Nahu Senay Girma – Dynamism Embodied

In the month of January 2013 we spotlight Nahu Senay Girma – founder and outgoing President of AWiB. As we enter a new year according to the European calendar, it is fitting to start off by sharing the vigor and dynamism that this woman of high integrity possesses.

As we enter a new year according to the European calendar, it is fitting to start off by sharing the vigor and dynamism that this woman of high integrity possesses.

Nahu was born in the northern part of Ethiopia – specifically Mekele, and grew up in Addis Ababa under the wings of her paternal grandmother until the age of seven. She was given the name Nahusenay by her father who was delighted to welcome into this world a female child as a first born. Nahusenay which translates into “something good is happening now” has reinforced the notion in Nahu herself that she has to live up to her carefully chosen name by bringing joy to others similar to what she brought upon her father. The name which by norm has always been designated to men has strengthened the belief in some people that Nahu defies dominance and norms by the very essence of her name.

The first born of the family, Nahu was followed by three other siblings – one sister and two brothers. One of her brothers and her younger sister were victims of the atrocities committed during the Derg regime. Nahu speaks fondly of her younger sister, Azeb Girma, who was a strong militant known for her courage to fight against the injustices of Derg along many prominent revolutionaries of the time. She shares that while it is impossible for her to carry the torch of Azeb, she nevertheless aspires to embody her sister’s selflessness.

When their father passed at the tender age of 34 leaving behind a 24-year young wife, Nahu recalls that she and her sister were sent off to a female boarding school where she spent a considerable number of years developing friendships, bonds and sisterhood with the many girls in her vicinity. Indeed it is the sense of sisterhood from which Nahu derives her commitment to providing such a space when she conceived of AWiB in collaboration with Roman Kifle.

Nahu lived in Canada, the US and Italy before returning back to Ethiopia about eight years ago where she has been engaged in management consultancy as a profession ever since. Her career profile includes the design and delivery of management training, business dealings, marketing & promotion, and communications, administered through her companies. True to an entrepreneurial heart, Nahu shares that she has always chosen the path of working for herself by creating and managing her own businesses.

In 2000 she founded Children Services International Inc. (CSI) in Atlanta, GA which was an education project established to support Ethiopian high school dropouts by training them in different trades to cultivate potential. She is also the founder of Addis Woubet and Women for Life (WFL). The former was a project designed to renovate and restore historical buildings, streets and neighborhoods in Addis Ababa, while the latter is engaged in an effort to eliminate maternal death in the country. The motive and belief the latter project espoused is Nahu’s conviction that “no woman should lose her life while giving life to another human being”.

A highly charitable individual driven by a philanthropic engine, Nahu has served as a volunteer for the American Red Cross, Cleveland Chapter and created an internship program that saved the Red Cross thousands of dollars. Serving on the training advisory board of the same Chapter she also developed a diversity training program that required all members of the leadership to be involved in the actual designing of the program to have a sense of ownership that reduced the lip service of such program. Her initiative was well received and piloted throughout the American Red Cross nationwide. Nahu has also served on the board of YWCA Marietta, the shelter for Abused Women in Atlanta, locally with the Ethiopia chapter of the YWCA and the Sara Cannizzaro Child Minders Association – an NGO established to give children of less fortune a head start in life.

Her community outreach is not limited to the charitable organizations she has served with. Nahu’s birthing to life of AWiB is nothing short of raising a human being. The commitment, diligence, creativity, passion and allegiance to high standards with which she has raised and led AWiB is a reflection of her conviction and drive to nurture a space for Ethiopian women where we can convene to come into our own – to reach our zenith – to unleash our potential!

I asked Nahu to reveal what her most important accomplishments are in her life and she shares them to be first and foremost, her two Harvard educated children; the success of AWiB; enabling many women and men to empower themselves and help most remove their invisible masks to be comfortable with who they are; understanding what leadership is and practicing it fearlessly; showing others what leadership looks like; living a healthy and exciting life; succeeding  in leading a spiritual life in its most genuine sense; cultivating a culture of appreciation in our community; sponsoring 10 college kids through their college years and seeing them gainfully employed; educating a few relatives in private schools and changing the course of their lives for the better; being her own best friend and liking Nahu – the person- a great deal; being a respectful and responsible daughter, a good friend to many; getting rid of the need for looking good and not taking herself seriously and managing to laugh a lot; appreciating everything life has to offer immensely and being grateful to the universe in every second of her waking hour.

In her spare time, Nahu enjoys occupying her time with reading, checking up on friends to see if they need a sympathetic ear, dining out with great conversationalists and walking.

A woman that embodies the word fearless, Nahu is convinced that fear is what keeps us from achieving our greatest potential in our life’s journey. She shares, “daring to live your dream takes courage, commitment and not worrying about pleasing others because unless one is comfortable in their own skin no amount of cajoling will please them. When they are comfortable in their own skins, they don’t need others to complete them”. She continues, “I also learned that the greatest sin of all is not to fully put to use one’s God given gift, which is our brain—the ability to think which differentiates us from other animals—to use it creatively to leave our world a little better than we found it”. A strong believer that laziness is a sin, Nahu uses belief as a guiding principle in her life and advises the young to dislike laziness with passion.

A thinker and a doer, all in one, Nahu’s greatest desire is to see Ethiopia prosperous and populated with solid, responsible and conscious citizens. And there is not a doubt in my mind that she has formed a catalyst that will serve to bring that desire to fruition. As no journey is without reason and meaning, I am truly honored to have crossed paths with an Ethiopian woman who truly embodies dynamism, giving and commitment like Nahu does.

–          Billene Seyoum Woldeyes

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