Profiles Section

Dr. Lia Tadesse: Former Ethiopian Health Minister to Head Harvard Leadership Program

Dr. Lia Tadesse Gebremedhin. (Photo: Kent Dayton/Harvard)

Tadias Magazine

Updated: March 12, 2024

New York (TADIAS) – Dr. Lia Tadesse emerged as a pivotal leader in Ethiopia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, assuming her role on March 12, 2020, the day after the virus was classified as a global health emergency. In the face of adversity, she swiftly moved to announce the country’s first confirmed case of coronavirus and outlined the various measures her office was implementing to mitigate the emerging crisis, showcasing her adept leadership. Dr. Lia is credited for approaching the pandemic not only as a challenge but also as a chance to improve the nation’s healthcare infrastructure. “We aimed to respond not just in the short-term, but also for the long-term,” she explained. “It was an opportunity to bolster the entire health system.”

Ethiopia’s proactive measures, including the expansion of the public health workforce and enhanced access to critical care, proved instrumental in mitigating the virus’s impact.

This month, Harvard University announced that Dr. Lia would lead its Ministerial Program, a collaborative initiative involving the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard Kennedy School, and Harvard Graduate School of Education. Dr. Lia, an OB/GYN by training, brings a wealth of experience to her new role, having previously served as Ethiopia’s Deputy Minister of Health, a provost at St. Paul’s Hospital Millennium Medical College in Addis Ababa, and a program director for various international maternal and child health projects. Before assuming her role at the Ministry of Health, Dr. Lia Tadesse held the position of Program Director at the University of Michigan’s Center for International Reproductive Health Training (CIRHT) in Ann Arbor, Michigan. During her tenure, she effectively collaborated with various institutions in Ethiopia and Rwanda to enhance the quality of reproductive health services and training.

Reflecting on her extensive leadership experience, Dr. Lia emphasized the importance of visionary leadership in bringing about meaningful transformation. I” know that the ability to make positive change is related to how strong a leader is,” she said. “Anything I can contribute to improving leadership around the world truly excites me.”

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Real Estate in Ethiopia: Q&A About KEFITA with CEO & Founder of ROCKSTONE

In the following interview with Tadias, Dietrich E. Rogge, the CEO & Founder of ROCKSTONE, a German-based developer, discusses their new state-of-the-art condominium development called KEFITA under construction in Addis Ababa. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine

By Tadias Staff

Updated: September 6th, 2021

New York (TADIAS) — Ethiopians in the Diaspora are receiving growing opportunities to invest in real estate in Ethiopia. Some of the new high-rise buildings — mostly in Addis Ababa (built by both local and international developers including from Asia, America and Europe) — offer international standard amenities while incorporating local architectural styles as well as easy access to shopping, transportation and other daily necessities.

In the following interview with Tadias, Dietrich E. Rogge, the CEO & Founder of ROCKSTONE, a German-based developer, discusses their new state-of-the-art condominium development called KEFITA under construction in the kebena area (officially known as the District of Signal), one of Addis Ababa’s oldest neighborhoods.

“It is our vision that KEFITA shall be a best-in-class real estate development combining international best practices while also being a genuinely Ethiopian building both in terms of design and amenities,” Dietrich told Tadias. “What we highlight with KEFITA that makes it uniquely Ethiopian is the facade.” He added: “If you look at the building closely, it mirrors the interwoven nature of the tibeb, the traditional garment of the Ethiopian cultural dress. Along with that, the building is covered with living plants indigenious to Ethiopia. Our hope is to create connectivity among both Ethiopians and international residents at KEFITA. And with that, create long-term value for all its owners.”

The KEFITA building under construction in Addis Ababa by ROCKSTONE Real Estate. (Courtesy photo)

(Courtesy photo)

(Courtesy photo)

As Dietrich noted when he first traveled to Ethiopia about a decade ago, he immediately “fell in love with the country, its genuine culture, the warmth of its people and the metropolitan character of its capital, Addis Ababa.” He shares: “Until then, my own exposure to Ethiopia had been limited to meeting a very friendly Ethiopian through mutual friends while I was studying and living at MIT in the US from 2000 to 2002.”

In addition to incorporating modern international designs with Ethiopian architectural sensibilities, the KEFITA building also is set to become the first such residential building in the country to receive the green building certification.

Below is our full Q&A with Dietrich E. Rogge, CEO & Founder of ROCKSTONE Real Estate

TADIAS: Dietrich, thank you so much for your time. Please tell us a bit about yourself, your background, how you were introduced to Ethiopia and what led you to work in Addis?

DR: Thank you so much for having me today Liben. I appreciate having this interview and being able to introduce myself to you as well as your audience. To give you some context, I am based in Munich Germany. I started ROCKSTONE in 2013, today we have 3 offices – Berlin, Hamburg, and Munich – in Germany, and by 2018 we expanded into Lisbon in Portugal and thereafter Madrid in Spain to diversify into other European countries. Still, I had the genuine desire to expand further internationally, and Africa was my top priority. Next to diversifying my business, the drive into other countries is on a personal level very much driven by my own fascination for travel, countries and authentic cultures. Fortunately, one of my closest friends and also now business partner in ROCKSTONE ETHIOPIA had been living and working in East Africa for over 10 years. We decided to explore real estate business opportunities in East Africa. When it came to where to start, he immediately pointed to Ethiopia. When I first arrived in Addis, I understood what he meant. I instantly fell in love with the country, its genuine culture, the warmth of its people and the metropolitan character of its capital, Addis Ababa. Until then, my own exposure to Ethiopia had been limited to meeting a very friendly Ethiopian through mutual friends while I was studying and living at MIT in the US from 2000 to 2002.

Dietrich E. Rogge, CEO & Founder of ROCKSTONE Real Estate. (Courtesy photo)

TADIAS: Please tell us about the KEFITA building project and the inspiration behind it?

DR: It is our vision that KEFITA shall be a best-in-class real estate development combining international best practices while also being a genuinely Ethiopian building both in terms of design and amenities. What we highlight with KEFITA that makes it uniquely Ethiopian is the facade. If you look at the building closely, it mirrors the interwoven nature of the tibeb, the traditional garment of the Ethiopian cultural dress. Along with that, the building is covered with living plants indigenious to Ethiopia. Our hope is to create connectivity among both Ethiopians and international residents at KEFITA. And with that, create long-term value for all its owners. On a business level it quickly became clear to me that, similar to other metropolises – i.e. Berlin, Lisbon or Los Angeles – around the world, there is also a housing crisis in Addis. That’s because each year large cities attract more new residents than they are able to build new housing along all segments of the market. There are also a couple of specific reasons why this dilemma exists in Addis, namely, lack of trust in the real estate market, lack of building quality, and lack of foreign capital. Next to addressing these specific reasons by forming a very strong team together with our local partner Bigar, and US-based private equity firm Cerberus, all of whom have a long-term interest in Ethiopia, we defined a clear strategy.

TADIAS: KEFITA is located on Embassy Row in the District of Signal, which is one of Addis Ababa’s oldest neighborhoods. How did you choose the location and what do you like most about the area?

DR: That’s a great question, and I am happy you are asking since choosing the right location is obviously a centerpiece of any real estate development and it is entirely fair to ask a foreigner his view on Addis. We initially looked at locations in Bole and Old Airport, which are the more recent traditional neighborhoods for high-end residential developments in Addis. We carefully studied how Addis is expected to develop over the coming years in terms of density, traffic, schools, retail, security and leisure. Signal is well positioned to outperform other parts of the city over the coming years in terms of its quality of life due to its proximity to the city center, great schools, improving infrastructure, and best of all, Mount Yeka with all its outdoor activities.

(Courtesy photo)

(Courtesy photo)

(Courtesy photo)

TADIAS: In addition to incorporating modern international designs with Ethiopian architectural sensibilities, the KEFITA building also is set to become the first such residential building in the country to receive the green building certification. Can you share what that means and how it fits with the city’s long-term plans for environmentally conscious developments?

DR: Sure, and let me happily expand on that subject since it is very important to us. As we discussed earlier, integrating best practices into Kefita on all levels is one main driver of our product and development process. From the very beginning, our entire design process has been driven toward green-conscious living. Next to reducing the carbon footprint of the building, specific measures include using local materials as much as possible, minimizing electricity consumption, collecting rain water and managing waste. Among others on the building side, that includes superior structural and fire safety design and a range of Kefita specific amenities for our community. A green building also best ensures the long-term value of the investment. I would really like to emphasize this last point since return on investment and building quality go hand in hand. Next to its location, the long-term value preservation or increase in value of any real estate is driven by the longevity of its design and construction quality. If the structure has flaws or moisture permeates into the building or energy consumption is inefficient or sound insulation is not taken care of just to name a few, then these issues obviously have a negative effect on the long-term value of any real estate. Hence our building standards we believe are a very strong signal to send to the Ethiopian real estate market and will help elevate the overall standard and building quality of new buildings in the future.

TADIAS: Where are you now in terms of the construction stage and when will the building be completed?

DR: We received the building permit last year, completed the underground construction in 2020 as well, and started with the actual building construction early this year. KEFITA is on track to be completed in 2023 for all residents to move in. The completion date is very important to us since on-time completion is a huge problem in the market and it translates into a lack of trust in developers. Therefore we have created a financially very strong team, started construction only once the design was completed and the entire construction contract had been awarded. In addition, our best practices approach extends into the purchase agreement which protects buyers on various topics as well as states binding delivery dates.

(Courtesy photo)

(Courtesy photo)

(Courtesy photo)

TADIAS: How can people in the Diaspora buy property in the building? What’s the process and requirements?

DR: From the start, the Ethiopian Diaspora had always been in our minds as a key customer segment for KEFITA. We know that we are well positioned to serve that segment. We believe that our product is a good balance between Ethiopian authenticity, a modern building in terms of quality, technology, services as well as sustainability. Last not least, it fits all rental criteria of the International community in Addis. All of these is what the Diaspora has in mind but struggles to find as an investment opportunity. The prerequisite for owning real estate in Ethiopia requires an Ethiopian Origin ID, also known as the Yellow Card. All of our Diaspora buyers will need to provide a copy of their ID as well as Passport to initiate the sales agreement. The process involves meeting and talking with one of our sales representatives, learning our different offerings for apartment types, identifying their mode for financing, either cash or through one of the Ethiopian banks, and finally signing an Apartment Purchase Agreement. If based in Ethiopia, prospective buyers can reach out to Lily Mesfin, For those based in the USA and abroad, reach out to Nya Alemayhu at

TADIAS: Can you tell us more about the various apartment sizes and price ranges?

DR: We have 100 apartments ranging from 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom at approximately 1,000 square feet to a full floor penthouse at 6,500 square feet. In between this range exists 2 bedrooms + 2 bathrooms, 3 bedrooms + 3 bathrooms, and 4 bedrooms + 4 bathrooms. Some of our 2 bedrooms are convertible to 3 bedrooms, as well as some 3 bedrooms that can be converted to 4 bedrooms. All of the apartment types aside from the 2 bedrooms + 1 bathroom are designed with a helper’s room, as is common in most Ethiopian residences. The pricing ranges from $280,000 for a 2 bedroom + 1 bathroom apartment to $2,100,000 for our crown jewel garden terrace apartment.

TADIAS: Is there a mortgage or payment plan available?

DR: We have a payment schedule that is contingent on construction progress. The initial investment is 25% and all subsequent payments are in alignment with construction progress. The payments are spread out about 3-4 months apart. If one seeks a mortgage, we can refer to a few banks based in Addis Ababa so that prospective buyers can make the best decision as to what suits them. There are nuances with financing new construction projects in Addis Ababa and also which type of currency is used. Our sales team can also help illuminate this process more deeply. For a deeper inquiry, reach out to

(Courtesy photo)

(Courtesy photo)

TADIAS: What are your plans for future developments in Ethiopia?

DR: Although KEFITA is only our first project in Ethiopia, it won’t surprise you that we have a long-term plan for ROCKSTONE Ethiopia with more projects to come. These will obviously include additional residential developments but we are also looking into offices, logistics, and retail – commercial real estate. We very much believe in strong and lasting Ethiopian growth and want to happily be part of that over the coming years.

TADIAS: Is there anything else you would like to share with our audience here in the United States and beyond?

DR: On a personal level, my experience in Ethiopia has been wonderful and I am very fortunate to have come close to and made friends with Ethiopians over the past years. These relationships have evolved into great friendships. I really look forward to having more time for traveling within the country and enjoying all its treasures and beauties. Last but not least, I also hope to come to the US very soon to present KEFITA in person and likewise, I invite you all to meet our team and myself whenever you are in Addis.

TADIAS: Thanks again, Dietrich, and wishing you all the best from all of us at Tadias!

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Ethiopian Immigrant And UBS Top Advisor Hopes To Blaze Trail For More Diversity In Wealth Management

Araya Mesfin, Senior Vice President–Wealth Management, UBS Wealth Management (UBS)


Name: Araya Mesfin

Firm: UBS Wealth Management

Location: Atlanta, Georgia

AUM: $763 million

Background: Mesfin, 45, grew up in Ethiopia and immigrated to the United States at age 14. After getting a degree in biology and physics from Berry College in Rome, Georgia he spent time as a tutor for private school students and working on fundraising with his alma mater. In his late 20s he decided he wanted a career change.

An interview with an advisor from Merrill Lynch, where he never end up working, piqued his interest in the wealth management field. In 2008, he started at Morgan Stanley in a rookie program before heading to UBS five years later.

Competitive Edge: For Mesfin his biggest advantage is his resourcefulness, built upon joining the industry with no resources.

Early in his career, without a large network, he started cold calling corporations. One on of those calls, a prospect said that many of the his colleagues were close to retirement and could use financial advice. In order to try to capture that potential client base, Mesfin created a spreadsheet, and in the evenings called every extension to get client names from voicemails. He would then follow up on this homemade lead list in the morning. In his first few years of work, he estimates he was working up to 200 hours a week.

Biggest Challenge: The biggest challenges in Mesfin’s career came early on when he faced lots of rejection, some he believes as a result of his race. With so much discussion around representation coming in the last year, he says many large firms have good intentions. However, the problem is that these conglomerates do not determine who is successful in wealth management.

“If you’re IBM and want to diversify your workforce, you hire more people of color and women, but an advisors success isn’t dependent upon their employer, it is dependent upon Mr. and Mrs. Smith hiring them as an advisor,” Mesfin says. “People only like to work with those they trust so they look to those in their network for recommendations and that’s how the cycle works. That’s why, in my personal experience, women and minorities have a harder time.”

Mentors: Edward Williams, the president of Baltimore-based RIA DEW Financial Management was the training manager at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney when Mesfin first met him. Mesfin credits his mentorship for setting an example that a Black man could be successful as a financial advisor.

Lessons Learned: While acknowledging that the United States in 2021 is far from perfect, Mesfin says that hard work and perseverance can still lead to success in this country.

“It’s amazing how much you can accomplish when your back is against the wall,” he adds. “I had to learn English. Then I had to learn how to get clients because it was a matter of survival. I don’t know that my story is possible anywhere else in the world.”

Biggest Misunderstanding: The biggest misunderstanding Mesfin has with clients is around politics, with many people falling into the trap of allowing their political leanings to color how they view their portfolio.

Many of his progressive clients saw scary information on MSNBC over the last four years and spent the Trump presidency worried about the market and the same thing is happening with conservative clients watching Fox News under President Biden. Mesfin says this is all a product of outsize polarization.

Investment Outlook: Mesfin is extremely bullish on the markets, highlighting the accommodative actions of the Federal Reserve as well as pent up demand that reminds him the Spanish Flu Pandemic in 1918 which led directly into the roaring twenties.

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Spotlight: In Florida Mekdelawit Messay, Ph.D. Student, is on a Mission to Study Equitable Water Sharing on the Nile

“Like every kid in Ethiopia, I grew up hearing in songs, stories, folklore and school how the Nile — Abay is its name back home — is our greatest resource—the beauty, the grace of Ethiopia, but also how we have not been able to use it," says Mekdelawit Messay, a Ph.D. Student at Florida International University, who is studying "Equitable Water Sharing" on the Nile. "I feel like I have found my niche in life." (FIU)

FIU News

Ph.D. student is on a mission to study equitable water sharing on the Nile

FIU Ph.D. student Mekdelawit Messay Deribe grew up in Ethiopia hearing about the Nile River and how it is such a crucial yet underutilized water resource.

