Royal is the essence of the annual event, Women of Excellence, put on by the Association of Women in Boldness. WOE 2019 continued in noble ambiance—for the eighth year—a strong tradition of celebrating Ethiopian women who have given so much to the community. About 430 attendees graced Lalibela Hall at the Sheraton Addis on Oct. 20, 2019. Five stories were told and celebrated.
In an open, fresh, outdoor setting, Zaf Gebre Tsadik, Tigist Waltenigus, Dr. Selamenesh Tsige Legas, Bethlehem Birhane, and Azeb Worku, met at Mosaic Hotel earlier that Sunday, networking as AWiB always encourages expanding our horizons. Zaf established ZAF Pharmaceuticals PLC. Tigist is Co-Founder and CEO of Erq Ma’ed PsychoSocial Support Services. Selamenesh is founder and director of Gojo, an accommodation and temporary shelter for patients in need. Bethlehem is CEO of Entoto Bet Artisan. Azeb is CEO of Arts TV. All the women have been involved in many forms of elevating women.They exchanged stories over Ethiopian buna (coffee), cut a cake, and got to know each other while talking about the event. Champagne is usually involved. AWiBer Kemer Temam accompanied the ladies, facilitating discussion.
Guests arrived at 4 p.m., warming up the lobby to the dining hall at Sheraton, mingling while awaiting the celebrated women’s arrival. Around 4:30 p.m., the five ladies reached the destination majestically in a limo provided by Adika Tour and Travel, Plc. They were greeted by AWiB’s 2019 board members Sewit Haileselassie, Felekech (Fie) Zewde, and Blen Fitsum. Fistum Kidanemariam, a member of the Strategic Leadership Team (SLT), and past board member Sara Tadiwos, along with AWiB Founder and Director Nahu Senay Girma welcomed celebrated ladies. After a few photos, a question-and-answer session was held inside, letting the audience get to know the five women up close and in their own words.
With a ceremonial procession, AWiBers escorted the five women into the dining room, guests having taken seats first. Master of Ceremonies Melena Abraham of Milu Presents welcomed everyone and invited AWiB 2019 President Sewit to the stage to deliver the opening speech. Before diving into the background and benefits of AWiB, Sewit acknowledged the 2019 and 2020 board members as well as the office staff: Yodit Gidey, Tsigereda Kassa, and Kerry Irwin. This year’s chosen fashion designer, Tsion Bahru of MISS.T.CAL, was also recognized, the board modeling her royal-themed work throughout the evening. Musical entertainment by “Yegna” of Girl Effect followed, incorporating acting before music.
Mentioning celebrating those before us while they are alive, AWiB President-elect Fei introduced WOE 2019. Her speech led to viewing this year’s film about the five finalists, their work carefully and beautifully documented by Impala Communication. In their own words and accompanied with visuals, the audience learned more about what the women endured to get to this point in life and how the they have given back to the community in general.
Story telling was unique, and author Hiwot Emishaw was well received. Reading short stories from her book Mata Mata (the evening), Hiwot wowed the crowd in Amarigna, detailing familiar accounts of life in Ethiopia. Directly after her presentation and later after the event, fans inquired about buying her book.
The magical violin and cello sounds of Hibir String Quartet serenaded attendees during dinner, allowing one to float to another world while indulging in a salad, a fish dish, and a delicious chocolate cake. Those fasting were given a vegetable wrap and a big bowl of a variety of fruit for dessert. Water, wine, soft drinks, coffee and tea were also served.
WOE took a seat on the stage before Billene Seyoum Woldeyes, press secretary for the Office of the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, shared her poem, “Sistern.” Before her reading, Billene expressed the feeling of coming “home” to AWiB, the support and guide the organization has given her to reach where she is today, and the writer’s block she recently experienced before the poetic words flowed out of her. She wrote it and sent it to AWiB at which point Nahu convinced her to share these meaningful words at the gala dinner.
Ambassador Tadelech Hailemichael delivered the keynote speech, her positivity and leadership shining through words of celebrating women.
Konjit Seyoum, the five WOE judges’ representative, elaborated on the process of selecting the titleholder. Like most in the past, Konjit expressed the difficulty of taking on the judges’ roles as the level of excellence in all the women is incredible. The team included Ekram Akill of Yetem Trading, Gigi Sebsibe of Interior Motifs & Design (IMD), Frealem Shibabaw of the Ethiopian School Meal Initiative (ESMI), Zelalem Woldemariam of Zeleman Communications, Advertising and Production PLC. Konjit is an artist, curator and interpreter.
Plaques were given by the Ambassador to the five women honored before drum rolls from several hands at a few tables rumbled, welcoming the announcement of the WOE Titleholder: Dr. Selamenesh Tsige Legas. Before the announcement, the Ambassador made the crowd laugh in anticipation when she opened the envelope only to say how she couldn’t read the text without her glasses. A memorable moment was when Selamenesh invited her mother to the stage to accept her trophy with a big hug, uplifting emotions of all onlookers. The pediatrician stated words of gratitude in her speech.
The evening of celebration was balanced between Amarigna and English. Planning was fantastic and it was a well-organized event with immediate feedback from attendees echoing just that. The AWiB teamwork was remarkable and communicating in real-time was effective. We are excited for WOE 2020!
Every year since 2012, we celebrate outstanding Ethiopian women who serve their communities and country relentlessly and tirelessly. This year, we brought attention to five phenomenal women who not only achieved greatness but also exhibited excellence in their works. Their full stories were posted in October Focus.
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