Young Women Challenging the Status Quo- Ethiopian women to watch in 2019

While it is a challenge to be a woman in Ethiopia in so many different ways, it is much harder with the double bias that comes with gender and youth. It takes boldness and a tenacity of spirit to challenge the status quo and work outside of your comfort zone in one form or the other, to affect change while doing the work that you love is an additional and rare gift , which is what these young women are doing in their own unique ways. While they are not alone and there are many emerging just like them, we want to take the month of March, our month, to recognize these seven young women and their work currently challenging the status quo. These positive disruptors are innovative, creative, persistent and young.  In no particular order, here are AWiB’s young women to watch in 2019:

Wongelawit Teka Zewde
Wongelawit Teka Zewde

Wongelawit Teka Zewde is a young Ethiopian woman who is currently a senior at the University British Columbia (UBC) studying combined major in Computer Science, Math and Statistics on a full scholarship. Having the opportunity to study at UBC and working in the tech industry has allowed her to explore her interest in technology and entrepreneurship. She founded the Entoto Project to give women the opportunity to do the same, particularly in Ethiopia, where women are underrepresented in technology and entrepreneurship. There are a diverse group of young women are running Entoto under the Ethiopian Community Association (ECA), BC, Canada in partnership with the University of British Columbia and Addis Ababa Institute of Technology, Ethiopia. The Entoto Fellowship Program is a 12-week software development & entrepreneurship program for women in Ethiopia. Students are taught by experienced software developers & entrepreneurs based in Ethiopia, Canada and America.  The participants are fully sponsored including accommodation and food. The program also provides them with laptops that enable them to fully immerse themselves in the program and continue learning afterward. The co-founders for Afrotrotters are Blen Sahilu and Selam Mussie.  You can learn more on their website https://www.entotoproject.org/

Nebila Abdulmelik
Nebila Abdulmelik

Nebila Abdulmelik is a pan-African and feminist storyteller who uses the creative arts to speak her peace and archive stories of daily existence. Born and bred in Addis Ababa, she has since crisscrossed the earth but has since found her way home again. She is a photographer, poet, writer, editor and the founder of Afro Trotter Diaries, an initiative to showcase African women’s travels. Afro Trotter Dairies seeks to create a platform for African women to share stories and images of their travels – be it within their own localities, or across the continent or further. The initiative seeks to promote less-traveled destinations, girls’ trips, solo trips and inter-Africa travel. You can connect and contribute your stories using afrotrotter@gmail.com@AfroTrotter on twitter and Afro Trotter Diaries on instagram.

You can also connect with Nebila on twitter and instagram @aliben86 and/or on her site at aliben86.com.

You can also reach her on email at nebila.abdulmelik@gmail.com.

Mahlet Birhanu
Mahlet Birhanu

Mahlet Birhanu is an artist who uses watercolor, acrylic and oil paint as a medium to express her ideas. She has also recently started using computer software to produce digital art. Most of her work so far has been influenced by beauty and women while she is currently inspired by several African ethnic elements and tries to incorporate elements into her artwork.  She has recently started to use her artwork to represent social issues especially those issues challenging women. Her social media page with the handle ‘kuku’s pencil’ features art with narratives around street harassment and standards of beauty, a platform she has been using to share her art for the past four years. She considers herself as a self-taught artist with some knowledge gained from Art academies. Although she has received international recognition for her work, she is not a full time artist. She says that her soul is immersed in art and hope to share more works that are focused on African heritage and social issues.

Visit her Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/kukuspencil/

Edna Alemayehu
Edna Alemayehu

Edna Alemayehu is the Chief Strategist for the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE) a civil rights organization led by the Executive Director, Obang Metho, an Ethiopian human rights activist. The team has been on a five-month fact-finding mission in Ethiopia to understand and contribute to the national reconciliation and peace-building efforts.  Edna has been leading the team efforts to meet and consult with different stakeholders within the country including public officials, youth, elders, activists, and academicians. The team has traveled to Gambella, Afar region, Somali region, Arba Minch, Dorze, Hawassa, Adama, Gurage, Bahir Dar, Gondar, Debre Berhan, Dessie, and Woldia meeting with various members of the society in an effort to create an all-inclusive and participatory way forward to a peaceful Ethiopia. In addition to consulting with elders and public officials, Edna and the team have been focusing on working with university students and faculty members in the ten universities they visited around the country working on how to strengthen civil discourse and promote the importance of critical thinking among the youth. With a firm believe that genuine reform, reconciliation and peace cannot occur without including the 70% youth population, she is currently working on a project to create a platform to connect various active youth around the country so they can learn about each other, discuss, and exchange ideas about creating the better Ethiopia they envision. Edna has both a BA and MA in International Peace and Conflict Resolution from American University in Washington DC.

Hiwot Amare
Hiwot Amare

Hiwot Amare has followed a rather atypical career path as she is an IT professional who started a nutrition-focused nonprofit in 2016. Between 2007 and 2016, she was a software consultant in France where she has implemented various projects involving Europe, Africa, Asia and America. In parallel, she kept on volunteering in and running different associations as she has been doing since she was 15. With the firm belief that sustainable poverty reduction can only be achieved if future generations are fully developed and have their full potential available to learn and thrive, she moved back to Ethiopia and co-founded a nonprofit that strives to break the cycle of poverty by investing on early childhood nutrition: Nutrition 4 Education & Development (N4ED). N4ED’s mission is to improve children’s nutrition in order to ensure their full cognitive and physical development. To do so, the organization works to give each mother the knowledge, the desire, the self-confidence and the financial capacity to provide nutritious and balanced food to her child.  N4ED also runs other satellite projects by intervening in different stages (media, schools, forums etc..) and creating awareness about the harm of malnutrition and why it’s important to fight it preventively.  N4ED avoids providing any kind of direct food or financial aid to avoid dependency.

You can check out her speech to learn more about her project https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5jsowI5VFg

Martha Tadesse
Martha Tadesse

Martha Tadesse is a freelance humanitarian photographer/photojournalist. She has done her second degree in developmental studies at Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology in 2016. She uses her passion and craft to tell stories of social justice, and representative images of Ethiopia and the continent of Africa, at large. She began honing her craft in 2011 and is currently consulting with a variety of local and international NGOs, in addition to building her personal portfolio by traveling to different parts of the world. She believes that every voice and story matters regardless of their race, gender, sexuality and other identities that define someone. Through her photos and stories, she hopes to challenge the social norms and open discussions on different social issues. You can visit her Instagram: @Marthinolly, her website: www.marthinolly.com or contact her using her email address: marthinollyphotos@gmail.com

Wubet Girma
Wubet Girma

Wubet Girma began her journey with social enterprise, though not articulated as such then, during her graduate year in university. She was intrigued by the empowering approach, founded on the innate potential of every human being, building on social assets within communities to solve problems. Considering it a significant move away from traditional charity, she did her graduation thesis on a market-based scheme that improved the livelihoods of women. Ten years later, she joined the British Council and assumed the role of Regional Team Leader for an Eastern Africa initiative supporting social enterprises. Four years on, she continues to champion the agenda as an active player in the thriving social enterprise sector in Ethiopia. Ethiopia will host the 2019 Social Enterprise World Forum in Addis Ababa, 23-25 October with a strapline: Local Traditions, Fresh Perspectives. With that, she is optimistic that we are not far from seeing the social enterprise sector as an integral part of the Ethiopian Economy, generating both economic opportunity and social impact, so that the benefits of growth are equitably shared.

Kudos to you all ladies, for daring to challenge and dreaming to change the world! 

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