When life on the Nile was poised to forever change with the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in 2011, it became the source of Deribe’s inspiration to immerse herself in the water issues surrounding the river.

“Like every kid in Ethiopia, I grew up hearing in songs, stories, folklore and school how the Nile — Abay is its name back home — is our greatest resource—the beauty, the grace of Ethiopia, but also how we have not been able to use it, how it does not have a home at its source,” Deribe says. “So, there was always this dichotomous feeling of love and adoration for the Nile, as well as anger at not using our resource.”

Six years after the construction of the GERD began, Deribe found herself seriously researching Nile water issues and transboundary water use. She completed her master’s thesis on the subject and searched for Ph.D. programs that aligned with her passion. This is when she discovered FIU Institute of Environment and Department of Earth and Environment professor Assefa Melesse’s work on the Nile. It was a perfect fit.

Today, Deribe studies the long-term, sustainable and equitable use of transboundary waters specifically focused on the Nile Basin.

The Nile Basin is expected to be one of the most water-scarce areas in the world in the near future, she explains, so it is especially important to study transboundary water sharing in this area. The current situation in the basin is complex. Deribe explains further that, although the Nile is shared by 11 countries, historical water-sharing arrangements between Sudan and Egypt completely allocate the Nile water between these two countries, complicating the issue even more.

“The way we deal with utilization of the Nile drastically needs to change in the basin if we are collectively to have a sustainable future,” Deribe says. “My research is focused on finding ways to ensure that collective better future for the Basin.”

Deribe has been instrumental in supporting monthly, virtual Nile Talk Forums hosted by the Institute of Environment. She recently spoke on a panel at one of these forums, where she discussed the importance of transboundary collaboration in order to identify solutions for the equitable utilization of the Nile. She also presented her research at the annual FIU graduate symposium, earning third place for Outstanding Oral Presentation by a doctoral student.

“I feel like I have found my niche area—my calling in life—with researching and working on the Nile,” she says. “The Nile Basin has a long way to go in terms of ensuring equitable, long term, sustainable and climate-proof use of the shared water for all the Nile Basin countries and citizens.

“I believe there is a lot to be done in that avenue and I hope to contribute to that cause through my academic research and social advocacy. I love teaching, so I also hope to teach and give back to my country and people in a small way,” Deribe adds.

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Ethni & Serene Amsale: 17 Year-old Ethiopian American Twin Sisters Reflect on Their Culture

In the following essay twin sisters Ethni & Serene Amsale reflect on their Ethiopian culture. Born and raised in the U.S. the college bound sisters -- who live in Middletown, Delaware -- are set to graduate from high school this month. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine

By Ethni Amsale

Updated: June 7th, 2021

Middletown, Delaware — My name is Ethni Amsale. I am 17 and a first generation, Ethiopian American. My twin sister, Serene and I were raised by our beautiful single mother. Our lives have been nothing short of full and bright. Throughout my lifetime, I have been blessed to have been exposed to my Ethiopian culture and background. I believe all should be judged by their character and how they treat others rather than their ethnic or economic background. This is most important.

Ethni and Serene Amsale at their home in Middletown, Delaware. (Courtesy photo)

However, I often remember feeling proud of my ethnic background when I went on car rides with my family listening to Ethiopian music. My mother would explain the lyrics to my sister and I, unveiling the message behind each tune. One song stands out to me Tikur Sew or “Black Man” by Teddy Afro was its title. The song is a tribute to Emperor Melenik II’s victory of a united Ethiopia against an Italian invasion specifically in the Battle of Adwa. It highlighted the role women played in the Ethiopian military, celebrating our success in resisting European colonialism. My mom tells us to listen for the lyrics ourselves and that this is one of the many reasons we feel honored to be Ethiopian. As I get older, I become increasingly exposed to a variety of literature, music, art, food, and dance representative of Ethiopia and I fall more in love with it. As a student in the American school system, I learn about history and become increasingly aware of the racial divide that exists. Although I do not fully understand it, I make an effort to research and analyze the reasons behind the socioeconomic disparity between African Americans and Whites that we witness today. The majority of African Americans who arrived in America hundreds of years ago through the transatlantic slave trade have been systematically disconnected from their roots. Many generations were born without the cognizance of their ethnic language, customs, social institutions, and achievements. They were forced to carry the name and surname given to them by their slave masters with nothing else to hold on to but the color of their skin and folktales. Unfortunately, this disconnect has caused an understandable frustration and a version of identity crisis in the Black community.

Ethni and Serene Amsale with their mother, Meseret Tamirie, at their home in Middletown, Delaware. Ethni is also pictured on the right. (Courtesy photo)

Ethni & Serene Amsale attending church in New York City with their mother and grandmother. (Courtesy photo)

I am grateful for the connection I have to my ancestors birthplace and its rich history. I accredit this to my upbringing and my eagerness to continue to learn in a system that would otherwise see me fail. Currently, I am a high school senior planning on studying Animal Science and Biology on a Pre-Veterinary Track. I have been accepted to several accredited colleges and am in the process of making a decision. I am also an aspiring model and hope to one day have the platform to advocate for environmental policies that would positively impact the ecosystem and animal rights. I am appreciative of the opportunities I have and look forward to serving Ethiopia and the global community. Ethiopia enate tinur le zelalem.

‘Ethiopian music as the soundtrack to my life’ By Serene Amsale

Serene Amsale. (Courtesy photo)

By Serene Amsale

I can imagine myself opening and closing my eyes, the light of the sun, or the highway flooding my pupils and then disappearing as my eyelids met each other. I was on a car ride, when my mother, Meseret or “Mimi” and my twin sister, Ethni would go on family trips. My Ethiopian, specifically, gurage mother would put on music, with a wide variety of Ethiopian artists. From Mohamood Ahmed to Gigi, to Teddy Afro. Ever since our first days on Earth, even if I couldn’t recall, I can hear Ethiopian music in the background of old home movies with us as babies.

Staring out of the window, looking at landscapes, cities, and eventually crossing states, with Ethiopian music as the soundtrack to these road trips, and essentially my life. I was able to pick up on words and use my mother as a human dictionary. “Ehe mindinew?”, I would say, pointing to a lamb or cow on a local farm. It is important to note that I am passionate about animals. Ever since I was little, I aspired to be a veterinarian or wildlife biologist.

At the age of 6, my sister and I decided in unison to become vegetarian, which my lovely, single mother fully supported. I would love learning what animals would translate to in the Amharic language. Soon after, I noticed myself understanding the language more, and the conversations my mom would have with relatives on the phone. I was able to articulate myself, which was very apparent to me on our most recent trip to Ethiopia in the summer of 2018. While I enjoyed reconnecting with family and friends, I also got a glimpse into the experience of animals in Ethiopia, particularly cattle and domesticated animals.

Serene and Ethni Amsale with their mother, Meseret Tamirie, pictured before their Prom night at their home in Middletown, Delaware. (Courtesy photo)

(Courtesy photo)

I noticed some were used in the prime of their lives and then deemed no longer valuable. They were left emaciated and lifeless on the streets of Addis Ababa and Hawassa, and everywhere in between, where we traveled. I am pursuing a higher education in biology and environmental policy. I will be majoring in those fields in the beginning of this fall semester. I will focus on veterinary medicine. I am confident I can rely on my knowledge thus far, and solid upbringing in my 17 years of life that being a human being is extraordinary but being Ethiopian is a true privilege.

I take great pride in being able to call Ethiopia my country of origin. It is a strong and determined lion, “anbessa” in a pride of lost ones, remaining independent through two Italian invasions, thus becoming the only uncolonized African country in history. Accordingly, the only African country with its own indigenous alphabet, “fidel” and diverse subcultures, breaking into over 80 dialects. The land is home to impressive geographic locations, from the Danakil Depression, the hottest point on planet Earth to the Great Rift Valley and Simien Mountains- by the way I loved doing a report on them in 5th grade- The mountains helped coin the phrase “The roof of Africa” for the nation. Retrospectively, notice our flag colors, green, yellow, and red, and countries across the continent, subsequently adopt them throughout history. The first, Ghana, in 1957, then, Mali, Cameroon, Benin, and Senegal, consecutively after that. These are not simply colors, but a symbol of indepence, peace, and a real possibility of freedom, not just hope. I aspire to emulate my mother’s principles, her open-heartedness, and ability to lead with the heart, and to be present, and accessible, non-judgement towards others, belief in herself, and strong-willed, graceful, and magnetic nature. Similarly, these are all elements of the wonderful nation where our roots lie, and leading with any one of those traits will surely lead one to a bright future. I am excited to embark on my life’s adventure, and eager to affect change in a meaningful way.

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Spotlight: Zeresenay Alemseged Elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Ethiopian American Scientist, Anthropologist and Professor Zeresenay Alemseged (pictured with President Obama in Ethiopia in 2015) is one of eight University of Chicago faculty elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the oldest and most prestigious honorary societies in the United States. (Photo: @Zeray_Alemseged/Twitter)

UChicago News

Eight UChicago faculty elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Eight members of the University of Chicago faculty have been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious honorary societies. They include Profs. Zeresenay Alemseged, Benson Farb, Jeffrey Hubbell, Karin Knorr Cetina, Anup Malani, Angela Olinto, Eric Santner and Amie Wilkinson.

These scholars have made breakthroughs in fields ranging from human evolution and cancer immunotherapy to cosmic rays and geometric group theory. They join the 2021 class of more than 250 individuals, announced April 22, which includes artists, scholars, scientists, and leaders in the public, nonprofit and private sectors.

Zeresenay Alemseged

Zeresenay “Zeray” Alemseged is the Donald N. Pritzker Professor of Organismal Biology and Anatomy. His research in human evolution focuses on the origins and evolution of early human ancestors and how they were shaped by underlying environmental and ecological factors—thus he also studies the fauna at the time our ancestors were evolving. His objective is to unearth and analyze evidence for shifts through time and space in their biology, behavior and ecology aiming at identifying milestone evolutionary events that ultimately led to the emergence of modern Homo sapiens.

While leading the Dikika Research Project in Ethiopia, Alemseged discovered and analyzed the fossilized remains of a 3.3-million-year-old child of the species Australopithecus afarensis—the most complete skeleton of a human ancestor discovered to date. In addition, his team unearthed the earliest evidence for stone tool use in the human lineage dating back to 3.5 million years ago. These discoveries represent a major advancement in the understanding of how we became human and have changed the textbooks on human evolution.

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Profile: Yohannes Haile-Selassie of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History

“Yohannes Haile-Selassie is one of the leading paleoanthropologists today,” says Donald Johanson of Arizona State University (ASU), who was working for the Cleveland museum in 1974 while finding the famous Lucy in Ethiopia. “He and his team have made some very important discoveries.” (Photo courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History)

Fresh Water Cleveland

The bone hunter: Anthropologist searches the globe to understand the human family tree

Yohannes Haile-Selassie of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History has become perhaps the world’s top hunter of ancient hominins today, boosting Northeast Ohio’s long-time prominence in that field.

Not bad for a guy who started out in history instead of prehistory. In his native Ethiopia, Haile-Selassie became a historian at the national museum, which had many fossils. “It’s opportunity, mostly,” he says of his success. “Seeing the fossils and going to the field and finding them triggered my interest in human origins.”

Haile-Selassie (no relation to his homeland’s long-time emperor) has helped discover three new species of ancient hominins, the tribe that includes our own species, Homo sapiens. He has also found important fossils from our species and from Homo erectus. What’s more, he has shaken beliefs about our evolution.

John Gurche developed this possible face to fit the cranium discovered for a human ancestor called MRD.

“Yohannes is one of the leading paleoanthropologists today,” says Donald Johanson of Arizona State University (ASU), who was working for the Cleveland museum in 1974 while finding the famous Lucy in Ethiopia. “He and his team have made some very important discoveries.”

Yohannes Haile-Selassie in Ethiopia. (Photo courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History)

“Dr. Yohannes Haile-Selassie is one of the world’s foremost experts in paleoanthropology,” according to a Wikipedia entry. “His continued contributions to this scientific discipline are helping to reshape understanding of humanity’s ancient family tree and change conventional thinking about human evolution.”

The prestigious journal Nature named Haile-Selassie one of the world’s “ten people who mattered in science in 2019.” That’s when he and his team announced finding one of the most complete hominin craniums ever.

When asked to evaluate himself, Haile-Selassie is confident, but not smug. “I could be considered one of the leading anthropologists in our field,” he says. “I made a lot of contributions with our finds, particularly in making some paradigm shifts. How people judge me, it’s up to them.”

Besides Haile-Selassie and ASU’s Johanson, leading hominin explorers based in Northeast Ohio have included former museum head Bruce Latimer and Kent State University professor C. Owen Lovejoy.

Haile-Selassie studied history at Ethiopia’s Addis Ababa University and began in 1990 to dig up fossils. Two years later, he began working toward master’s and doctoral degrees at the University of California, Berkeley.

Starting in 1997 as a graduate student, he found fossils from a previously unknown species, now called Ardipithecus kadabba. That species lived an estimated 5.8 million to 5.5 million years ago—dating nearly back to when humans and chimps apparently diverged.

Yohannes Haile-Selassie examines a hominin fossil in his office at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History
In 2002, Haile-Selassie joined the Cleveland museum as curator and head of physical anthropology. Three years later, he began leading a team that scoured some 500 square miles of exclusive territory each year in Ethiopia’s Woranso-Mille area.

By 2019, the team had found about 230 hominin fossils as well as more than 12,600 fossils from about 85 other species of mammals, including monkeys, pigs, and antelopes.

That year, the team announced perhaps its greatest find so far—nearly all the pieces of a male hominin cranium from the species Australopithecus anamensis.
They called the creature MRD-VP-1/1, or MRD for short. The name isn’t nearly as catchy as Lucy’s, inspired by the Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky with? Diamonds.” It stands for Miro Dora, the part of Haile-Selassie’s territory where the cranium was found.

After the discovery, team member Beverly Saylor, professor of stratigraphy and sedimentology at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU), led the analysis of plant and volcanic material found with the cranium. Others designed a face for that cranium—considered the likeliest hominin face yet proposed.

Scientists used to think that hominins descended from anamensis through Lucy’s species, Australopithecus afarensis, to Homo sapiens. without much overlap. But MRD appears to be about 3.8 million years old—some 100,000 years younger than the oldest known members of afarensis. So Haile-Selassie says anamensis might turn out to be our more direct ancestor…

“That’s how science goes, a lot of hypothesizing and testing. The more sample size you have, the better.”

Read the full article at »

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Spotlight: Girmay Zahilay, King County Councilman From District 2 in Seattle

Girmay Hadish Zahilay is a Sudan-born Ethiopian-American attorney who serves as a member of the King County Council from District 2 in Seattle, Washington. The following is a spotlight on Girmay by The South Seattle Emerald in honor of Black History Month. (Photo: Girmay Zahilay speaks at the opening of a pop-up resource center in the Skyway neighborhood, south of Seattle/by Susan Fried)

South Seattle Emerald

By Marcus Harden


“One voice can change a room, and if one voice can change a room, then it can change a city, and if it can change a city, it can change a state, and if it change a state, it can change a nation, and if it can change a nation, it can change the world. Your voice can change the world.”

—Barack Obama

As I’ve grown older, I’ve become more and more fascinated by the African Diaspora and the connection to the African American experience. I’ve especially been fascinated with learning more about the countries in Africa such as Ethiopia, as it stands as one of the only countries to not be colonized by European “settlers.” It’s begged the question: What lay in the culture of those people? What portions of that culture permeate from generation to generation and how do they show up today?

The answer is complex, yet if I had to take a personal wager, I’d bet that ancestral depth lives in people like Girmay Zahilay. Girmay is the “American Dream” personified, in that he’s uniquely bridged the gap of culture from continent to continent and has become a possibility for so many on both sides of that bridge.

Born in Sudan and of Ethiopian descent, his parents Ethiopian Refugees who themselves escaped military conflict, he arrived in the United States at the tender age of 3. Girmay’s family settled in the historic Rainier Valley of Seattle, and it was here that he learned about the world and came to understand others, turning his family’s trials into triumphs. Whether moving from the International District to Skyway, getting by temporarily without stable housing, living in shelters in downtown Seattle, or finally settling in the Rainier Vista, his humility and leadership were being crafted at every step.

