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Memorable Women of Excellence Gala Dinner

AWiB and other 400 guests gathered at the Addis Ababa Sheraton Ballroom on 21st October 2012, to celebrate Ethiopian Women of Excellence, and the feedback from many is that it was a great evening of Appreciation for Women in Action indeed!

This AWiB ‘Women of Excellence’ Gala Dinner had the intention of celebrating achievements and accomplishments of women in their careers, businesses and communities. These nominees were chosen for their vision, courage, compassion, proven success and generosity as demonstrated by how they help others succeed.

In anticipation of the ‘Women of Excellence’ arrival, guests gathered for a cocktail, meeting old friends and networking with new ones. The nominees were accompanied by the AWiB Board Members, and were welcome with music and a roar of applause. The nominees who were able to join us, and were in the country were: Hadia Gonji, Mahider Ziku, Dr. Mulualem Gessese, Dr. Tewabech Bishaw, Tsigie Haile, and Sister Zebider Zewdie. Radiant, and with poise, these ladies were present with us all evening and shared stories and experiences from their daily lives, their successes and challenges, open to answering any question posed from the audience.

The evening continued in a colourful and elegant looking ballroom, displaying colourful tables reserved for various individuals and organizations. AWiB Co-founder and President, Nahu Senay Girma welcomed everyone in her energetic manner, commanding presence. When sharing the ‘why’ for this event, she explained how the evening was about sharing the nominees’ journey of excellence, about their kindness, ethical behavior, discipline, commitment, and how honest they were with themselves. Also, how they helped others in their journeys and in experiencing greatness.

‘Should this event have been about a woman in a particular sector?’, has been a frequently asked question. And Nahu’s emphatic response was: Excellence is excellence no matter how we slice it!’ A challenge was put forward for all of us there to think differently, without looking for easy options, moving beyond mediocrity.

Nahu also invited those who make a difference to make their work known by saying: ‘This event is about appreciation; about giving credits to those who have earned it and to make those with sense of excellence aware that they have a responsibility to be exemplary; to come out of their quiet corners and be exposed to the public at large. Trust me, we had to drag some of them out and some who were nominated by the public did not choose to go through the process and we had to leave them out.

This evening, this celebration, ladies and gentlemen is not about competition but about celebration. This day is not about competition but about recognition of greatness. It is not about competition but about rejoicing others as well as our own successes.

So, those of you who are here tonight, I invite you to take a few moments and reflect on what good you have done and be proud of your own achievements. Because unless we see ourselves for who we are — great creatures on earth to do good — we can’t appreciate others who are doing good. So, this evening is about Excellence, about commitment, about perseverance, about guiding and developing the following generation.’

Left with such thought-provoking words, we enjoyed an evening of angelic music from pianist Girma Yifrashewa, Munit Mesfin and Jorga Mesfin. The audience was moved when Munit sang a song she had written and dedicated to her mother, nominee Dr. Tewabech Bishaw.

Who was being celebrated?

In a vibrant and energetic manner, AWiB Co-founder, Roman Kifle, shared who the 17 nominees that were being celebrated were, these being, in alphabetical order:

  1. Belaynesh Teklay
  2. Fikirte Addis
  3. Hadia M. Gonji
  4. Dr. Jember Tefera
  5. Mahider Ziku
  6. Melbana Seifu
  7. Mehila Zebenigus (M.D.)
  8. Meseret Azage
  9. Misrak Elias
  10. Mulualem Gessesse (M.D.)
  11. Salem Kassahun
  12. Tewabech Bishaw (PhD)
  13. Tsigie Haile
  14. Zebider Zewdie
  15. Zenebework Tadesse
  16. Zertihun Tefera

President-Elect Billene Seyoum then recalled the rigorous process of inviting nominations from the public way back in July 2012. The whole process held the value of rigor, going through a series of steps and considering ten criteria that led to the choice of the ten nominees, however challenging that was.

A guest that evening, and a supporter of AWiB, Solomon Sisay, Leadership Trainer and Motivational Speaker from ‘E-Within Language and Leadership Center’ reflected:

‘AWiB…has always been an association…empowering women! It was an evening of a momentum effect on all of us, seeing the amazing serving desire by the founders, members and the board to acknowledge those who have done so much and were yet unappreciated by most of us until they were brought to our faces! For me seeing the contribution of all the final 10 nominees was truly enlightening. I understood how tough it must have been for them…to have finally made their selection.”

The event was also graced by the presence of such independent judges, who chose the awardee, and did not reveal their choice (to the Board members neither) until the end of the evening. Such judges were:

  1. Cheryl Francisconi of the International Institute of Education (IIE),
  2. Mahider Bekele of ‘Endalk and Mahider’ radio show on Sheger 102.1 FM
  3. Netsanet Mengistu of ‘Progynist’
  4. Salahadin Khalifa of Samatra Logistics/ MCC Import Enterprise
  5. Yusuf Reja of Info Mind Solutions

In the midst of videos sharing testimonies from the ten nominees, a conversation took place between the nominees present and guests present. The nominees were asked questions about their lives, their dreams, breakdowns and breakthroughs, and there seemed to be a feeling of having conversations around a coffee-table. The atmosphere turned informal, and the nominees themselves exchanged with each other gestures of respect, friendship and camaraderie.


A special silence descended in the room when Dr. Eleni Gabre-Madhin, perhaps because of the graceful presence of Dr. Eleni herself, and also because the time approaching for the announcement of the awardee.

Dr. Eleni reflected on the admiration she had for all the nominees, and for all the contributions they had offered to society. ‘As far as I’m concerned,’ she asserted, ‘for me, all these wonderful women are award winners!’

And what does excellence mean to her? ‘Excellence is about going beyond expectations, being courageous, having passion, faith, and tenacity,” she communicated. For Dr. Eleni, excellence is not about pleasing everyone, but being clear about what needs to be accomplished.

A wave of commotion and joy swept through the room when Dr. Eleni announced the AWiB 2012 Woman of Excellence Awardee, which was Tsigie Haile, Executive Director of Women in Self Employment (WISE)

With persistence and courage, Tsigie and her team have, through WISE, have provided training to 23,000 marginalized women, on relevant skills such as entrepreneurship, business management, leadership, health, literacy and life skills; and created 50 saving and credit cooperatives, benefitting 12,800 people.

Wo Tsigie herself appeared to be moved herself, because of the company of so many other great nominees. Tsigie has pledged to donate her cash award to ‘The Macedonians Humanitarian Association’, and organization particularly serving elders in our communities.

In such an evening when our concept of what’s possible was stretched to new places, the inspiration we were all left with perhaps, is the role each individual can play as a leader. As the saying goes:

“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail.’  – Ralph Waldo Emerson”

And maybe this entails not emulating the actions of all these phenomenal leaders, but to be inspired by their spirit, not to seek to follow in their footsteps, but to seek what they sought.

Until the next ‘Women of Excellence’ Event, AWiB looks forward to seeing everyone in its monthly programmes, and to a growing number of members, whom AWiB can serve and grow with.

From Left: Dr. Mulualem Gessesse, Tsigie Haile, Mahider Ziku,

Dr. Tewabech Bishaw, Hadia Gonji, and Sr. Zebider Tefera.

Nominees not able to attend were: Belaynesh Teklay, Dr. Jember Tefera,

Misrak Elias, and Zenebework Tadesse

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