Sosina Tewabe Wegayehu—an Extraordinary Leader!
Sosina, a 4th child in the family was born in Addis Ababa. She was wild and crazy and independent from early on. She was attracted to the circus world at age 6. She started to watch a TV variety show circus that blew her mind and started copying what they did and performed for her parents. One day she watched kids on a children’s TV show performing at Arat Kilo gymnasium, (Christian Men Youth Center). With the help of a football coach, Abebe, she auditioned at the center and got accepted right away. Two years later she had a competition. She became a champion in Ethiopian gymnastic at the age of 9.
At first she kept this feat secret because of fear of repercussion but finally she revealed what she was doing to her parents and to her surprise her dad agreed to support her. He even helped her enroll in swimming classes and supported her with transportation so she didn’t have to walk like she did for the circus.
Sosna has an entrepreneurial spirit and again at an early age she started selling chewing gum and cigarettes on the street which was odd to do. Her dad was not happy because he was a respected professional and felt ashamed of it. But her mother saw the good in her young daughter’s venture and supported her by showing her how to save her ample earnings by encouraging her to join “ekub” (a traditional social gathering for saving) and was saving 100 birr a month which was a lot of money then. She also kept performing at the National Theater and getting paid. However, the father was keen in her career as a performer and went to her performances and celebrated her wins. Sosna soon went on to international tour which made many skeptics of her success rooting for her.
Once, Circus Ethiopia was looking for talented youth so Sosina joined them. She then started traveling in Ethiopia. In 1995 the first troupe, Sosina and her team, left Ethiopia to perform for the queen of Holland in Netherlands. And then they continued European tour until she moved to Australia.
In 1998 she moved to Australia to peruse her education. She earned her BA in performing arts and Management from Swinburne University and another BA in Circus Art from the National Institute of Circus Arts– a major feat in the Circus Art for very few schools in the world focus on this discipline and at the time only 8 graduated. Sosna was the first of the graduates who joined a major company– Circus OZ– and started travelling with them for 9 years. She went on to sit on the board of directors of the company. She was involved in community work with indigenous people and African Women Empowerment projects through the company. Sosna performed 9 months out of a year and also taught performing Arts at Swinburne University.
Major accomplishments: recognition in Australia; participated in Circus Prince Competition in 2003 in Stockholm; a finalist for young Australian of the year award. Nominated for Australian of the year award in 2007; awarded of the most influential African Australian of the year award in 2013; received the Australian Circus Industry Awards in 2016; International Philanthropy award; but what she is most proud of is her nomination for the Order of Australia award this year which is the highest achievement in Australia for the work she did as entertainer, community leader, cross jobs careers.
Sosina moved back to Ethiopia 5 years ago with her husband and two children. She established Gamo Circus School of Ethiopia– a social enterprise that teaches circus art to kids for free. These kids travel all over the world. They are the ambassadors of our nation and they have competed in China, Russia, and Israel representing Ethiopia. “We are getting silver bronze against China and Russia who have this culture of circus for a long time.” Says Sosina. “We are on world stage. We are bringing hard currency to the country. We are exporting and promoting talent and uniqueness…Through this school, Sosina is empowering girls and instilling global citizenry. Sosna advocates that the circus industry needs to be recognized and valued in Ethiopia as it is in the rest of the world.
Gamo Circus School has about 80 students and cooperates with a lot of circuses in the regions. Sosina says, she learned how to cut deals on the street. Sosna understands well that Leadership is about guiding and understanding. She leads by example; she is accepting, open to ideas and learns from her team every moment. “A good leader is not about me but us and about how we can be the best of us.”
Sosina’s role model is her mother who was steadfast in her doings, entrepreneur and enduring a great deal of hardship. Through long and devastating illness, her mother continued running her hotel business from her bed and the hotel continues to run by Sosina. Sosna learned how to love, share and be loyal to loved ones from her dad. Her father supported her mom through her long illness attentively till the very end. Sosina believes her parents’ strong partnership taught her a great deal about life.
Sosina values community. As Africans say “All Children belong to the community and raised by a community”, she reminisces about her wonderful childhood community. This culture of community, she says taught the young a culture of sharing, engaging and exploring.
For Sosina life is what you make of it. “If you want to do well you can be well. It is a privilege and an opportunity to live in this world. When an opportunity is there you need to grab it. I am not afraid of loss or failure. I can start from scratch anytime and be successful. Life is full of surprises and difficulties. We have to work and learn to bounce back. If you feel you are at the bottom of the ladder just climb up.”
Sosina’s message to parents is, “to allow your kids to explore and to be compassionate. Don’t leave them in a fearful world. The no teaches them yes. If they have a passion that allows them.”
Sosina serves our community as a board member for Addis Ababa Diaspora Association. This extraordinary woman has also acted in three movies (King Kong in 2005, falling from Sahara in 2011, and Partisan in 2014).
AWiB applauds Sosina’s courage to live life to the fullest by teaching, sharing and uplifting. AWiB celebrates Sosina’s spirit of responsible leadership.
The AWiB Team
Share on your socials!