Girmay graduated from Franklin High School before going on to Stanford University and the University of Pennsylvania, where his natural instincts in fighting for justice would be sharpened into the skill of understanding and interpreting the law. Girmay’s journey took him to Washington D.C. and New York City, yet no matter where he surfaced on the map, his spirit of bridging the gap and liberating people would never change.

His return home to Seattle saw more of the same, as he founded a nonprofit that created opportunities for young people to practice their innate leadership skills. The spirit and culture of leadership and liberation never left him, beating steady like a drum, speaking louder and louder as he saw the needs of the community through the eyes of the youth who looked like him. Soon those voices were crying out louder and louder throughout the Rainier Vista and other communities whose fight for public housing deserved to finally be heard.

In 2019, Girmay decided to become that megaphone that resonated change.

It wasn’t an easy path, of course. Girmay chose to pursue a coveted city council seat held by Larry Gossett, a local legend who blazed the trail for Girmay and many others. What was most notable about Girmay’s approach was that it was rooted in the culture of class and respect, never diminishing the accomplishments of Gossett and his place in history, yet as he had times before, wanting to be the bridge to and for the next generation that would stand on the shoulders of those before him.

Before he was a councilman, to me Girmay was just “Lull’s little big cousin.” Lull Mengesha, a close friend of mine, told me I just had to meet his cousin. It happened one day at Empire Espresso in South Seattle, and I talked for hours with Girmay about education and social change. I learned that he wanted to utilize his passion for law to support youth — specifically those disenfranchised and trapped in the System in the Rainier Valley and Skyway. Even over great coffee and greater waffles, Girmay’s purpose shined through.

Girmay’s commitment to public service shows up in the small details, like his social media that ensures people from all walks of life can celebrate, or through continuing to demystify public service for cultures and people who traditionally haven’t gotten an inside look. In constantly honoring those throughout the Diaspora in word and actions, Girmay embodies the spirit of liberation his ancestors passed down. He is a humble servant with the ear to listen to the past and the voice that changes the future. He is the dream manifested. Girmay Zahilay is undoubtedly Black History Today!


Ethiopian American Girmay Zahilay, a New Councilman in King County, Washington

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Yene Damtew: Meet the Ethiopian Woman Behind Michelle Obama’s Famous Hairstyles

Yene Damtew has been Michelle Obama's hairstylist since 2008. Regarding the former first lady's recent look at Joe Biden's inauguration this week that has attracted international attention, Yene says: “I personally loved her look and was very happy to see how it came together, but did not expect it to resonate with viewers the way it has." (Photos: Courtesy of Yene Damtew and Getty Images)

The Washington Post

The woman behind Michelle Obama’s instantly iconic hair

It was a moment watch parties and group chats are made for: former first lady Michelle Obama, hand in hand with former President Barack Obama, emerging from the U.S. Capitol in a regal, floor-length plum coat and statement belt, her voluminous curls bouncing with each step.

The monochromatic pantsuit designed by Sergio Hudson was striking, but the star of the show was Obama’s hair: a silk press so perfect, it launched thousands of social media shares. In the middle of the inauguration ceremony, “laid” — a reference to the flawlessness of Obama’s hair — began trending.

Obama’s coif came courtesy of her longtime hairstylist, Yene Damtew, who has been part of the former first lady’s glam squad since 2008. For her, Wednesday began as a “typical day at work.” It wasn’t until a client tagged her in a tweet about Obama’s hair that she got a sense of how much the style had resonated with people, particularly Black women.

“I personally loved her look and was very happy to see how it came together, but did not expect it to resonate with viewers the way it has,” Damtew wrote in an email.

She has helped craft memorable looks for Obama before.

Damtew picked up her passion for hair from watching her mother get ready for church, enamored with her hot rollers and the full, bouncy hair they produced. As a teenager, she became the go-to person in her Orange County, Calif., neighborhood when someone wanted their hair done.

“I did everyone’s hair from football players to the kids, and then my high school classmates,” she told Allure.

At 21, she began working alongside Obama’s hairstylist Johnny Wright, whom she met while completing an assignment for cosmetology school. Damtew started doing Malia and Sasha Obama’s hair, as well as styling Obama’s mother, Marian Robinson. At the 2016 Democratic National Convention, when Obama delivered her famous “When they go low, we go high” line, Damtew was behind Obama’s striking, chestnut brown color that she custom-created and hand-painted onto Obama’s hair, according to Elle. In 2017, when Damtew opened her own business, Aesthetics salon in Arlington, Va., Obama attended the opening.

To create Obama’s inauguration look, Damtew consulted with Obama’s wardrobe stylist Meredith Koop and makeup artist Carl Ray. Since Obama was going for a monochromatic look, Damtew says she knew “the hair would stand out a lot on its own.”

“As I thought about the hairstyle that would complement her outfit and suit the weather, these bouncy curls came to life,” she said.

But Damtew couldn’t predict just how much life they would give to viewers of the inauguration, many of whom wanted to know who was behind the look. Within hours of Damtew revealing herself as Obama’s hairstylist on Twitter, thousands of compliments and requests for tips starting pouring in.

“The support of Black Women Twitter has been amazing,” said Damtew, who is Ethiopian American. “As a salon owner who caters to women with textured hair, I know the importance that hair holds, particularly to Black women and the crowns that they wear. Black women hold their hair in high regard.”

She noted that it was important to continue showing versatility with Obama’s looks because “representation matters.” To celebrate her 57th birthday this week, Obama posted a selfie rocking her natural hair.

But Obama’s hair was about more than just serving a look. It was celebratory, “showing out” hair — a stark contrast not just to the modest bun Obama wore at Donald Trump’s inauguration ceremony four years ago, but to the scenes at the Capitol earlier this month. During an inauguration ceremony that needed to acknowledge the deep divisions that remain in this country, as well as the hundreds of thousands of lives lost to the coronavirus in the United States, being able to gush over a coat or a blowout felt like a brief respite.

This is not lost on Damtew.

“The truth is we are still very much in a hard time in this nation,” she said. “But if, for a few minutes, people found joy in seeing a former first lady supporting her friends and wearing a beautiful coat and bouncy curls — I’m OK with that. We all need something to give us hope and make us smile.”

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Feleg Tsegaye of ‘Deliver Addis’

Feleg Tsegaye, founder of Deliver Addis. (Photo: Howwemadeitinafrica)

Face 2 Face Africa

The man behind Ethiopia’s first online restaurant delivery service changing how people dine

Feleg Tsegaye was born to exiled Ethiopian parents in the United States. When he was 24 years old, he moved to Ethiopia to start the country’s first-ever online restaurant delivery service. Prior to leaving the U.S, he worked at the US Federal Reserve Bank.

In 2015, he launched Deliver Addis, an online restaurant delivery service in Ethiopia which allows customers to place orders from their favorite restaurants and also discover new ones. For Tsegaye, it was his own way of not only creating jobs in his country of origin but to change the way Ethiopians dine.

“What really prompted me to pursue this was the fact that we were creating a completely new industry that did not exist in Ethiopia,” Tsegaye told How We Made It In Africa. “It’s about getting customers what they want in the convenience of their homes and offices. It’s also about generating business for small and medium enterprises – like restaurants that cannot afford space or a good location – and creating jobs for young people as back-office staff or drivers.”

Across Africa, businesses being operated solely online are fast gaining popularity on the continent. This has been largely due to the spread of internet connectivity across the continent. While in some countries internet usage is low, it is high in other states.

Playing a pioneering role in Ethiopia’s e-commerce sector didn’t come easy for Tsegaye. At the time, internet penetration was low and was largely a platform not known to many in the country. Nonetheless, he persisted and now controls a big share of the market.

He was also confronted with other challenges such as the absence of addresses, power outages and inadequate internet connection.

“Our first internet shutdown was when I was on a flight to the US,” he recalled. In 2016, Ethiopia declared a state of emergency due to political instability, resulting in the shutdown of internet connectivity in the country.

“As an e-commerce business, that’s pretty much the worst possible thing that can happen – and I wasn’t even there when it happened,” he said. Although the business was unprepared for the internet shutdown, Tsegaye took advantage of the situation to do some intensive servicing and maintenance of his delivery bikes.

While at it, he took steps to keep the business afloat by designing offline processes for ordering – by phone, or SMS, when available. This saw order volumes go up. In June 2020, he secured funding from the Impact Angel Network to increase its capacity and efficiency to bring on new products and services and expand market share.

Following growing demand due to COVID-19, he expanded his services to include an online marketplace that enables Ethiopian consumers to shop for groceries and other essential goods online.

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Mahdere Yared: TEDx Pine Crest School Class of 2021

Mahdere Yared is a member of the Pine Crest School class of 2021 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (TEDxPineCrestSchool)


In her TedxTalk, Mahdere goes into depth about the long-term effects that racism has on African Americans as she interrogates the possibility that the impact cuts so deep that it may even go to the cellular level. Mahdere Yared is a member of the Pine Crest School class of 2021. Outside of school, Mahdere likes to run with her teammates and does research at a lab. Mahdere enjoys learning about various topics and researching them to understand them better. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at


Meet Tsion Yared: High School Runner of the Year in Florida

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Leya Elias Named Truman Scholar

Leya Elias (Courtesy Photo)

Tadias Magazine

By Tadias Staff

Updated: May 4th, 2020

New York (TADIAS) — Stanford University student Leya Elias has been awarded the 2020 Truman Scholarship. The Co-President of the Ethiopian & Eritrean Students Association is one of two Stanford undergraduates and “among the 62 American college students to receive the award, which provides support for graduate school in preparation for careers in public service.”

According to Stanford University “the Truman Scholarship was established in 1975 to honor the legacy of President Harry S. Truman.” The Stanford press release adds that Leya Elias “ will join a cohort of scholars that includes Supreme Court Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, former National Security Advisor and Stanford alum Susan Rice, ’86, U.S. Senator Chris Coons and Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams.”

“I am beyond honored to have received the Truman Scholarship and am forever indebted to my on- and off-campus communities for providing me with the support to be able to accept this award,” Leya Elias said in a statement. “Receiving this scholarship only further strengthens my commitment to serving my communities with compassion, humility and dedication.”

Below is Leya Elias’ bio courtesy of Stanford:

Leya Elias of San Francisco is pursuing a bachelor’s degrees in psychology with minors in political science and African and African-American studies. A dedicated public servant, Elias credits the award to the support she has received from her family, friends and mentors, among others. Elias established an impressive public service career before she joined Stanford. As a high school student, she interned with San Francisco’s Human Rights Commission and volunteered for the Homeless Prenatal Program, a nationally recognized resource center for homeless and low-income families. Elias also interned for then-San Francisco Supervisor and current Mayor London Breed. The position, she said, was extremely formative in developing her interest and passion for public service.

At Stanford, Elias has worked with several organizations, including the Institute for Diversity in the Arts and the Center for Human Rights and International Justice. Her sophomore year she was elected to the Stanford Undergraduate Senate and was later selected as its chair. She currently serves as Co-President of the Ethiopian and Eritrean Students Association and Co-President of the Stanford Black Pre-Law Society. She also works as a Cardinal Service Peer Advisor at the Haas Center for Public Service, a role in which she advises other students on how to incorporate service into their professional and academic experiences. Elias’ public service work extends far beyond the Farm. As a policy intern for the Public Rights Project, she collected stories of wrongful evictions and conducted research on predatory lending practices. And with support from a Stanford in Government Fellowship, she traveled to Accra, Ghana, for an internship with the Ghana Center for Democratic Development.

With support from the Truman Scholarship, Elias said she plans to attend law school. Her ultimate goal is to become a public defender.

“In the future, I hope to create a more equitable criminal justice system working toward its own obsolescence,” she said. “Specifically, I would like to become a public defender and organize alongside communities in creating alternatives to incarceration that help to both heal and prevent all types of harm.”

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Dr Catherine Hamlin 1924 – 2020

Dr Catherine Hamlin passed away at her home in Addis Ababa on Wednesday March 18th, 2020. (Photo: The Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation)

Tadias Magazine

By Tadias Staff

Updated: March 19th, 2020

In Loving Memory: Dr Catherine Hamlin 1924 – 2020

New York (TADIAS) – Dr. Catherine Hamlin — who along with her late husband Dr. Reginald Hamlin had founded Ethiopia’s first fistula hospital — passed away on Wednesday at the age of 96.

When the Hamlins had moved to Addis Ababa in 1959 they had never seen a fistula patient before. In a 2003 interview Dr. Catherine had told Tadias that fistula “is the oldest medical cause in the world. There is currency dug out of pyramids containing images of fistula, yet in the 21st century it is the most neglected cause.”

Since it was launched in 1974 the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital has treated over 60,000 women, the majority of whom have been cured and have returned to their homes to live healthy, normal lives. While the Australian-born Dr. Hamlin had received honorary Ethiopian citizenship in April 2012, she was presented by PM Abiy Ahmed with the prestigious Eminent Citizen Award in May 2019 along with the unveiling of a statue of her and Dr. Reginald Hamlin in recognition of their more than six decades of service in Ethiopia.

Ethiopian Health Minister Lia Tadesse noted on Twitter: “Very sad to hear the loss of Dr. Catherine Hamlin, a symbol of empathy & compassion with extraordinary contributions that changed the lives of thousands of women with obstetric fistula. She will always remain in our hearts.”

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed also took to social media to express his condolences. “Ethiopia lost a true gem who dedicated more than sixty years to restoring the dignity of thousands of women,” he tweeted. “I wish her loved ones, friends and colleagues comfort. May she Rest In Peace.”

Below is the official obituary of Dr Catherine Hamlin courtesy of the Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation:

Dr Catherine Hamlin 1924 – 2020

(Photo: The Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation)

“When I die, this place will go on for many, many years until we have eradicated fistula altogether – until every woman in Ethiopia is assured of a safe delivery and a live baby.” – Dr Catherine Hamlin

“Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” – Matthew 25:40

The world is mourning the death of Australia’s most renowned obstetrician and gynecologist, Dr Catherine Hamlin AC, who died, age 96 at her home in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Wednesday March 18th, 2020.

Catherine, together with her late husband Dr Reginald Hamlin OBE, co-founded Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia, a healthcare network treating women who suffer from the debilitating effects of an obstetric fistula – a horrific childbirth injury.

To say Catherine was a remarkable woman is an understatement. In our eyes, she is a saint. She was much-admired for her work in Australia and globally. She was twice nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, and has been recognized by the United Nations as a pioneer in fistula surgery. In 1995 Catherine was awarded Australia’s highest honor – the Companion of the Order of Australia, and in 2018 she was named NSW Senior Australian of the Year. In 2012, the Ethiopian Government awarded Catherine Honorary Ethiopian Citizenship and in 2019 the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed presented her with Eminent Citizen Award in recognition of her lifetime of service to the women of Ethiopia.

In 2020 Catherine celebrated her 61st year in Ethiopia. She lived most of her life there, in her original house on the grounds of her Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, adored by her patients, staff and the Ethiopian people. She was often referred to as “Emaye” meaning Mother. Catherine was not just committed to spending her life treating thousands of women, she spent her whole adult life changing lives – for the better.

Women and girls who suffer from obstetric fistula have been described as our modern-day lepers. Obstetric fistula is a horrific childbirth injury, that leaves women incontinent. It is caused by long, unrelieved obstructed labour. Tragically, 93% of obstetric fistula survivors give birth to a stillborn baby. Women with obstetric fistulas live with a constant stream of leaking urine and, in some cases, feces. These women and girls are often ostracized from their communities and rejected by their husbands.

Catherine Hamlin lived to give these women their life back.

Elinor Catherine Nicholson was born on January 24th, 1924 in Sydney. One of six children to Elinor and Theodore Nicholson, the family lived in the Sydney suburb of Ryde, and Catherine completed her schooling at Frensham School, Mittagong, in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales. Following an innate desire to help women and children, she enrolled in medicine, graduating from the University of Sydney’s Medical School in 1946. After completing internships at two Sydney hospitals; St Joseph’s Hospital, Auburn and St George Hospital, Kogarah, Catherine accepted a residency in obstetrics at Sydney’s highly regarded Crown Street Women’s Hospital. It was at Crown Street that she met and fell in love with Dr. Reginald (Reg) Hamlin. They married in 1950 and had a son, Richard, in 1952.

