Etalem Engeda – Hard work always pays off!

Etalem was born and raised in what was then known as the Harargie region in a town called Hirna. She studied up to 7th grade and then moved to Asmara for a short while. Most of her youth was spent in Addis Ababa and Debrezeit.  Currently, she lives in Addis with her husband and 3 children. Etalem recalls her childhood as one filled with lots of love and protection. She says she has always been encouraged to achieve something – whatever she set her heart on. Not many girls had this kind of support in the town she was raised.”  Growing up, she says, there has never been a time I was punished harshly”. Instead, when her mother hears of other children of her age misbehaving, she used to say “My daughter does not behave like that; she does not do these kinds of things”. Etalem, therefore, says “I knew my mother expected a lot from me and I lived up to these higher expectations “

Etalem’s educational background is a rich mix of business and non business fields. She has a BA in Economics and an MA in development studies. Prior to that, she studied chemistry which led to her first job as a research assistant at ILRI.   She then moved to an organization that promotes social sciences in Eastern & Southern Africa as a program officer, mainly working with universities in the region.  She was then employed by the Clinton Foundation as Chief of Staff and worked in the Ethiopian Health & Nutrition Research Institute (EHNRI). During her tenure at the foundation, Etalem became instrumental in organizing the African Society for Laboratory Medicine, an international organization that works towards accreditation of public health laboratories in Africa. The idea to setup this organization had originated from Center for Disease Control and prevention (CDC) of Atlanta.  There were a group of people from CDC Ethiopia and EHNRI who lobbied strongly for the organization to be Headquartered in Ethiopia and contributing positively to the health sector.  As success in the health sector depends on proper diagnosis in good laboratories, the formation of this society improves the diagnosis process measurably.   There were only 150 accredited Public health laboratories all over Africa of which 130 were in South Africa at the time.  Etalem was involved in every step of establishing the African Society for Laboratory Medicine, from looking for the office space to getting the necessary permits and registration as international organization.  She has also worked for the growth and strengthening of the Ethiopian Economic association, starting as a  member and volunteering  in small teams and then as an executive board member.

Etalem is currently the CEO of Entrepreneurship Development Center (EDC-Ethiopia).   As the CEO of EDC, Etalem provides leadership with the aim of developing entrepreneurship nationwide.

EDC was established, under the framework of Entrepreneurship Development Program (EDP) by the Ethiopian Government and United Nation Development Program (UNDP) with the support of the Canadian Government.  This huge initiative supports the private sector without which the Ethiopian economy cannot grow to ensure the plan to become a middle income country is implemented.  EDC also provides training of trainers (ToT) and business development advisors training so that they can change the mindsets of participants to equip them with Personal Entprenurial Competencies. After trainees attend an intensive session, the business development wing supports them with further services for those aspiring to be entrepreneurs, start ups and enterprises that are already in operation. To expand strengthen the services of the Center; there are 4 regional offices in Amhara, Tigray, SNNPR and Oromia.  EDC also works closely with public universities to ensure graduates have entrepreneurial skills training to enable them to look to self-employment as a more practical alternative.  The EDC currently has 5 centers of excellence for entrepreneurship  providing space for those who are aspiring entrepreneurs and innovators to exchange ideas, build networks, develop products and  prepare a feasible business plans.

For Etalem, leadership means being an exemplary citizen showing others how to behave in different and often challenging situations.  She believes leaders must have set values to lead them through life.   She puts as her values: integrity and hard work; she says those values shape her as a human being.  Etalem’s philosophy is to do everything to make a positive impact in other people’s lives. She gets immense satisfaction from her work because she sees peoples’ lives change for the better.

Etalem says her life is well spent if she, at the end of her life time, has impacted even one person positively.  “That is actually why I chose to do this job” she says.

Abebech Gobena is one of Etalem’s role models, the woman who has given up so much in life to start and run her orphanage.  The main lesson Etalem draws from Abebech Gobena is selflessness.  Etalem has utmost admiration for those women who have achieved remarkable success in their career, business or any of their chosen fields.  She acknowledges the fact that these women’s success is as the result of many challenges.  Success to Etalem is achieving bold goals.

She attributes her own success and strength of character to her parents– the way she has been brought up has contributed to her success. She also credits her husband’s support in every endeavor she chose to pursue. She completed her MA as a mother and wife. Her husband’s full support as a true partner played a major  part in the successful completion of her MA program.

Among her most important accomplishments, she counts the achievements of EDC, the setting up of the African Society for Laboratory Medicine, her good & well-adjusted family and passing through all challenges that she has faced over the years.

Etalem states that women’s support for each other is not adequate.  “There is a lot to be desired in this area as women understand the problems fellow women face and they probably are best positioned with solutions”.  On her part, EDC works with a special focus on Women and youth.

Also, Etalem and her family participate in informal community development organization in the area they live in.  She collects second hand clothes and other material to give to those who are incarcerated.  She also volunteers for an association in Debre Libanos Monastery that builds shelters for patients who are abandoned.  The Monastery also collects donations both in cash and in kind to support sustainable income generating activities.

Etalem also taught in the extension division of the Addis Ababa University on a part time basis. Etalem loves teaching that affords her the venue for sharing her life experiences and her values. With the little spare time she has, Etalem goes to the gym and swimming although she admits that she is not a regular. She is more content with her walks in the late afternoon.

There are many challenges women globally face Etalem concludes. “It takes a concerted effort of everyone for women to succeed economically, winning the minds of partners that her empowerment is for the better of her family and society.

Etalem commends AWiB on its contribution of creating women leaders through the platform the association offers.  AWiB wishes Etalem and EDC continued success in their endeavors.

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