Lensa Biyena: The Soulful Strategist

Lensa Biyena’s upbringing in Addis Ababa’s Nifas Silk Lafto Subcity/District was shaped by both the vibrant city and the unwavering support of her close-knit family. She had a deep bond with her parents and their unfluctuating love and encouragement, instilled in her a strong sense of resilience and determination. This unique blend, nurtured by her urban surroundings and a loving family, laid the foundation for the remarkable journey that lay ahead.

Lensa’s childhood and youth empowered her to discover herself and instilled a strong sense of responsibility towards others. She actively participated in school and community clubs, tutoring her peers and playing a vital role in her community school’s football team. Lensa embodied the spirit of an “active citizen,” working to make a positive impact in her community. This commitment to equality and empowerment through community involvement led her to pursue a career in law, passionately advocating for justice and societal change. 

Joining Mekelle University’s law school after completing her secondary education was a pivotal moment for Lensa, fulfilling a dream nurtured since childhood. However, it also presented an unforeseen challenge of being away from home for the first time, demanding adjustments, and forging independence. Lensa overcame homesickness to embrace the new environment, taking on leadership roles in the Christian Students’ Fellowship. Volunteering with human rights organizations during law school fueled her passion for justice. Her experiences at the Ethiopian Human Rights Council and Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association deeply inspired her to advocate for women’s rights, unveiling the challenges they faced due to gender inequality. 

Lensa’s passion for understanding and combating gender inequality led her to earn a top-tier postgraduate degree in Gender Studies at the University of Iceland, achieving a prestigious First Class with Distinction that reflects her dedication to academic excellence. She furthered her education with a Master’s degree in Project Management to effectively bridge theory and practice. Expanding on her academic pursuits, Lensa’s professional journey embodies her commitment to empowering others. From various roles as a law assistant to a legal researcher, her experiences with law firms and esteemed organizations like the Ethiopian Lawyers Association (ELA) were what deepened her understanding of the legal landscape and created a blend of practical and academic insights, Lensa enhances her advocacy work with a well-rounded perspective. 

“I broke the status quo,” said Lensa when referring to her appointment as the executive director of the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association (EWLA). Leading an organization with a national footprint was a significant achievement in a society biased against young professional women. However, Lensa’s exceptional skills and years of dedication led her to navigate administrative and programmatic complexities, curating a strategic roadmap to ensure EWLA remained impactful and relevant. Under her leadership, EWLA continues to solidify its position as one of the most impactful organizations in the Ethiopian Civil Society Organization sector. 

Lensa’s dedication to creating a positive impact shine brightly throughout her impressive career. Her early experiences have empowered her to forge her path, emphasizing the value of connections and foundations formed during that time. Lensa’s story serves as an inspiring call to young women globally. Lensa’s narrative transcends personal introspection; it stands as a potent rallying cry for aspiring young women worldwide. She emphasizes challenging norms, acknowledging them, and seizing opportunities as key steps to becoming purposeful leaders.

“One should give back to the community whatever one possesses”, Lensa holds the belief that contributing to the community is not just a choice but an obligation. She draws from her communal upbringing, emphasizing interconnectedness. Inspiring her circle to engage in philanthropy, she shows that community service can take different forms, be it professional or economic

Lensa’s dedication to human rights and democracy shines through her work in the CSO sector. She actively advocated for improvements to the CSO law, especially after the 2019 Proclamation led to a surge in human rights organizations. Beyond her role at EWLA, she co-founded TIMRAN and the Ethiopian Human Rights Defenders Center (EHRDC) to advance these causes. Currently, she advises the National Dialogue Commission, serves on the Ethiopian Civil Society Council board, and is Chairwoman of the Consortium of Ethiopian Human Right Organizations (CEHRO) and EHRDC. Her outstanding contributions have earned her the prestigious “African Women Outstanding Women’s Rights Champion Award” in 2023.

Early in her career, Lensa’s leadership roles demanded immense dedication, leaving personal time squeezed and leisure sacrificed. However, as her strategic plans began to bear fruit, a shift occurred. Lensa, with characteristic determination, carved out space for personal fulfillment. Travel, movies, and music, once distant luxuries are important parts of life as they allow her to approach her leadership with renewed energy and perspective. Yet, striking a balance between the public figure and the private individual remains a constant negotiation. While she embraces the opportunities and recognition of her role, Lensa acknowledges the need for personal grounding.

For Lensa, authenticity is not just a word; it’s the guiding light on her journey, guided by core values from her past. She stresses the importance of being true to oneself amidst challenges, believes in continual personal growth, and champions a mindset of ambition, passion, and discipline to overcome obstacles. Her message resonates deeply with young women, urging them to discover themselves, find their voice, and pursue their desires for a fulfilling journey into womanhood.

When asked about what she is most grateful for, Lensa doesn’t hesitate. Her voice takes on a warmth as she speaks of her loving family and the people who have been her constant support through thick and thin. But her gratitude extends beyond her immediate circle. She expresses deep appreciation for the experiences and people she has encountered along the way. These encounters, both joyful and challenging, have shaped her perspective and fueled her growth. Lensa recognizes that success is rarely a solo endeavor, and her genuine gratitude reflects the understanding that we are all interconnected, shaped by the people and experiences that touch our lives.

Lensa defines leadership not as a crown to be worn, but as a commitment to serve. For her, true leadership is about being at the forefront, guiding others while simultaneously nurturing strong, supportive relationships with those they lead. This philosophy stems from a deep understanding that leadership is not about wielding power, but about empowering others to reach their full potential. When asked about her leadership style, Lensa describes herself as a “strategic leader” This approach emphasizes well-defined plans and the ability to execute them effectively. Lensa’s leadership style reflects her values of collaboration, service, and a commitment to achieving meaningful results.

A Message to AWiB

Lensa admires AWiB for its unique and empowering approach that challenges the status quo and provides women with professionalism. She praises the transformative impact of AWiB, highlighting its bold vision and innovative strategies that make it truly remarkable.  AWiB thanks Lensa for being an inspiring and empowering force, shaping and serving our society. Lensa’s undeniable allure and determination make her remarkable in a world of exceptional individuals.

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