In 1958, the Hamlins answered an advertisement in The Lancet Medical Journal for gynecologists to set up a school of midwifery in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Together with their six-year-old son, Richard, they travelled to Ethiopia to take up the contract. What had been intended as a three-year stay in Addis Ababa turned into a lifetime of service to the Ethiopian people.

Once Catherine and Reg started work at the Princess Tsehai Memorial Hospital, they found themselves treating women suffering obstetric complications on a scale unimaginable in a Western hospital. Before the Hamlins arrived in Ethiopia, patients with obstetric fistulas who sought medical help at the Princess Tsehai Memorial Hospital were turned away as they had no cure for their humiliating condition. The Hamlins had limited knowledge about obstetric fistulas as they had never had to deal with one before. Confronted by the tragic plight of women with obstetric fistula, and never having seen this condition in Australia, Catherine and Reg had to draw on medical literature from the 1850s to develop their own surgical technique. The technique they perfected is still used today.

As news of the Hamlins’ work spread, more and more women came to them for help. At first, they built a 10-bed fistula clinic in the grounds of the Princess Tsehai Memorial Hospital. Then, amidst the communist revolution, they built their Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital which opened on May 24th, 1975. There are now six Hamlin Fistula Hospitals across Ethiopia. Over the past 61 years, more than 60,000 Ethiopian women suffering with an obstetric fistula have received life-changing reconstructive surgery and care, thanks to the Hamlins’ vision.

Catherine’s strength and passion to offer free fistula surgery wavered only once in her lifetime, following the death of her beloved Reg in 1993. Days after his funeral, Catherine felt overwhelming fear at the prospect of running the hospital by herself. In this moment of grief, her long-time gardener Birru knelt by her chair, “He took my hand in his, kissed the back of it and said, ‘Don’t leave us; we’ll all help you.’” A deeply religious woman, Catherine felt these words were an enormous blessing and from that moment Catherine knew that she would be “quite alright.”

Her initial goal of training midwives became a reality in 2007 when she founded the Hamlin College of Midwives. High school graduates are trained in a four-year degree, then deployed to rural midwifery clinics, where they are most needed, breaking the cycle of unrelieved obstructed labour and thereby preventing obstetric fistula from occurring in the first place.

In 1983, Catherine was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) and in 1995 appointed to the higher rank in the Order, a Companion (AC) for ‘service to gynecology in developing countries particularly in the field of fistula surgery and for humanitarian service to improving the health dignity and self-esteem of women in Ethiopia’. In 2001, the Australian Government recognized Catherine’s ‘long and outstanding service to international development in Africa’ by awarding her the Australian Centenary Medal. In recognition of her humanitarian work in Ethiopia she was included on the Australian Living Legends list in 2004. In 2009, Catherine was awarded the Right Livelihood Award, sometimes referred to as the Alternate Nobel Prize. In 2011 she was among 50 prominent Australians invited by Her Excellency the Governor-General Quentin Bryce to lunch with the Queen. In 2015, Catherine received the Australian Medical Association’s President’s Award. In 2017, a Sydney Ferries Emerald-class ferry was named the ‘Catherine Hamlin’ after thousands of Australian supporters voted for her.

Despite all these tributes, Catherine was always humbled in the extreme by all the media attention and awards. Drawing on the courage of Ethiopian women is what inspired her to accept such accolades, and awards were always an opportunity to promote the heartbreaking plight of the fistula patients and the needs of the hospitals treating them.

Catherine was most proud of her Hamlin Model of Care – holistic healing that is part of every patient’s treatment. “We don’t just treat the hole in the bladder, we treat the whole patient with love and tender care, literacy and numeracy classes, a brand-new dress and money to travel home.”

Today, Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia is a healthcare network of over 550 Ethiopian staff – many trained by Catherine – servicing six hospitals, Desta Mender rehabilitation centre, the Hamlin College of Midwives and 80 Hamlin supported Midwifery Clinics. Hamlin is the reference organization and leader in the fight to eradicate obstetric fistula around the world, blazing a trail for holistic treatment and care that empowers women to reassert their humanity, secure their health and well-being, and regain their roles in their families and communities.

Catherine published her autobiography, co-written with Australian journalist and author John Little, The Hospital by the River: A Story of Hope in 2001. In the book, Catherine makes clear that she and Reg saw their work as one of Christian compassion for the suffering. Then in 2004, she was profiled internationally on the Oprah Winfrey Show giving the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital the kind of worldwide publicity that Reg could never have imagined.

During the last years of her life, Catherine was confident that her legacy would live on, “When I die, this place will go on for many, many years until we have eradicated fistula altogether – until every woman in Ethiopia is assured of a safe delivery and a live baby.”

Catherine will be buried alongside Reg in the British War Graves Cemetery in Addis Ababa, her home for 61 years. At the 60th anniversary celebrations in 2019, Catherine said “I love Ethiopia and I have loved every day here. Ethiopia is my home.”

Catherine is survived by her only son Richard and his four adult children: Sarah, Paul, Catherine and Stephanie, her sister Ailsa Pottie and brothers Donald and Jock Nicholson.

“Catherine lived an incredible life having made an enormous difference to the lives and health of thousands upon thousands of women in Ethiopia. Her passionate commitment to women and maternal health through her trust and belief in fulfilling God’s work with love and devotion to others is something that we are all in awe of,” said Julie White, Chair of Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation.

“Most of her 96 years were generously given to help the poor women of our country with traumatic birth injuries. We are all thankful for Catherine’s lifelong dedication. We promise to continue her legacy and realize her dream to eradicate fistula from Ethiopia. Forever,” said Tesfaye Mamo, Chief Executive Officer of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia.

We are all committed to ensuring Catherine’s dream to eradicate obstetric fistula in Ethiopia becomes a reality.

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Rita Pankhurst (1927- 2019)

Rita Pankhurst, a life time friend of Ethiopia and the wife of the late historian Richard Pankhurst, died on May 30th 2019 at the age of 91. At the time of her death, she was working on Volume 2 of her autobiography 'Ethiopian Reminiscences.' Below is Rita's bio courtesy of the Pankhurst family. (Photo: Tsehai Publishers/Ethiopian Reminiscences video)

Tadias Magazine

Rita Pankhurst’s biography courtesy of her family

Life Time Friend of Ethiopia Rita Pankhurst (1927- 2019)

Rita was born in Romania in 1927. She immigrated to the UK with her parents in 1938. After attending the Perse School for Girls in Cambridge she studied modern languages (French and Russian) at Oxford (LMH) and obtained her MA in 1948. She spent the next year in Paris boarding with Russian-speaking Armenians and
attending the Ecole Nationale des Langues Orientales Vivantes, obtaining a Diploma in Russian. Her first job was in the Press Library of Chatham House. She worked there until 1956 when she joined Richard and Sylvia in Addis Ababa.

Rita Pankhurst was a librarian who lived in Ethiopia for over 60 years and worked at the National Library, the Kennedy Library at Haile Sellassie I University and the library of the Economic Commission for Africa. As wife and companion of Richard Pankhurst, she shared his passion for Ethiopia and worked with him on many of his writing including his books, the publishing of the journal, the Ethiopia Observer, taking part in numerous conferences of Ethiopian studies and supporting the Friends of the Institute of Ethiopian Studies. She also wrote several articles on Ethiopian culture, notably on women in Ethiopian history, and on the history and development of libraries in Ethiopia, starting with a publication on “The Library of Emperor Tewodros II at Maqdala” published in the Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies vol. 36 in 1974.

Rita began work at the National Library of Ethiopia (Womezekir), along with distinguished Ethiopian scholars: such as The World Laureate Maitre Artiste Afewerk Tekle, the Honorable Dr. Kebede Mikael, and Artist Ale Felegeselam, and began correspondence courses in Librarianship. She married Richard in 1957 and had two children: Alula Andrew, who had two children Henok and Heleena and Helen Sylvia who had two children Laura and Alex. Alula was born on 27 September 1960 exactly two years after Sylvia’s death. Rita resumed her courses, interrupted by childbearing, and was awarded the Associateship of the Library Association (ALA) in 1964. (She was awarded an Honorary Fellowship in 1987). Thereafter most of Rita’s working life was spent in academic librarianship. She became University Librarian of Haile Sellassie I University, a post she held for a decade.

When the family returned to London in 1976, she was appointed Head of Library Services of the City of London Polytechnic, and remained in charge for eleven years until she and Richard returned to Ethiopia. During this period she was instrumental in acquiring the library of the Fawcett Society for the Polytechnic. The Fawcett Library later formed the core of the present Women’s Library, now under the stewardship of the LSE.

Rita co-authored a number of publications with Richard over years on various topics including “A Select Annotated Bibliography of Travel Books on Ethiopia” published in 1978 in the African Journal vol. 9, no 3, “Ethiopian Ear-Picks” published in Abbay, no.10 (1979), and Ethiopian Figurines from Mugar Monastery in Shawa” published in African Arts vol. 37, no 3, (2004). She was involved with Richard in initiating the first International Conference of the History of Ethiopian Art in London, and attended successive International Conferences of Ethiopian Studies presenting papers such as “An unpublished Letter of King of Kings Tewodros II to the Egyptian Governor of the Sudan” at the Ninth International Conference in Moscow in 1986.

Rita and Richard returned to Ethiopia in 1987, and Rita undertook library consultancies, editing books and university theses. She became involved in voluntary work and was Chair of the United World Colleges National Committee – Ethiopia; Chair of the Programme Committee of the Society of Friends of the
Institute of Ethiopian Studies and Board member of the Ethiopian Gemini Trust. She was an active member of the Horticultural Society of Ethiopia.

Rita continued to take part in successive conferences of Ethiopian Studies, contributing papers including “International Conferences of Ethiopian Studies I-VI, 1959-1980: author and subject bibliography” published in S. Rubenson (ed.) Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference of Ethiopian Studies, University of Lund, (1982), “The legacy of the Magdala collection” in the Proceedings of the 8th International Conference held in Addis Ababa published in 1988, “Observations on a letter from Emperor Yohannes IV to the Protestant Missionary Martin Flad” presented at the 9 th International Conference of Ethiopia Studies held in Addis Ababa in 1991, and “in quest of Ankobar Church libraries” both the published in the Proceedings of the 12th International Conference held in Michigan in 1994.

A growing interest in Ethiopian art, led her to conceive the idea of convening international conferences on its history, and she contributed to four conferences: the second at which she presented a paper entitled “The Bull and the Bicycle: a new genre of popular memorial art in the Ethiopian Rift Valley,” published in Paul Henze ed. Aspects of Ethiopian art from ancient Axum to the 20th Century; the third conference where she presented “Art in the Service of Diplomacy: A drawing on a letter of King Menilek to Queen Victoria”; the sixth at which she presented an article with the photographer Denis Gerard entitled “The Life and Art of Desso Hordofa, a Contemporary Self-taught Sculptor”; and the seventh where she presented “Art in the Service of Diplomacy in Shäwa in the early eighteen forties: A Treaty and a Letter from King Sahla Sellasé to Queen Victoria” published in Ethiopian Art – A Unique Cultural Heritage and Modern Challenge, edited by Walter Raunig and Prince Asfa-Wossen Asserate, Lublin, 2007. She also contributed a chapter to a book on the renowned artist Gebre Kristos entitled “Gebre Kristos Desta through the eyes of friends and relatives”, in Elizabeth Wolde Giorgis, et al., eds., Gebre Kristos Desta: the Painter-Poet, Addis Ababa (2006). She also wrote a tribute to the eminent historian Tekle Tsadik Mekouria (1913-2000)” published in Aethiopica, vol 4 (2001). Rita also compiled successive bibliographies of the works of her late husband Richard, the most recent entitled “Bibliography of publications, written, edited or annotated by Richard Pankhurst” published in 2017 in the International Journal of Ethiopian Studies vol.11 no.1.

Her publications on Ethiopian women include: Senedu Gabru: A role model for Ethiopian women?” in Tsehai Berhane-Selassie (ed.) Gender Issues in Ethiopia, Addis Ababa: Institute of Ethiopian Studies, (1991). “Women of power in Ethiopian history and legend” Salamta, vol.13 no.1 (1996) “Forgotten women in Ethiopian history” CERTWID [ Centre for Research, Training and Information on Women in Development] Informs, vol. 6, no.2 (2001) and “Taytu’s Foremothers: Queen Eleni, Queen Säblä Wängél and Bati Del Wämbära.” presented at the 16th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies, Trondheim, 2007. About her mother-in-law she wrote “Sylvia Pankhurst: Portrait of a Radical” in Women’s Studies International Forum, vol.11, no.3, (1988).

Over the years Rita wrote a number of academic and popular articles on the history and development of libraries in Ethiopia including on the National Library published in Ethiopia Observer vol .1. no. 2 (1957), and“ Provision of libraries in Post-Revolutionary Ethiopia” in Focus on International and Comparative Librarianship vo.19 no. 2 (1988) and on the women’s library in London: “Collection development and women’s heritage: the case of the Fawcett Library”. Women’s Studies International Forum, vol. 10 no.3 (1987).

She also wrote on cultural topics such as Ethiopian spices and on the coffee ceremony which she presented at the 13th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies in Japan and was also published in Selamta vol. 15, no 3 in 1998, and “Names in Amharic: A Categorisation”, in Baye Yimam et al., Ethiopian Studies as the End of the Second Millennium, Fourteenth International Conference of Ethiopian Studies, Addis Ababa, 2000, vol 1, 2002.

Rita spent her final years with Richard working on a joint autobiography entitled ‘Ethiopian Reminiscences‘ based on the weekly letters she wrote home to her father which was published by Tsehai publishers in 2013.

Ethiopian Reminiscences – Rita and Richard Pankhurst from TSEHAI Films on Vimeo.

Her life and her work along with her husband Richard were celebrated by the Institute of Ethiopian Studies and Society of Friends of Institute of Ethiopian Studies (SOFIES) in 2011 with a Festschrift dedicated to her and her husband Richard Pankhurst in the Journal of Ethiopian Studies (2007).

Rita died on 30 May 2019 at the age of 91. At the time of her death, she was working on Volume 2 of ‘Ethiopian Reminiscences’.

May her soul rest in peace.

Ethiopia: In Memory of Historian Richard Pankhurst

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Meet Tsion Yared: High School Runner of the Year in Florida

High School student-athlete Tsion Yared has been named the 2018-19 Gatorade Florida Girls’ Cross Country Runner of the Year and is a finalist for the Gatorade National Player of the Year. (Photo: Pine Crest School)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: February 9th, 2019

Meet Ethiopian American Tsion Yared: High School Runner of the Year in Florida

New York (TADIAS) — Ethiopian American student athlete Tsion Yared has won the most prestigious award in high school sports. Tsion, a student at Pine Crest School in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, has been named the 2018-19 Gatorade Florida Girls’ Cross Country Runner of the Year and is a finalist for the Gatorade National Player of the Year.

“The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the racecourse, distinguishes Yared as Florida’s best high school girls cross country runner,” the press release said. “Now a finalist for the prestigious Gatorade National Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year award, Yared joins an elite alumni association of past state award winners in 12 sports.”

“Tsion had a remarkable track season last spring, and that propelled her into her best summer of training and her best cross country season ever,” said Paul Baur, Pine Crest Cross Country and Track & Field Program Head. “Her individual accomplishments are staggering, but how she brought the team together this season — despite our injuries — and to a finish on the podium for the seventh year in a row, will be something her teammates cherish forever.”

According to Pine Crest School, ‏Tsion is “one of only 15 girls to have won three or more Cross Country State Championships in Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) history.” The press release added: “Earlier this year, Tsion was named Broward County Runner of the Year by South Florida The Sun Sentinel, and named the 2018 Class 2A Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year by the Florida Dairy Farmers Association.”

The award website also notes that Tsion “has maintained a weighted 4.85 GPA in the classroom. She will begin her senior year of high school this fall.”

