she came back in today’s Ethiopia. Sadly the women’s movement is marching one step forward and two steps backward. Even comparing to other African nations, we Ethiopians are behind, in leading corporations, government offices, community affairs. We are too weak, too few and too tired. When a young female college graduate’s aspiration is to get married, stay home and become a baby machine, for a developing nation such as ours, 51% of the population stays idle, there goes the nation. We cannot affect policies with few and far between. Senedu Gebru’s message was that and still is that.”

Nahu concluded her remarks by promising that next year that we will celebrate a man who the community thinks is a supporter and ally of women, sponsor and promoter of women in every aspect. It is time to acknowledge men.

After Nahu’s speech and Sendu’s documentary film, AWiB has donated Senedu’s photos to Network for Ethiopian Women Association (NEWA), hardworking and useful Association that has brought profound changes in the Ethiopian women at the grass root level.  Senedu Gebru’s photo exhibition, funded by Waryt Mulutila International, was presented by the CEO Tihitna Legesse, also AWiB Board Member, to the NEWA President, Saba Gebremedhin. This gift is meant to raise fund for their planned multifunctional women center.

The three course gala dinner was exotically served by Sharaton Addis and then after two of Desta Hagos’ art work was auctioned.  Desta, a pioneer female artist, donated her pieces of art work to support AWiB.  Afterwards, the documentary films of the seven women of excellence were shown and they were invited to be on the stage for question and answer.

Where does your energy for your day to day activities come from?

  • Love of humanity
  • Leaving legacy to the generation
  • Day to day problems of health, poverty, community issues
  • Desire to be an answer to the surrounding problems
  • Longing to make a difference
  • Seeing no support from others and wanting to reach out
  • Children who are in problem.  

What were your challenges when you were teenagers?

  • Family insisting on early marriage
  • Others consideration of science (medicine and engineering) ascribed only to men so discouraging female not to pursue science
  • Pushing the societies’ attitude, “You can’t!”

Who are your role models?

  • No one
  • Sinidu Gebru
  • My father and mother
  • My family
  • My mother
  • My father
  • In academics, – Dr. Barbara Clinton

What is your solution for El Niño – Dr. Fetien?

  • Developing countries, such as Ethiopia, is dependent upon agriculture.  Hence, believing in the local farmers’ knowledge and giving them ownership to bring solution is important.  If we allow farmers to bring about solution for the local problems, they can.  About 50% of Ethiopia’s land is becoming dry.  The farmers have solution.  If we listen to them, we can definitely find solution from those who are close to what they live by. The solution is tied to using local knowledge.

How do you deal with domestic violence to bring about change sustainably – Maria?

  • Domestic violence cannot be curbed if the whole society is not involved.  Strategically, we train religious leaders, idir leaders, community workers and the media to play great role not only in broadcasting the transgressions but also sensitizing the public to prevent violence before occurrences.

What do you feel about this celebration day and what can be done to multiply modelling excellence?

  • Feeling validated of the good works done behind the show
  • Mixed feelings of excitement and sadness – The recognition brings excitement but it is also sad that there are many who were supposed to be here but not celebrated.
  • Seen, privileged
  • Supporting AWiB by encouraging others to be members
  • Responsible to push others forward
  • Find others who are not yet seen but do phenomenal work to be nominated
  • Establish WOE alumni network and keep one another accountable to modeling excellence.
  • Keep on educating and producing scientists, working on female scientists, and generate knowledge
  • Start from home and focus on building our children

Meti invited Akiko Seyoum, CEO of Orchid Business Group, one of the three judges, to describe the selection process of the 2015 WOE Titleholder. Akiko stated the difficulty to select one person as all the seven WOE are eligible and exhibit the character, perseverance, attitude, and achievement as well as community services.  In fact, that was exactly why they were celebrated.  However, they chose one criterion – ‘sustainability’ to differentiate among the seven women of excellence.  Akiko left the stage handing over the envelop to the Keynote Speaker to announce the Titleholder.

Before announcing the 2015 WOE Titleholder, Frealem Shibabaw, Founder and Director of Ethiopian School Meal Initiative, came to the podium to make keynote speech.  Fray was one of the 2014 WOE honorees.  She explained the human development aspects of our country as highly dependent on children’s wellbeing and hence her initiative and proposal to the Ethiopian government has gotten acceptance to be implemented nationwide.  In addition, “The Sekota Declaration” was signed by all regional leaders to reverse the history of starvation and death to that of profusion.  She shared her experiences with this initiative to show that excellence is not something that stops when we are acknowledged.  Celebrating the women of excellence is an impetus to do more, wide spreading our influence and keeping on striving to scale up good deeds.

Finally, Fray announced the 2015 WOE Titleholder – Maria Munir….! Shouts of joy, tears of happiness, clapping of hands were accorded to the Titleholder … Colleagues, family members, relatives, all who waited for this moment rejoiced with her.  Maria immediately announced that the recognition belongs to those who labored with her and hence she divided the 100,000 birr award to the two organizations she devoted her life to: 1) The Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association and 2) The Association for Women’s Sanctuary and Development.

The women of excellence paved the way for others to follow.  They are leading initiatives that drive trends and establish new benchmarks.  They are helping to shape our future and the future of the new generation.  AWiB aims at celebrating these women’s power and documenting their stories to enable others to replicate the prevailing attitude ~ Excellence.

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