WOE 2022 Recap

Building a legacy that lasts beyond your life is purposeful, selfless, and self-full”— G. J. Reynolds.

Two years after COVID’s official toll on Ethiopia, AWiB was determined to hold its BOLD move of honoring EXCELLENT women hidden in plain sight. The ninth annual WOE did not fall short of its target as the whole night was dedicated to celebrating women who have contributed to the well-being of society. Ladies and gentlemen, we thank all of you for having been a part of this monumental event, and for those who couldn’t join us, we hope to catch you on the tenth, until then enjoy the event recap.

The smell of coffee mixes with the excitement in the air, creating intoxicating energy. The four fabulous women arrive with grace at their meeting spot at The Mosaic Hotel. The fresh aroma of roasting coffee beans filled the air, giving a warm vibe to converse. As the four EXCELLENT women engage in beautiful conversations, the photographer, Nafkot, starts snapping away the moments. Coaxing the nominees to talk about themselves and their successes as they get their pictures taken. Initially, the nominees were modest in their conversations but slowly and surely, the sounds of uproarious laughter can be heard as Amina cracks jokes.

The women gather outside and take their assigned seats at The Mosaic Hotel’s garden where Aster Solomon welcomes them to the Hotel and hosts the coffee ceremony. The four nominees slip into easy conversation, at this point. Samrawit, the VP of AWIB, asks a few broad conversation starters about the struggles these women had to overcome to get here. The nominees as well as Aster wholeheartedly share their past experiences, guiding Samrawit, Nafkot, and, Hamrawi on mistakes to avoid and the resources they used to get to where they are.

Menna, in particular, mentions the issues of taxation and the uncertainty surrounding it. The mention of taxation opens the conversational floodgates, as it is a topic that everyone has had to deal with at one point or another. Aster uses the taxation discussion to springboard into an introduction of AWIB’s FCBC meetings and invites the nominees to join the next session.

After the nominees drink their coffee and take their pictures for about an hour, the limousine arrives sharply at 4:00 pm. The women exhibit an almost childlike glee and head into the car, traveling in style.

The women continue their discussions about their passions and what drives them. They come to the surprising conclusion that all four of them are involved in the education sector, in one way or another. This creates a unanimous agreement that education is the key to shaping the future. There is a noticeable age gap between the nominees, with Betelhem representing the younger generation. The nominees discuss the similarities and differences of the struggles of bold women throughout the ages.

As the limousine waits in the queue of cars at the gates of Sheraton Addis, Amina remarked with sincerity “Today is my wedding day, my holidays, and my birthday all wrapped in one.” Just as the car parks the current AWiB’s board members, dressed in splendid Habeshan clothing black and gold start ululating. The nominees are greeted with laughter, smiles, and applause that transmute genuine admiration and respect. A chorus of congratulations can be heard all around. The celebration of each wonderful woman has officially begun!

The long-awaited day had arrived. For two years, the COVID outbreak hindered AWIB from celebrating Ethiopia’s outstanding women. As I dressed for the gala dinner, I was excited, thinking about all the amazing women I’d meet that day. I was exhilarated to be surrounded by all the incredible Ethiopian women raising the bar so high. I was looking forward to meet my Sheroes.

The room erupted with applause and ‘elilta’ as the four incredible women entered. It was followed by an informal question and answer session moderated by MC of the evening, Sewit.

“What inspired you?” the facilitator asked after she introduced the panelist to the audience. They shared their motivation for positively impacting their society through the diverse fields in which they are involved.

When the MC asked Amina about her reputation as a frightful woman, the audience burst out laughing. Amina explained how she earned that reputation by challenging the Sharia law. She explained how the law’s implementers, not the law itself, were depriving women of their fundamental human rights. Explaining how she advocates for women’s rights and forced action against an unjust judge abusing Sharia law. That’s where her fearsome reputation came from, and she proudly assured herself, “In that sense, I’m mighty.”

Dr. Teguest was asked how she used her international experience to help her country. She had to work four times as hard as her male counterparts to get where she is now. Despite being told she couldn’t do it; she built the midwifery college without giving in to the filthy and shortest route to getting things done; paying a bribe. Her resilience and determination were her allies in making her dream a reality.

The MC recalled meeting Betty for the first time in iCog. Betty described how she uses her network to connect with people who share similar goals and to learn from others. Everyone in the room was filled with a smile as they listened to the inspiring conversation. Amina illustrated how a Woman of Excellence makes use of her opportunities when she asked for assistance in obtaining computers for the girls she helps.

The entrance to the majestic dining hall was opened for guests after the conclusion of the Q&A.

Once everyone had taken their seats, the MC made an exuberant opening remark. Everyone shared her enthusiasm when she declared her intention to selfishly soak up the inspiration in the room.

Desset, the President of the AWiB, delivered a superb opening speech about the essence of AWiB in its sisterhood and concluded her speech by inviting everyone to become a member of AWiB. Samrawit from Sammer (ሳምር) design, who made the glamourous cultural dresses worn by the AWiB board members and staff, was applauded. Shortly after, it was time for the Lifetime Achievement Award. It began with a documentary about the awardee; Laureate Sister Tibebe Maco. Her documentary moved everyone as it showcased her invaluable contribution to society during the HIV/AIDS pandemic. With the documentary’s conclusion, the incredible Laureate sister Tibebe received her well-deserved award.

It was followed by soft jazz music from the contemporary jazz artist Aisha and her guitarist Dawit Soso. Samrawit Meresa introduced the nominees for tonight’s WOE award. As the four women’s documentaries played, it was clear how they all shared the common belief that anything they set their minds to is possible. The tuxedoed waiters backed the fine etiquette dining experience. Our ears were blessed by the slow violin play from Hibir String Quartet. After dessert was served, a call to acknowledge a true woman of heart; the engine behind all this brilliance; the one and only; the EXCELLENT; co-founder and Director of AWiB, Nahu was called to the stage, where everyone stood in complete admiration and respect to pay to her.

Hanna Tilahun, the keynote speaker, took the stage to share her story and message. Lastly, one of the judges, Professor Panos, Head of School at Lebawi International Academy, explained the backbreaker selection process, their struggle to choose one as the titleholder, and their pact to never volunteer again -cracked everyone- but dubious he was joking. He shared his experience and stated, with pride, the honor of being a part of the process, how Ethiopia has great people undiscovered and every nominee is a winner. After keeping the audience on their feet, in recognition of her ongoing commitment to excellence, the title of the 2022 Women of Excellence was handed to Dr. Teguest Guerma. Staying in complete disbelief, she hid her face in her lap, filled with tears of joy, all the other Women of Excellence stood to congratulate their fellow.  Going up to the stage to say a few words of gratitude, to which everyone attended so generously. In addition to the title, Hanna Tilahun, the keynoter, donated ETB 100,000 to the titleholder’s non-profit organization. And that marked the end of the magnificent night and everyone rushed to the stage to congratulate the Women of Excellence.

By Hamrawi Kelemu and Nina Kassahun

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