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2019 Ethiopian Diaspora Fellows

Top from left: Meki Shewangizaw, Edom Wessenyeleh, Feven Abiy, Samrawit Tamyalew, Rebekah Tsadik. (Courtesy photos)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: December 11th, 2018

New York (TADIAS) — Each year Tadias Magazine gets to introduce the latest class of the Ethiopian Diaspora Fellows, a talented group of young professionals from the U.S. who are selected to spend up to six months in Ethiopia to intern at various organizations. The internships also provide Fellows with an opportunity to reconnect and build a bridge with their ancestral home and culture through storytelling. EDF has announced the 2019 Fellows who will be working at St. Paul’s Hospital Millennium Medical College, GreenPath, International Institute for Primary Health Care- Ethiopia, and the Agricultural Transformation Agency.

“Every year we are more and more impressed and proud of the incredible achievements of all the applicants we get to read about during the selection process,” EDF stated.

The program is “designed to equip young diaspora professionals with leadership, service, and creative storytelling skills before sending fellows to Ethiopia for a transformative 6-month fellowship working with partner organizations in Ethiopia” notes the announcement. “To date, EDF has sent 14 Ethiopian Americans to Ethiopia and each have proved to make a difference on the ground, in our partner organizations, and back in our diaspora communities.” This year the fellows also have individual crowdfunding pages where you may read more about their story and donating for support.

Congratulations to the Ethiopian Diaspora Fellows of 2019!

Samrawit Tamyalew

Samrawit Tamyalew is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point – she holds a degree in Mathematical Sciences and commissioned as a Field Artillery Officer. She served in the U.S. Army for five years and held various operational management roles, was at the forefront of the integration of women into combat arms, and served overseas in a combat deployment to Iraq. In Iraq, she was the Organizational Liaison Officer where she facilitated communications between senior stakeholders which allowed them to control operations and coordinate assets onto over 700 high-risk objectives. She has been working for the past year with the Hurricane Maria relief efforts, standardizing and overseeing the logistics coordination for all equipment that enters and leaves the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Her long-term career goal is to work in social impact and create a platform that will generate opportunities for the greater Ethiopian community in a for-profit space. Samrawit is enthusiastic to be an EDF Fellow and learn how she can serve her community.

Samrawit’s Crowdfunding

Meki Shewangizaw

Meki was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and moved to the U.S. with her family at the age of 4. A recent graduate from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she is currently involved in refugee resettlement in the United States. As a strong believer in the power of education, Meki and a group of close friends created Tesfa. Tesfa is a charity that helps primary age students in Ethiopia stay in school by alleviating education-related financial burdens. Tesfa’s mission is to become the bridge between education and underserved children across Ethiopia. Meki will be pursuing a Master’s in Public Health in the Fall of 2019. As an EDF fellow, Meki is looking forward to working in the public health field in Ethiopia, as well as expanding Tesfa’s network in Ethiopia.


Edom Wessenyeleh

Edom is a graduate from Dartmouth College, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and Geography with a focus on Global Health. Edom’s academic and work experience has focused on issues related to health equity and development. After graduating, she moved to the UK to pursue an MSc in Control of Infectious Diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, where her coursework exposed her to a wide range of quantitative and qualitative epidemiological methods to analyze, design, and evaluate public health data and programs. Edom lived in India, where she worked on a project addressing treatment delivery models for tuberculosis. She has also lived in Zimbabwe, where she managed a project that investigated geographic access to HIV care. As an EDF fellow, Edom hopes strengthen health systems through research at the intersection of implementation and policy and foster relationships with local communities.

Edom’s Crowdfunding

Rebekah Tsadik

Rebekah Tsadik has a Bachelor of Science from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and a Master’s degree from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy. In 2018, she engaged in a hands-on study of the global food system through visits to farmers and producers in Sicily, Spain, and Thailand. Prior to graduate school, Becky and her sister operated a business called Bereket, or “gift” in Amharic. They served modern Ethiopian cuisine throughout Los Angeles and donated a portion of proceeds to nonprofits in or servicing Ethiopia. This year Rebekah spoke on a panel about reducing food waste in San Francisco; managed volunteers for MAD, a symposium in Copenhagen about restaurant industry reform; and earned a scholarship to Eco Practicum, an independent study program on food, waterways, and inequality in upstate New York. As an EDF fellow, Becky will continue to advocate for underserved communities and small-scale farmers. She will bend the narrative about agricultural investment in Ethiopia to favor a system that not only sustains, but also thrives.

Becky’s Crowdfunding

Feven Abiy

Feven is a recent graduate from Duke University where she earned a dual degree in Public Policy and Global Health. She is interested in working on issues surrounding international development, health, and policy. Through the U.S. Foreign Service Internship Program, she worked as an intern at the Department of State within the African Bureau. Upon graduation, Feven traveled to New Delhi, India to join the Political Section of Embassy New Delhi where she helped research and write the 2018 Human Rights Report for India. At Duke, Feven was on the executive board of DESTA, Duke’s Ethiopian and Eritrean Student Transnational Association, which fosters appreciation for Ethiopian/Eritrean culture. Feven is excited to return to Addis Ababa as an EDF Fellow and hopes to learn a great deal about initiatives related to Ethiopia’s rural development.

Feven’s Crowdfunding

You can learn more about the program at

Meet The 2017 Ethiopian Diaspora Fellows
EDF Announces 2016 Ethiopian Diaspora Fellows
EDF’s 2015 Ethiopian Diaspora Fellows
Highlighting Ethiopian Diaspora Fellowship

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Q&A: How Timnit Gebru on AI

Timnit Gebru. (Forbes)


Q&A: How Timnit Gebru Brought Diversity to Artificial Intelligence

Meet Timnit Gebru. Born and raised in Ethiopia, Gebru immigrated to the US at 16 to earn her PhD from Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and just finished her year as a post-doctoral researcher at Microsoft Research in New York. While she was still a PhD student, she co-founded Black in AI, an organization fostering collaboration and discussing initiatives to increase the representation of Black people in the field.

Was there a moment where you questioned your path?

All the time. I mean, when I first did analog circuit design, I was very much into hardware and that was my main focus while at Apple. Then, I went back to school to get my master’s in hardware. After I took many classes in device physics and did research with device physics for over a year I ultimately decided that device physics wasn’t for me. At first, I was a bit hesitant to change paths, but I was trying to see what I was interested in.

Do you follow your passion with everything?

Sort of. When I was doing research, I didn’t know what I wanted to focus on. I changed from device physics to a completely different thing, optics. It was still applied physics, but I didn’t know as much about optics. Learning something new like optics or image processing sparked a new interest in how my research could change the world for the better — for instance, how could I think of new ways of doing low-cost image processing from a phone for developing countries, because I am also from a developing country. I’m always thinking about that in whatever I do. I found myself really interested in computer vision. At the end of the one year in research, I decided, you know what? This is not for me. I’m just not going to do a PhD. So, I left, and worked on a startup instead. Eventually, I left that too, pursued Hacker School just for fun, and eventually asked myself, what am I doing with my life?

I had to do a lot of soul searching. I really enjoyed computer vision, but on the other hand, I didn’t want to spend my time doing something I wouldn’t still be passionate about. I was so confused. Am I a software person or am I a hardware person? Should I go back to Apple? Should I interview for jobs? What should I do?

If you work so hard on something and you put so much investment in your education, to not feel like you have a path can feel very defeating.

I think it’s important for people to understand that you have difficult times. Even successful people. In Ethiopian culture, not 100% of your identity is based on your achievement or work. I think it’s dangerous when that’s the case, and I think at that point too much of my identity was tied to what sort of career I was doing.

Read more »

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Tribute to Legacy of Amsale Aberra

A special tribute to the legacy of Amsale Aberra, spring 2019 Bridal Runway Show, was held at The Gramercy Park Hotel in New York City on Friday, April 14th, 2018. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

April 14th, 2018

Special Tribute to Legacy of Amsale Aberra, Spring 2019 Runway Show

New York (TADIAS) — The Amsale Spring 2019 Runway Show was held on Friday, April 13 at The Gramercy Park Hotel in New York City as a special tribute to the legacy of Amsale Aberra.

The acclaimed Ethiopian-American fashion designer passed away on April 1st surrounded by close friends and family at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital where she was being treated for uterine cancer.

The deeply moving tribute on Friday, which was held on the terrace of Gramercy Park Hotel, featured a new launch of the Nouvelle Amsale collection and closed with a beautiful Ethiopian model wearing Amsale’s first bridal fashion design eliciting a standing ovation from the crowd.

Amsale, who was born in Addis Ababa in 1954, moved to the U.S. in the 1970s, was the Founder and Creative Director of the fashion design house, AMSALE, one of the industry’s leading brands in the United States.

“For over 30 years, Amsale has been an icon for designs that are powerful in their simplicity. Drama, she believed, emerges when a single, striking detail is offset by a clean silhouette,” the company said in a statement.

Photos: Special Tribute to the Legacy of Amsale Aberra, Spring 2019 Bridal Runway Show

Regarding the Nouvelle Amsale Spring 2019 Collection the company added: “Designed for the modern and effortless bride who understands fashion but stays true to her personal style, the Spring 2019 NOUVELLE AMSALE collection reflects Amsale’s sense of timeless simplicity and understated glamour. Mikado and crepe fabrics highlight Amsale’s signature tailoring and clean lines. With her remarkable style comes a softer attitude shown in delicate layers of tulle and embroidered lace. Balancing chic and statement-making, the Spring 2019 collection also features dramatic taffeta ball gowns with low backs and ample volume.”

Amsale Spring 2019 Collection

“Inspired by cathedral elegance, this collection is expressed through dresses that are grand yet modern, designed for each individual bride in mind. Femininity is translated in form-fitting silhouettes, open backs and gently scooped necklines. Texture is shown with non-traditional lace and layered fabrication. AMSALE BLUE LABEL makes a statement with upscale ball gowns, pearl and crystal beading and draped bows. Unmistakably AMSALE, the Spring 2019 collection has stunning details, accentuating individuality with effortless elegance.”

A look back at the Tadias interview with Amsale Aberra

We featured a profile of Amsale Aberra on the first print version of Tadias Magazine in 2003. Sharing how she built her fashion house, Amsale reminisced about her days growing up as a teenager in Ethiopia and her love of making clothes. “Trying to make something by hand is always something that I liked…At the time I didn’t know there was such a profession as designer” she told Tadias. Amsale had initially studied commercial art and pursued a degree in political science after she arrived in the United States in the early 70s before she attended the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York.

“When I attended FIT that’s when I truly felt like this is what I wanted to do. That’s how I ended up being a designer,” Amsale told Tadias in an interview on July 2011 shortly after her launch of the Amsale Girls Reality TV show.

In 1996 Amsale opened her flagship salon on Madison Avenue in New York and has since launched several lines including the elaborate Kenneth Pool Label (2003) and Nouvelle Amsale (2015).

Speaking about her work as Creative Director Amsale told Tadias that when she “started with AMSALE, which is about simplicity, it just needed to be very clean, and simple and modern. But all brides are not like that. Some brides may want something a little more elaborate.” So she designed and launched the Kenneth Pool collection that she described as having “more shimmer, embroidery, it’s very bold, very dramatic but yet it’s still very sophisticated.”

Watch: Tadias Magazine’s Interview With Bridal-Fashion Designer Amsale Aberra

Numerous celebrities have dressed in AMSALE gowns for the red carpet including Halle Berry, Julia Roberts, Angela Bassett, and Salma Hayek. Her bridal and evening wear has been worn by actors in films such as Something Borrowed, When in Rome, and Runaway Bride as well as on TV including in Grey’s Anatomy, Oprah Winfrey Show and The View.

Amsale was a member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), a Trustee and alum of the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), and served on the international advisory board of the Ethiopian Children’s Fund. Amsale is “survived by her husband and partner, Clarence O’Neill Brown, known as “Neil”, her daughter Rachel Amsale Brown, her father Aberra Moltot and her half-sister Aster Yilma. Amsale was 64 years old.”

In a statement Neill Brown said: “Amsale was not only an inspiration to the company, but someone who inspired and impacted everyone around her with her strength, kindness, and humility. Working side by side we spent 360 degrees of our life together, and I know only too well both her creative genius and her infinite goodness. Words cannot express the personal loss that we feel, but we are comforted by the avalanche of support we’ve received and the commitment of our team to carry on Amsale’s legacy.”

Watch: Tadias TV Exclusive – Inside Amsale Aberra’s Luxury Manhattan Boutique

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Scientist Sossina Haile Creates Another Groundbreaking Fuel Cell

Ethiopian American Scientist Sossina Haile developed the first solid acid fuel cells. Her team's new discovery presents a significant step toward lower fuel cell costs and more sustainable energy, according to a study published last month in the journal Nature Energy. (Photo: (Northwestern University)

Northwestern University

New Fuel Cell has Exceptional Power Density and Stability

A team of researchers led by Northwestern Engineering professor and fuel cell pioneer Sossina Haile has created a new fuel cell offering both exceptional power densities and long-term stability at optimal temperatures, a discovery that heightens the viability of incorporating fuel cells into a sustainable energy future.

“For years, industry has told us that the holy grail is getting fuel cells to work at 500-degrees Celsius and with high power density, which means a longer life and less expensive components,” said Haile, Walter P. Murphy Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and professor of applied physics at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering. “With this research, we can now envision a path to making cost-effective fuel cells and transforming the energy landscape.”

The study, titled “Exceptional power density and stability at intermediate temperatures in protonic ceramic fuel cells,” was published February 12 in the journal Nature Energy. Sihyuk Choi, a postdoctoral fellow in Haile’s laboratory, served as the paper’s first author.

Though recent research had demonstrated the potential of some protonic ceramic fuel cells to offer environmentally sustainable and cost-effective electric power generation, those cells’ high electrolyte conductivities failed to produce anticipated power outputs.

“While it was known that some electrolytes have high conductivity at 500-degrees Celsius, somehow the electrodes were not working well in the complete fuel cell,” Haile said.

“It’s exciting to think about where we are now and where we can go.”

Read more »

Spotlight: Scientist Sossina Haile Honored With GE Grand Central Video Installation
Outstanding Women in Science: Tadias Interview with Professor Sossina Haile

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Watch: CNN African Voices Spotlights Former Ethiopian Model Anna Getaneh

Anna Getaneh is an acclaimed former international model, a humanitarian and social entrepreneur. She is also the founder and Creative Director of African Mosaique, a clothing design, manufacturing and retail company that collaborates with established and emerging African designers. (Photos: Pinterest)


Anna Getaneh: A model for humanity

Former Ethiopian model Anna Getaneh walked runways for Chanel. She now paves a path for poor children in her country.Source: CNN

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Time Profiles Ethiopian Scientist Segenet Kelemu

Dr. Segenet Kelemu is the Director General of the International Center of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) Nairobi, Kenya. The Ethiopian native is the fourth Chief Executive Officer, and the first woman to lead icipe. (Image.


This Ethiopian Scientist Is Saving Lives by Studying Insects

Segenet Kelemu has always been a discoverer. As a scientist, she would achieve breakthroughs–“Crack the constraints,” as she puts it–and feel euphoric. But she came to a realization: “So you do research, you publish the paper–and then what?”

Having constructed an international network of biotechnology laboratories in Africa and now serving as director general of the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology–a research facility in Nairobi that solves problems posed by insects to public health–Kelemu ensures that research reaches people.

Thanks to improved seed and farming technology, the ICIPE has been able to control grain pests and improve soil, now reaching at least 20,000 Ethiopian farmers.

Read more at »

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Spotlight: Four Ethiopians on 2018 Forbes 30 Under 30 List

From top left: Tsion Gurmu, Legal Fellow at African Services Committee, Saron Tesfalul, Vice President, Bain Capital; Lilly Workneh, Senior editor, Black Voices, HuffPost; and Awol Erizku, Artist. (Photos: Forbes)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

November 17th, 2017

New York (TADIAS) — Forbes Magazine has released its influential annual list of 600 young trailblazers in 20 different industries. The 2018 list features four Ethiopian American professionals in their twenties working in finance, media, art & style as well as law & policy.

The Ethiopian Americans highlighted in Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list include Tsion Gurmu, Legal Fellow at African Services Committee in New York City; Saron Tesfalul, Vice President at Bain Capital in Boston; Lilly Workneh, Senior editor, Black Voices, HuffPost in New York; and Awol Erizku, Artist, also from NYC.

Below are their bios:

Tsion Gurmu
Legal Fellow, African Services Committee

Inspired by her family’s experience as asylum seekers from Ethiopia, Tsion Gurmu launched an initiative at the African Services Committee to provide pro bono legal help and social support for black LGBT refugees fleeing anti-homosexuality legislation in their home countries. The NYU law grad especially focuses on refugees affected by HIV/AIDS.

Saron Tesfalul
Vice President, Bain Capital

Specializes in consumer retail area, working on big deals for Bain Capital’s $9.4 billion North America private equity fund. Had previously been a consultant with Bain & Co.

Lilly Workneh
Senior editor, Black Voices, HuffPost

An immigrant from Ethiopia, Workneh is the Senior Editor for Huffington Post’s Black Voices, an initiative that seeks to elevate marginalized voices on a mainstream media platform. She manages both its editorial and social content, tripling reach in her tenure. One of the best parts of running a leading website dedicated to black culture? Interviewing Oprah.

Awol Erizku

Born in Ethiopia and raised in the South Bronx, Erizku earned an MFA at Yale. Best-known for shooting the artful Instagram photo of Beyoncé announcing she was pregnant with twins in early 2017, he had already made a mark on the art world map in a series of exhibitions challenging the dominant white aesthetic. He produced one of his best-known pieces while he was an undergrad at Cooper-Union: “Girl With a Bamboo Earring,” a photo of his sister that recalls the classic portrait by Vermeer. Based in Los Angeles, he’s had solo shows in New York, London, Brussels, L.A. and Miami and his films and photos have screened at MoMA in New York.

Read the full list at »

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She Met Her Prince (for Real!) at a D.C. Nightclub

Ariana Austin and Joel Makonnen were married on Sept. 9 in a lavish ceremony in Temple Hills, Md. Mr. Makonnen is the great-grandson of Haile Selassie, the last emperor of Ethiopia. (Photo: The New York Times)

The New York Times

Few love stories resemble a fairy tale as much as the courtship and marriage of Ariana Austin and Joel Makonnen. Of course, it helped that the groom is an actual prince and the bride has a prominent lineage of her own.

Mr. Makonnen, known as Prince Yoel, is the 35-year-old great-grandson of Haile Selassie, the last emperor of Ethiopia. And Ms. Austin, 33, is of African-American and Guyanese descent; her maternal grandfather was a lord mayor of Georgetown, the capital of Guyana.

As the couple noted on their wedding website, their union happened when “Old World aristocracy met New World charm.” The old and new combined on Sept. 9, in a marathon day of events that lasted from 11 a.m. until late in the evening, and took place within two states.

Guests watched as at least 13 priests and clergymen helped officiate the Ethiopian Orthodox ceremony. (Photo: The New York Times)

The festivities began with a ceremony at the Debre Genet Medhane Alem Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church in Temple Hills, Md. In an incense-filled sanctuary, guests in stockinged feet watched as at least 13 priests and clergymen helped officiate the Ethiopian Orthodox ceremony between Mr. Makonnen and Ms. Austin, who just days before had converted to the religion. Hours after the ceremony, the pair celebrated with a formal reception at Foxchase Manor in Manassas, Va., with 307 guests, amid gold sequins, platters of Ethiopian food and preboxed slices of Guyanese black cake for people to take home.

Their marriage had been more than a decade in the making. In the nearly 12 years since they first met on a dance floor at the Washington nightclub Pearl, in December 2005, Mr. Makonnen and Ms. Austin have pursued degrees, jobs and, at times, each other. Eventually, planning a wedding just became the next item on this ambitious couple’s to-do list.

Read more »

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Harvard Kennedy School Names Yohannes Abraham 2017 Fellow

Yohannes Abraham served as Deputy Assistant to the President for the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs under President Obama and as Senior Advisor to the National Economic Council. (Courtesy Photo).

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

August 15th, 2017

New York (TADIAS) — Yohannes Abraham will be a 2017 Fellow at the Institute of Politics (IOP) at Harvard Kennedy School. The prestigious institution announced that Yohannes “will guide students through discussions on how White House staff develop and advocate for policy priorities, advance nominations, and manage crises.”

“I can’t think of a more important time to invest in the next generation of public servants,” Yohannes shared in a statement. “It’s an honor to have the opportunity to join this community as a Fall Fellow.”

“Yohannes Abraham has not only had a front row seat, but was an active participant in the complex process of shaping national and international policy,” said Cong. Bill Delahunt, Acting Director of the Institute of Politics. “His willingness to share his White House experience with students will provide them a rare first-hand perspective on the challenges of governing.”

Yohannes served as Deputy Assistant to the President for the Office of Public Engagement & Intergovernmental Affairs and Senior Advisor to the National Economic Council during the Obama administration. He is currently Senior Advisor to the Obama Foundation.

The press release states Yohannes’ White House experience put him “in the middle of many of the highest profile confirmation, legislative, and communications battles of President Obama’s second term.”

The announcement notes that “Abraham first began working for then-Senator Obama during his Iowa Caucus campaign in 2007. He went on to serve as Senator Obama’s Virginia Field Director in the 2008 general election, helping turn Virginia blue for the first time in 44 years. During President Obama’s first term, Abraham served in the White House Office of Legislative Affairs during the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and other key pieces of the President’s agenda.”

The Institute of Politics at Harvard University was established in 1966 in honor John F. Kennedy, America’s youngest president to be elected. According to its website: “Since its founding half a century ago, the Institute has used its programming and activities to ignite passion, appreciation and respect for politics and public service.”

Yohannes added: ““If there is a subset of students that leave my study group more likely to pursue a career in public service, I will consider my time as a Fellow a success.”

Yohannes Abraham Named Senior Adviser to the Obama Foundation
Tadias Interview with Yohannes Abraham

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Mahlet Mesfin New Deputy Director at Center for Science Diplomacy

Mahlet Mesfin, the new Deputy Director at Center for Science Diplomacy, previously worked at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). (Photo via AAAS)


New Deputy Director at Center for Science Diplomacy brings experience from academia, White House

About halfway through her PhD program in bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania, Mahlet Mesfin started thinking about connections outside the micro world of proteins to the macro world of science-society issues. Several years later – and with stints as a AAAS Science and Technology (S&T) Policy Fellow at the Department of Defense and working at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) – Mesfin has come full circle from the academic and governmental spheres, joining the AAAS Center for Science Diplomacy as its Deputy Director in May.

For Mesfin, the intersections of science, policy, and society stretch back to her time as a graduate student at Penn studying traumatic brain injury. For example, her PhD adviser had advised in safety standards for football helmet design, demonstrating the role that science can play in addressing societal problems – and, as importantly, proposing solutions.

“While doing my PhD, I started thinking about how S&T can help answer bigger questions, such as how it can be used in capacity building in low and middle income countries,” she said. “I also got more involved in my university community and advocating for the needs of underrepresented student groups, such as African-American students and women in science and engineering, which gave me my first experiences in policy.”

Her interest in policy led her to spending six months at the U.S. National Academies for Science (NAS) where she worked on projects related to advancing women in STEM in academia and girls in engineering. Her policy interests have been focused on the intersection of S&T and global issues. Mesfin was able to formally enter the science and diplomacy fields at the United States government level, beginning at the Department of Defense, which at the time was seeking to increase its coordination of international S&T efforts among each of its services. In this role, she interfaced with OSTP, which plays a key role in coordinating international S&T activities across the U.S. government. During Mesfin’s second year as a AAAS S&T Policy Fellow, she came on board at OSTP as a detail, and then stayed on to eventually become the Assistant Director for International Science and Technology.

During her time at OSTP she gained greater appreciation for how science, technology, and innovation (STI) make an impact in the world. “Other countries look to the U.S. STI ecosystem to try and model it to meet their national goals. In the current U.S. political environment, with potential cuts to S&T funding and disinterest in soft power, it is unclear how U.S. government leadership on these topics will change over time.”


However, Mesfin is confident that the role of STI and its role in diplomacy doesn’t have to be led from a governmental level.

“AAAS is in an excellent position to advance the conversation,” she said. “It is a well-respected organization with a convening power able to bring a number of governmental and non-governmental voices together.”

Mesfin sees a part of her role at the Center for Science Diplomacy as helping to continue to define science diplomacy in the context of current events. “It is paramount that scientists have a seat at the table in relevant matters of foreign policy. I am excited to be a part of a team that is focused on these types of conversations.”

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The 2017 Ethiopian Diaspora Fellows

From top left: Maceda Alemu, Saba Alemnew, Eden Mekonen and Meron Begashaw. (Courtesy Photos)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

July 24th, 2017

New York (TADIAS) — The Ethiopian Diaspora Fellowship (EDF) has announced its 2017 class of Fellows. Every year Ethiopian American youth are selected to participate in this leadership and creative storytelling program, and EDF, which runs the program, said that its third cohort of fellows will spend half a year in Ethiopia working at St. Paul Millennium Medical College, East Africa Gate, Selamta Family Project and International Leadership Academy of Ethiopia.

“EDF is an organization that connects young Ethiopian diaspora professionals with organizations in Ethiopia for 6-month impact focused fellowship opportunities,” the press release stated. “Fellows are trained on the program pillars of leadership, service, and storytelling throughout the fellowship.” EDF added: “Ethiopian Diaspora Fellowship aims to identify and empower the next generation of young Ethiopian professionals.”

Congratulations to the Ethiopian Diaspora Fellows of 2017:


Saba has provided revenue cycle review services for some of the largest health systems in the United States at Triage Consulting Group. Prior to that, Saba worked at the UC Davis Cross Cultural Center creating programs that highlighted key issues within the African Diaspora Community on-campus. Her programs led to institutional change including a mentorship program aimed at the retention of the African Diaspora Community on-campus. In addition, she is committed to public service as she has helped numerous refugees resettle in Northern California while working at Opening Doors Inc. Saba holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations and a minor in Communications from the University of California, Davis. She is excited to become an Ethiopian Diaspora Fellow and leverage her experiences to address economic development challenges in Ethiopia at East Africa Gate.



Meron held a number of health-related positions, including program assistant at The California Wellness Foundation working in women’s health and diversity in the health professions and an intern at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. She is deeply engaged in her Ethiopian community and serves in the young adult ministry at her local Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo church. She is also an integral part of Habesha LA, a social media and events company highlighting Ethiopian and Eritrean creatives. She recently completed her Master of Public Health at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. She is excited to learn from and share with a country that has given her so much as the Human Resource Strategies Fellow at St. Paul Hospital Millennium Medical College.



Eden pursued a year of service with Public Allies Los Angeles where she served as the community engagement coordinator with the youth photography nonprofit, Las Fotos Project. Prior to this, Eden graduated from Occidental College where she majored in Critical Theory and Social Justice and minored in Interdisciplinary Writing. While at Occidental, Eden became passionate about equitable, multicultural education and diverse representations of underrepresented groups, through community-based learning classes where she applied identity-based theoretical frameworks to community social issues. Eden studied abroad in Durban, South Africa where she conducted oral histories with Ethiopian (im)migrant women and conducted community-based research on the political and gendered significance of Little Ethiopia to the diasporic community. Eden is excited to join the 2017 EDF cohort and contribute to Selamta Family Project’s knowledge and long-term capacity.



Maceda joined John Snow, Inc. as Program Officer with the firm’s International Division. As a Program Officer, she provided financial, administrative, and operations support to multi-million dollar public health projects in Ethiopia, Madagascar, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Through this role, Maceda refined her skills in program management, strategic partnership development, financial analysis, and donor communication. Prior to this she was Program Coordinator with the Center for Health Equity at the Geisel School of Medicine and an intern in the Resource Mobilization Division at UN Women. She graduated from Dartmouth College majoring in Geography with a focus on International Development, minored in International Relations and completed a certificate in Global Health Studies. She is excited to serve as an Ethiopian Diaspora Fellow and looks forward to collaborating with others in building the human capacity of Ethiopians and promoting positive social development throughout the country at St. Paul Hospital Millennium Medical College.


You can learn more about the program at

EDF Announces 2016 Ethiopian Diaspora Fellows
EDF’s 2015 Ethiopian Diaspora Fellows
Highlighting Ethiopian Diaspora Fellowship

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Spotlight: R&B Singer Mélat Kassa

Ethiopian-American singer Mélat performs at Antone’s in Austin, Texas, December 2016. (Photo: AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Friday, January 6th, 2017

Mélat Kassa’s Texas-Ethiopia Connection

New York (TADIAS) — In every respect up-and-coming R&B singer Mélat Kassa is a typical American kid born and bred in Austin, Texas. But her new album MéVen , which includes songs such as Negn –Amharic for “I am” — also reveals her proud international heritage as a daughter of immigrant parents from Ethiopia who fled to the U.S. during the Derg era in the 1980s.

Mélat says growing up in Texas her family’s soundtrack included “Kool and the Bee Gees in the mix with Ethiopian pop stars Tilahun Gessese and Teddy Afro when the family cranked up the stereo each week to to help them knock out Saturday chores.”

“My dad’s mother used to always call me Addis Alem which means ‘new world,’” shares Mélat in a recent interview with The Austin American-Statesman. “She was in Ethiopia when I was born,” Mélat adds. “She always called me that. And then my mother’s mother always called me Mewded which means ‘to love.”

The newspaper, which has named Mélat artist of the month for January 2017, notes that “over the past few years, the singer with the haunting doe eyes, endless cascade of white-blonde curls and inexplicably large voice contained in a lithe, 5-foot-4-inch frame, has been slowly bubbling on the alternative R&B underground in Texas and beyond. Her quietly philosophical Twitter and stylish Instagram feed each have thousands of followers. Her 2015 EP, “It Happens So Fast,” earned her national looks from online urban music sources like and and, in 2016, Essence Magazine featured her in their New & Next section.”

“Starting off 2017 as Artist of the Month for the paper I used to bug my dad to buy every single Sunday growing up is incredibly surreal,” Mélat said in Facebook post Thursday regarding the feature by her hometown publication.

Mélat recorded a song in the Austin360 studio for The American-Statesman artist of the month series. (Photo: Kelly West/AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Mélat called her latest album “MéVen,” a personalization of the word maven, “someone who understands, someone who kind of teaches other people, leads the way,” according to The American-Statesman. “Negn is the distillation of the message, but the understanding of her elders’ guiding vision, spread into a broader sense of self that came into focus as she worked on the album, resolving a few personal conflicts along the way.”

Read more: Austin’s Mélat infuses her R&B style with a larger worldview »

The Ethiopian R&B Sound Of Mélat

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Azmara Asefa’s Fashion Collection

Azmara Asefa collection (photo:

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Sunday, October 16th, 2016

Azmara Asefa’s Fashion Collection Supports Women’s Refugee Commission

New York (TADIAS) – Earlier this year we featured a profile and interview with Azmara Asefa, an Ethiopian American architect turned fashion designer, whose impressive technology-inspired clothing and accessories (Spring/Summer 2016 collection) were featured last year at Phoenix Fashion Week. Dubbed as one of 13 best emerging designers in the United States Azmara has launched a kickstarter campaign for her next set of designs which she calls “the apocalypse ready collection” blending “form and function in a collection that empowers women to take on whatever the day throws at them.”

Azmara, who was born in Ohio to immigrant parents from Ethiopia, and worked as an architect in London, Ohio, Atlanta, and Los Angeles before embarking in her new venture as a fashion designer says, “We all know that feeling. Those times in your life when it seems like the odds are stacked against you. For women who are bravely taking on apocalyptic obstacles big or small, whether you’re pitching in a difficult client meeting, or dealing with a boss who is being a total zombie all while fighting the sub zero chill of office AC, or losing a job or a loved one and making it on your own, the Apocalypse Ready collection of clothing and accessories melds modern form and function so you feel empowered strong and confident enough to take on the day.”

Azmara Asefa showcased her futuristic designs at Phoenix Fashion Week in 2015. (Photo: AZ Tech Beat)

The kickstarter campaign notes that “as the daughter of an Ethiopian refugee, Azmara is inspired by world cultures, resilient people, and the generosity of the human spirit, which is why 10% of the brand’s future sales will go to the Women’s Refugee Commission.”

View the campaign video below and support her upcoming collection:

You can learn more about Azmara Asefa’s design work at and about the campaign at

When Technology-Inspired Fashion Meets Architecture: Azmara Asefa’s Runway Collection

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Meet Markos Lemma, CEO of Iceaddis

Markos Lemma, Co-founder of iceaddis. (Photo by Abenezer Zenebe)

Tadias Magazine

By Feven Jembere

Published: Thursday, September 29th, 2016

Markos Lemma, CEO of Iceaddis, Runs Ethiopia’s First Startup Incubator

Ethiopia (TADIAS) — A graduate of Australia’s RMIT University where he studied computer science, Markos Lemma, who is the co-founder of iceaddis — Ethiopia’s First Startup Incubator — is one of the leading tech entrepreneurs in Addis Ababa participating in the recent growth of smartphone and internet users as well as technology oriented startups in Ethiopia.

Markos describes himself as “a cofounder, slash-consultant, slash blogger, slash speaker,” attesting to being part of what the renown actor Idris Elba calls the “slash culture.”

Since its inception in 2013, iceaddis has incubated 19 local startups, including Karta, Mekina, 50Lomi and Besew, and has gained high traction in Ethiopia housing 15 entrepreneurs working on startups and winning international competitions in Kenya, Rwanda, Germany, Finland and Switzerland.

Markos shares that he launched his venture so that he can assist young people like himself with dreams of building a tech-related business in Ethiopia. “The driving force of innovation is the country’s educated youth,” Markos says, noting that there was few if any such support for youth of like-minded passion. He adds that he wanted to create a “home for grass-root innovation and to be a one-stop shop for tech startups to get open-space, support and networking opportunities to start their own venture and grow.”

There are many challenges to running a successful tech incubator and startup in Ethiopia including the dearth of financial support and reliable internet connection.

“It isn’t, per se, hi-tech that I was always interested in, but the possibility of developing technological tools which assist us to solve our daily challenges,” Markos says, emphasizing that there are many high potential startups in the pipeline that “will improve our lives, once they get into the market.” He names Stavimer, Flowius and Hulubet as a few examples.

As part of the icehubs network in the Middle East and Africa, iceaddis has received international media coverage including features on BBC, Disrupt Africa and VC4Africa.

Iceaddis. (Courtesy photo)

In addition, Iceaddis has a community of 5000+ individuals with different levels of membership, and organizes various events such as hackathons and pitching competitions throughout the year in collaboration with international organizations.

“Most people get their ideas from events not trainings, and they also have opportunities to find someone who will assist them on the ideas they seek to realize,” Markos says. “These events also help build an entrepreneurial mindset among the youth, enabling them to learn what’s happening and to cope with challenges while developing a harmonized direction.”

Markos partly attributes iceaddis’ success to his organization’s management style of “non-hierarchical and open environment” as well as their focus on “extreme collaborative methods.” He argues that “personal drive and the ability to build strong relationships” are key to his endeavors. Markos, who had previously co-founded various other startups such as SelamCompany — a venture working on primary education and literacy — says his company is expanding to launch events across Ethiopia in Jimma, Mekelle and Jijiga.

“There is something rewarding about being a pioneer and betting on the youth in a big country like Ethiopia,” Markos enthuses.

About the Author:
Feven Jembere is a recent high school graduate from ICS Addis now attending the University of Chicago. She is interested in topics related to entrepreneurship, health sciences, music and anthropology. “I enjoy playing soccer and reading books,” Feven shares. “Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, Gifted Hands by Dr. Ben Carson and Blindness by Jose Sarajevo are some of my favorite books.” (Feven Jembere’s profile photo by Danel Kidane)

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Meet the 2016 Mandela Washington Fellows from Ethiopia

Some of the 2016 Mandela Washington Fellows from Ethiopia. (Courtesy: Mandela Washington Fellowship)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

New York (TADIAS) — This year’s class of Mandela Washington Fellows from Ethiopia includes a diverse group of 50 young professionals between the ages of 25 and 35 hailing from various regions of Ethiopia. Teachers, lawyers, doctors, filmmakers, human rights activists (including Zone9 blogger Zelalem Kibret), social workers, Ethiopian sign language & deaf culture experts, non-profit directors, public health employees, entrepreneurs, engineers, software developers, and human resource managers are among some of the sectors represented by the new Fellows.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders (YALI), which is conducted annually as a merit-based open competition by U.S. Embassies across the African continent, was launched by President Obama in 2014. “Each Mandela Washington Fellow takes part in a six-week academic and leadership Institute at a U.S. university or college in one of three tracks: Business and Entrepreneurship, Civic Leadership, or Public Management,” states the announcement from YALI. “The Fellows, who are between the ages of 25 and 35, have established records of accomplishment in promoting innovation and positive change in their organizations, institutions, communities, and countries. Fifty percent of Fellows were women; and for 76 percent of Fellows, it was their first experience spending substantial time in the United States.”

In addition, Fellows will receive the opportunity to meet and interact with President Obama as well as other U.S. leaders during a town hall session. Furthermore, the announcement notes that “100 selected Fellows will remain in the United States to participate in a six-week professional development experience with U.S. non-governmental organizations, private companies, and governmental agencies that relate to their professional interests and goals.”

Below are the names and biographies of the 2016 Mandela Washington Fellows from Ethiopia.

Aklile Solomon Abate

Aklile Solomon Abate has been working as a women’s rights activist for more than five years. She has a bachelor’s degree in Law from Addis Ababa University. Aklile is a co-founder of a youth-led initiative called The Yellow Movement AAU, which works on women’s rights advocacy and empowerment. She is responsible for managing campaigns, coordinating events, handling partnerships, and raising awareness about gender-based violence. Aklile also volunteers at a public elementary school by tutoring young children and creates awareness on gender inequality in her community. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Aklile plans on continuing her work on women’s rights by focusing on young children in order to reshape the future generation.

Gebeyehu Begashaw

Gebeyehu Begashaw has been working as a lecturer at the University of Gondar, Ethiopia, for seven years. His work focuses on teaching graduate and undergraduate students, conducting research projects, and rendering community services. He also currently serves as research officer at the College of Social Sciences, where he oversees research projects undertaken by the faculty and students. His research interests center on different public health issues such as mental health, maternal health, health economics, and health systems. He advocates protecting the human rights of the mentally ill, which includes the right to appropriate mental health care, and the right to education and employment. Gebeyehu has a master’s degree in Social Psychology from Addis Ababa University and in Organizational Behavior from Paris V Descartes University. After the Fellowship, Gebeyehu plans to continue his work in the public health arena with a focus on improving the mental health care system through evidence-based decisions.

Molalign Belay

Molalign Belay has approximately eight years of experience working for an academic institution in Ethiopia. Born and raised in a rural village of Ethiopia, he used to be engaged in farming activities and local tour guiding. Currently, Molalign is a lecturer of Sociology. As director of the Alumni Relation and Partnership Office of University of Gondar, he initiates communications and strategic team work, organizes events and alumni workshops, seeks opportunities and networks for alumni/students, and undertakes alumni and employers surveys, to name a few. Molalign has an MA in Sociology (Health and Well-being) from Addis Ababa University. He works for local organizations as a volunteer trainer, project designer and trustee. He is a Rotarian, an educator and a social analyst on the local FM radio program. Upon the completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Molalign plans to create a scholars community through establishing community-based youth centers to engage and empower students.

Alemseged Woretaw

Alemseged Woretaw has almost 12 years experience as an educator in the health professions, contributing greatly towards a competent health workforce development. Currently, he is a technical advisor for the National Board of Examinations at the Ministry of Health. He also works closely with universities to improve student assessment and learning by synchronizing licensure exam preparation with faculty development efforts. Alemseged is a medical doctor with a master’s degree in Medical Biochemistry, and is passionate about educating and training future health professionals. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Alemseged plans to continue his work with the exam board, impacting the teaching-learning process, especially student assessment. He will also help to fill the gap in academic leadership skills in medical schools, and plans to design high-impact academic leadership training, promoting mentorship and partnership among academic leaders.

Girum Assefa Akriso

Girum Assefa Akriso realized very early that he wanted to become a storyteller. Everyday life dragged him far from his boyhood dream, and he pursued studies in computer and information systems to earn his BSc. Having found himself drifting from his life’s purpose, three years ago he decided that enough was enough! Enena Bete, a film written by Girum was produced and then selected as the opening film in the 9th Ethiopian International film Festival. Girum regrouped, starting Rusty Town Films with three talented young men, and started writing serial radio dramas on migration, stag plays on religion and culture, and several documentaries on community services. They also work on commercials and music videos. Girum’s skill set is best described as a mixture of creativity, storytelling, education, consulting, and entrepreneurship.

Abraham Mekonnen Alemu

Abraham Mekonnen Alemu has over six years experience in human capital management in different sectors. Currently, Abraham is a human resources manager responsible for HR activities and operations such as planning, acquisition, talent development, performance management, and staff compensation. In doing so, he ensures the efficiency and effectiveness of the HR and organizational systems. He also volunteers in his local community’s fundraising activities to build school facilities, and teaches management at different colleges. Abraham holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Management with distinction, and an International Management award with distinction from The Institute of Leadership and Management, London. He is currently doing a master’s program in Human Resources and Organizational Development. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Abraham plans to continue creating job opportunities for the youth, people with disabilities, and women by filling the gap between industry needs and university curricula.

Tigist Getachew

Tigist Getachew has seven years experience in business strategy and related fields. In parallel with the UN job where she worked for four years, she also provided pro bono services to several local startups on financing, strategic planning, and business plans, while also managing the first fast-moving consumer goods industry analysis for Ethiopia for Euromonitor International. In 2013 she returned full time to the business world to co-found and lead East Africa Gate (EAGate), a boutique foreign investment and business advisory firm. She also works in youth entrepreneurship by mentoring Ethiopian entrepreneurs in bringing their ideas to life. She is also a mentor for Ethiopian applicants to the African Entrepreneurship Award – an initiative powered by BMCE Bank of Africa. Tigist holds a BA in Economics from the University of Toulouse, France, and a Master’s in International Management from IAE Toulouse, Graduate School of Management with business strategy as her major.

Zemdena Abebe

A pan-Africanist, Zemdena Abebe is a visionary Political Science and International Relations graduate, activist, and budding writer engaged in women rights in particular and social justice in general. Zemdena volunteers for the African Union at the Academy of African Languages, Mali, as a marketing and research assistant. She consulted for UNICEF Ethiopia for six years in their ‘Speak Africa’ initiative (youth advocacy), as well as in environmental education, hygiene, and sanitation. She chaired the Addis Ababa Girls’ Forum, which facilitates discussion on issues regarding girls’ vulnerable to HIV/AIDS and lays the foundation for legislative intervention against sexual abuse. Zemdena was President of Addis Ababa Students’ Union, and was among 22 young African women writers selected for ’Writing for Social Change’, organized by AWDF and FEMRITE, Uganda. After completing the Fellowship, she will continue writing about social justice and aims to influence society’s behavior towards women by using multimedia platforms and research.

Addis Abera

Addis Abera has a decade-long experience in different public enterprises operating in areas of agro-industry, maritime and logistics services, commodity exchanges, and agricultural transformation. Addis’ professional experiences and skills primarily include market research, product development, strategic planning, and project management. Currently, he is a project officer of the Rural Financial Services Program at the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA), which focuses on the strategic issues of strengthening rural financial institutions and ensuring liquidity in the rural sector. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Addis will return to the ATA and be part of the national endeavors of agricultural transformation in his country, Ethiopia. Addis holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Haramaya University.

Kalkidan Ayele

Kalkidan Ayele has over three years experience in disabled and deaf women’s empowerment and HIV/AIDS prevention. Currently, Kalkidan is a manager for the Ethiopian National Association of the Deaf where she focuses on promoting sign language and advocates for a better life for the deaf in Ethiopia. She manages different projects and monitors the overall work of the association. Kalkidan holds a Master’s degree in Gender Studies from Addis Ababa University, where she focuses on gender and disability issues and their impact on the employment opportunities of deaf women and youth. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Kalkidan plans to continue her work with the association by focusing on the challenges of the deaf in Ethiopian society. She aims to find solutions through different projects, advocacy works and networking with similar organizations for the better life of the deaf in Ethiopia.

Zelalem Kibret

Zelalem Kibret has over six years of experience in various legal and communal affairs. Currently, Zelalem is trying to build his own virtual law office to help the poor. Moreover, Zelalem is an activist and a blogger who regularly campaigns and writes on the issues of constitutionalism and good governance. He volunteers on the university teaching Law and organizing debates, and has established a dialogue platform. Zelalem holds a master’s degree in Public International Law from Addis Ababa University, with a focus on individual responsibility in International Law. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Zelalem plans to establish a nationwide legal office in Ethiopia that helps peoples who can’t afford to pay for legal services.

Tinbit Daniel

Tinbit Daniel is a law graduate, dedicated to contributing to the improvement of the lives of children, especially young girls. She is now the Girls Empowerment programs director, leading a new innovative project to launch the new African animation series called Tibeb Girls. This series is intended to change the way girls are seen by society and by themselves. Tinbit is also wrapping up another project on the education of girls. She is challenging herself with the hope to work on much more progressive programs on the upliftment of females. She received the Youth Champion award by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and Public Health Institute. She was selected as one of 18 youth champions. This award recognized Tinbit for being a leader and doing innovative and excellent work on the empowerment of girls, such as education and sexual and reproductive health rights.

Abrhame Butta

Abrhame Butta has more than nine years of experience working in academics and entrepreneurship. He focuses on agripreneurship, rural innovation, and smallholder livelihoods. Currently, Abrhame owns and manages his own company, Green Agro Mechanization, which offers services including mechanization, crop chemical and pesticide supplies, a farm credit service, and financial-literacy training. It aims to provide a one-stop farming solution and introduce a farm credit service in which poor farmers pay 40% in cash, with 60% paid without interest after the harvest. Abrhame received an MBA from Addis Ababa University and engaged in various consultancy, community, and entrepreneurship programs. Upon his return from the Mandela Washington Fellowship, he will expand on the farm service center project, with a focus on harmonizing all company services and reaching out to more young and women smallholders.

Linda Lapiso

Linda Lapiso is an electrical engineer and construction consultant with over eight years of work experience in the sector. Currently, Linda is a freelance consultant, who specializes in designing electrical building services for residential, commercial, and industrial developments. She also volunteers in community-development programs and speaks against the sidelining of women in society. Linda has received her bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the Addis Ababa University Institute of Technology. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, she hopes to implement lessons learned from the program in her day-to-day consulting services and share newly acquired business skill in order to explore opportunities and inspire growth in her community.

Mehret Amsalu

Mehret Amsalu has over five years experience leading multiple maternal, neonatal and child health (MNCH) projects. Currently, Mehret is a PhD candidate in Public Health and Water at Addis Ababa University, where she is researching feasible solutions to water, sanitation and hygiene-related public health challenges among Ethiopian mothers and children. Mehret collaborates with international volunteers to end preventable maternal and child death in Ethiopia. She is focused on initiating, designing and implementing cost-effective MNCH units in her role as a project manager for Voluntary-Service-Overseas. She is also a volunteer mentor in a girls’ public school. Mehret holds a master’s degree in Public Health from University of Gondar, where she focused on public health challenges and their impact on development. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Mehret plans to continue her work in public health with an emphasis on access to quality health services for pregnant women, mothers, and children.

Enque Deresse Endeshaw

Enque Deresse Endeshaw has worked as medical doctor for over five years in different capacities, mostly in mental health. Enque did her specialization in psychiatry at Addis Ababa University. Currently, she is working at Lebeza Psychiatry Consultation PLC, where her main focus will be organizing training and treatment for Ethiopian migrant workers living in the Middle East and refugees. Enque has worked as the clinical head at a substance rehabilitation center, which was the first of its kind in Ethiopia. In her tenure as a clinical head, she trained and supervised other staff members. She was involved in the management aspect of the center, in addition to carrying out clinical work. So as to give back to society, she was involved in an outreach program that provided free mental health care to patients. Enque plans to apply and share the experiences she has acquired with both governmental and non-governmental institutions.

Lulayn Awgichew

Lulayn Awgichew is an entrepreneur who co-founded an agribusiness company. She is a deputy general manager of Bislet Agritech PLC, where she carries out the duties of setting strategies, marketing, and the management of company activities. She built on her extensive experience in development work to become an entrepreneur. Currently, she volunteers for several nonprofit organizations to support women and children and help them have better lives. She has vast experience in and passion for advocacy and child protection. Upon returning from the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Lulayn plans to continue her work to achieve her company goal of making food affordable to everyone in Ethiopia.

Minase Tamrat

Minase Tamrat has over 12 years of experience in software development, technologies, finance and sustainable development. Currently Minase is a general manager of a software development firm which he founded, where he also works as a systems architect and project manager. He has two startups underway which focus on an open financial framework and on integrated sustainable agriculture. Minase is a computer science graduate from HiLCoE School of Computer Science and Technologies. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Minase plans to continue to create a seamless, transparent, integrated and stakeholder-inclusive financial system framework for his country, Ethiopia.

Fanaye Feleke

Fanaye Feleke has 10 years of experience in law and development with a focus on gender. Currently, Fanaye is partnerships manager for Girl Effect Ethiopia, which works to positively reframe the image of Ethiopian girls. She focuses on identifying, initiating, building, and managing partnerships. She is also a partner in Setaweet, a feminist establishment which aims to bring about a positive change in the social positioning of women. Setaweet activism takes the form of public forums, women-only study groups, media engagement, and ‘Arif Wond’, an exciting program working with men to challenge patriarchy. Setaweet also delivers high-quality, tailor-made training and research. Fanaye holds a master’s degree in Law in Development from the University of Warwick, where she focused on gender and development. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Fanaye intends to focus full time on her Setaweet work in feminist activism.

Mekbib Ayalew

Mekbib Ayalew is a social work and development-management professional. He has worked for the past three years in various NGOs, focused particularly on human subject protection and social development. Currently, he is working in the Africa Union Commission as a culture officer focused on assisting and managing the Campaign for African Cultural Renaissance and promoting the spirit of pan-Africanism and shared values on the continent. He also volunteers at the Addis Ababa Correctional and Rehabilitation Center of Juvenile Offenders (Remand Home), where he is responsible for coordinating social reintegration and rehabilitation for juvenile delinquents. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Mekbib plans to engage in increasing youth involvement in the promotion and protection of African world heritage, both nationally and within the African Union system.

Fregenet Zekiewos Gichamo

Fregenet Zekiewos Gichamo has over two years experience in a government university working mainly as a dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences. As such, he is the chief executive officer directing and coordinating activities of the department and other units of the faculty. In addition, Fregenet works on youth development in her community by organizing a program called ‘Generation Empowerment Program’. She is also a volunteer in blood-donation campaigns in her local community and schools. Fregenet is a medical doctor working as a general practitioner in a hospital. She wants to study obstetrics and gynecology in order to strength her contribution against the harmful traditional practice of female genital mutilation. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Fregenet plans to continue her work on faculty development and against traditional harmful practices.

Yitemgeta Fantu Golla

Yitemgeta Fantu Golla has over four years experience in the energy sector, mostly in project design and management. Having graduated with his master’s degree in Energy Engineering from the Engineering School in France, he has been exposed to the production, optimal distribution and rational use of conventional and renewable energy in buildings, civil engineering, transportation, manufacturing, and the transformation industries. With his specialization in electrical energy, he is knowledgeable in the monitoring and control of electrical energy, as well as the design of projects that include generation, distribution, and renewable energy. In his most recent roles, he has obtained the title of procurement head and energy adviser at Herfazy Consult. He also leads the design and development of innovative acoustic panels and local solar food dryers. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Yitemgeta plans to strengthen his involvement in the energy sector in Ethiopia and East Africa.

Rigbe Hagos

Rigbe Hagos has over five years experience working on the inclusion of persons with disabilities. She has worked as a volunteer legal-aid counselor for women seeking free legal aid services. Rigbe is currently involved in her own private practice carrying out social consultancy for vulnerable groups. She focuses on awareness raising and disability mainstreaming training, counseling on self-esteem development, technical assistance on accessibility, and mainstreaming disability, and conducts research on related issues. She also works as a manager for a private limited company. Furthermore, Rigbe serves a board member and volunteer for the Association for Women with Disabilities Living with HIV, and takes part in other community-service projects. Rigbe holds a master’s degree in Social Work and an LLB. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, she plans to continue her work towards promoting the rights and inclusion of persons with disabilities.

Bethlehem Haileselassie

Bethlehem Haileselassie has four years experience coordinating a street-child rehabilitation project in her home city, Addis Ababa. Currently, she works as a freelance writer but she also volunteers in two organizations that work on child care and education. In addition, she is in the process of establishing a social enterprise that produces leather handicrafts to create jobs for impoverished single mothers. After completing the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Bethlehem plans to launch the social enterprise and establish its social wing, which will initially comprise a community day care and after-school program for children of the single mothers who are trained and hired by the business. Eventually, the project will reach out to other children in the community who live in difficult circumstances.

Masresha Hirabo

Masresha has over six years experience in software development, especially in the area of machine learning. Currently, she works as a deputy general manager for eNet ICT Solutions, a software company that she co-founded. As deputy general manager, her responsibilities include administering the everyday operations of the organization, preparing schedules, and providing both managerial and technical support to all projects. In addition, she oversees the progress of projects and coordinates with managers, clients, and supervisors to evaluate approvals. She also works as a part-time research programmer, where she is responsible for the research and development of advanced systems. Masresha holds an MSc in Computer Science from University of Kerala, India, where she focused on Machine Learning and Image Processing. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Masresha plans to lead and expand the company to work on the development of more advanced systems that can solve daily problems.

Maryamawit Kassa

Maryamawit Kassa has four years of experience in various fields especially law, human rights, leadership, and peacebuilding. Currently, Maryamawit works with the Institute for Peace and Security Studies in relation to preparation for the 5th Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa. Maryamawit works at the Center for African Leadership Studies, as a part-time research coordinator focusing on legal research and organizational assessment for leadership training. She also did volunteer work with the African Union Youth Volunteer Program and is now a member of Global Shapers, Addis Ababa hub, where she dedicates her spare time to shaping and effecting change in the community. Maryamawit holds a master’s degree in Peace and Security Studies from Addis Ababa University, which focused on African solutions for African problems. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Maryamawit plans to focus on homegrown leadership as a means for conflict prevention.

Muluken Nega

Muluken Nega is the founder and managing partner of Zana Landscape Design and Contractor PLC. Before starting Zana he worked with local and international businesses in the area of market research, business management, and entrepreneurship. This helped him develop the entrepreneurial and leadership skills necessary to start Zana. In addition to that, he has been taking online landscaping classes since 2009 from experts on landscape design, landscape planning, and planting. More than eight years of work with nonprofits that focus on youth development in Ethiopia has given him the awareness and passion to work in youth empowerment, mentoring, and social entrepreneurship. He volunteers in his community street-boys’ programs, and leads an informal network that inspires ideas, facilitates conversation, and stimulates positive action for changemakers in the community. Upon completing the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Muluken wants to focus on growing Zana into a leading landscape and social business in Ethiopia and Africa.

Selam Kebede

Selam Kebede graduated from Aalto University, Finland, with a master’s degree in Communications Ecosystem. Originally from Ethiopia, she also holds a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering. During her college days, she was actively involved in organizing events related to startups, technology, and entrepreneurship, including the Slush event. She passionately believes in the potential of technology to change lives in emerging countries. She loves the ‘Africa-rising’ narrative and holds a black belt in World Taekwondo from Kukkiwon. She is currently working as a senior associate for Africa at Seedstars, and has traveled to more than 20 countries finding the best tech-based startups and bringing them to the world stage. When she isn’t working, she spends her time researching Ethiopian history and contemplating quantum physics.

Admasu Lokaley

Admasu Lokaley is a young peace practitioner who has worked for over eight years in the field of peacebuilding and conflict transformation. Admasu currently works as field facilitator for CEWARN/IGAD, with a work station in Nyangatom district. His work focuses on collecting and discussing information regarding the outburst and elevation of violent conflict among pastoralists. By analyzing and processing the gathered data, he comes up with alternative routes of local response. Admasu is the co-founder of a community-based organization called Atowoykisi-Ekisil Pastoralists’ Development Association (AEPDA), where he served as program coordinator and executive director. Admasu earned his MA in Peace and Security Studies from Addis Ababa University of Ethiopia, where he focused on the complex inter-ethnic interactions along a disputed piece of land called the Ilemi Triangle. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Admasu is inspired to continue his work on peacebuilding and advocacy for pastoralists’ rights to land.

Mesay Barekew

Mesay Barekew has been a lecturer at Adama Science and Technology University (ASTU) for the last 10 years and teaches business management courses. He is a founding member of ASTU’s entrepreneurship development center. Mesay has been involved in volunteering activities in his local community where he helps children in need to get access to education and required materials. Mesay holds a master’s degree in Business Administration from Addis Ababa University, focusing on business development strategies. After completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Mesay plans to continue with his business development activities. He will work on establishing an incubation center for business startups in ASTU. He also plans to establish his own primary school with a special focus on creativity, science, and math. At his school, he intends to support children in need through a fee waiver and, depending on their situation, monthly subsistence allowances to support their living expenses.

Amanuel Lomencho

Amanuel Lomencho has over four years experience in community development and medical education apart from his work as a physician. He is the founder and general manager of Emerald Medical, a firm engaged in medical education, public education and promoting healthy and environmentally friendly cities through bike diplomacy. He volunteers in Educate Underprivileged Students of Ethiopia, a non-profit organization supporting education for Ethiopian students. Amanuel holds a doctorate degree in Medicine from University of Gondar. Following the Mandela Washington Fellowship, he plans to continue his work in promoting healthy and eco-friendly cities, linking cities with a shared culture of biking, upgrading the quality of medical education through software based medical education, and serving as a bridge between Ethiopian medical schools and their counterparts overseas.

Mizan Welderufael

Mizan Welderufael has over eight years of experience in the electrical power sector. She currently serves as automated meter-reading lead at the Ethiopian Electric Utility, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) program management office, where she manages the installation of automated energy meters on the outgoing feeders of substations. Prior to her ERP office, she worked in the Energy Management department as energy portfolio and logistics manager. She also worked for about four years as a system operation engineer at the National Load Dispatch Center of Ethiopia. Mizan received her degree in Electrical Engineering from Addis Ababa University, and is currently doing the thesis for her post-grad in Electrical Power Engineering. Upon completion of the Washington Fellowship, she plans to open her own business that fills the gaps related to power quality and reliability, energy efficiency, energy audit, and micro-grids that can improve access to electricity in Ethiopia.

Anteneh Asefa

Anteneh Asefa has more than nine years experience in the field of public health. Anteneh was a fellow of the Maternal Health Young Champion fellowship of the Maternal Health Task Force at the Harvard School of Public Health, where he mainly focused on promoting respectful childbirth services in Ethiopia. Anteneh has also been part of the Emerging Voices for Global Health Fellowship, in addition to being featured in New Voices in Global Health during the World Health Summit, 2013. Anteneh is currently an assistant professor at Hawassa University, Ethiopia, where he provides academic service, research, and technical support to various organisations. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, he strongly aspires to be one among the committed young leaders who will be shaping the future of African health systems by responding to the health needs of communities, especially women’s and children’s health.

Milha Desta Mohammed

Milha Desta Mohammed was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She has worked in the development policy field for over eight years, particularly in the climate change, water security, and agriculture sectors. She has worked at local level with nonprofit organizations and at regional level in intergovernmental organizations, namely the African Union Commission and the United Nations. Milha graduated from Addis Ababa University with a bachelor’s degree in Earth Sciences, and from the University of East Anglia with a master’s degree in Climate Change and International Development, focusing on water security. She currently serves as chair of the board for a youth environmental rehabilitation organization, where she promotes sustainable transportation and river rehabilitation. Upon her return from the Mandela Washington Fellowship, she will continue to advocate for a greener urban environment by promoting cycling in the city and river rehabilitation through sustainable waste management.

Rania Ibrahim

Rania Ibrahim, the service development director for Telemed Medical Services, is responsible for planning, supervising, organizing, and managing product development activities. At Telemed, a startup company that aims to increase access to health care for Ethiopians, she honed her skills of forging creative working partnerships with different organizations and individuals. She was a co-developer of the first TB/HIV patient-tracking system that helps patients adhere to their medication, and she is also the strategic and networking advisor for St Paul’s Hospital, one of the largest public hospitals in the country. Rania also volunteers with Berhan Yehun, a nonprofit organization that seeks to improve living conditions for impoverished children. As a Mandela Washington Fellow, she intends to further develop her skills in business development, aiming to expand access to medical technology and to learn ways to fully develop different possibilities of public-private partnerships to improve the health care system in her country.

Nurhassen Mensur Mudesir

Nurhassen Mensur Mudesir has over seven years experience in business development and community organizing. He is an electrical engineer by training, an entrepreneur and business development professional by practice. Nurhassen is a founding member and managing partner of the first online payment platform company in Ethiopia: He coaches and consults startup and ongoing businesses under the Entrepreneurship Development Center, Ethiopia. He is a certified project management professional and business development adviser as well as a certified trainer and technical adviser for businesses and community organizations. Nurhassen provides professional and life skills training to business professionals and business owners. As a volunteer, he is passionately engaged in the designing and implementation of development programs that empower women and youth. Upon his return, he wishes to establish renowned international business leadership training, and a consultancy center and a venture capital firm that will enhance entrepreneurship and innovative leadership across multiple sectors.

Selamawit Wondimu

Selamawit Wondimu has over six years of experience in urban planning. Currently, Selamawit is a senior analyst at the Ethiopian Industrial Park Development Corporation, which is driving the country’s large-scale industrialization initiative. She works closely on a daily basis with her counterparts on the development of guidelines and standards for industrial-park developments, supporting capacity building, and supporting the operations of the parks. She owns and runs a maker space in Addis, where she provides cutting and engraving services for young entrepreneurs and makers. Selamawit holds a Master of Science degree in Human Settlements from the University of Leuven, Belgium, where she focused on spatial planning and networked governance and how it can enhance coordination in regional and urban development in Ethiopia. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Selamawit plans to continue to expand her business while supporting the country’s industrialization and studying its impact on Ethiopian cities.

Loza Ruga

A graduate of Haramaya University College of Law, Loza Ruga has proven herself to be a person gifted with passion and multiple talents. In her early career, she has had an outstanding record of engagement in various sectors, including advocating for women’s empowerment, and volunteering in organizations working for the well-being of disadvantaged and disabled communities in sub-Saharan Africa. She was part of a team at African Union Headquarters that conducted extensive research on accessibility assessment for the inclusion of people with disabilities. Currently, Loza is launching the Ethiopian Association of Girls Guides and Girls Scouts, the first of its kind in Ethiopia. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, she plans to establish an inclusive community-based platform aimed at enabling and capacitating vulnerable segments in Addis Ababa and then in the whole of East Africa.

Liyuwork A Shiferaw

Liyuwork A Shiferaw has over seven years of work experience. Currently, she is the director of the Maritime Administration Directorate, where she oversees the registration of ships and seafarers; the training, assessment, and certification of seafarers; the follow-up of inland water transportation; and the implementation of international maritime conventions at the Ethiopian Maritime Authority. She also headed the Policy and Legal Department, where she participated in the preparation of national policy, strategy, and legislation. Liyuwork received an LLM degree in International Maritime Law from IMLI, Malta, and an LLB degree from Addis Ababa University. Upon completing the Mandela Washington Fellowship, she plans to continue empowering women in the maritime sector and using best practices to strengthen the maritime sector in Ethiopia.

Alem Gebru

Alem Gebru has over eight years of experience in diverse fields within the community-development sector, specifically on changing attitudes on disability issues. At present, Alem is an executive director in Women with Disabilities for Change, where she focuses on capacity building and creating awareness about women and children with disabilities in the community. She also volunteers in similar organizations by offering life-skills training and empowering women with disabilities. Alem holds a master’s degree in Special Needs Education and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from the University of Addis Ababa, where she focused on disability inequality and gender disparity within the education sector and their impact on development in Ethiopia. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Alem plans to carry on her work in disability equality with a focus on encouraging the rights of and equal opportunities for the disabled.

Asmeret Tesfahunegn

Asmeret is an experienced computer programmer, and a pragmatic and visionary entrepreneur with passion for problem solving and technology revolution in Africa and beyond. Self-disciplined and passionate about what she does, she is a talented, ambitious, and self-motivated web and mobile developer with a strong technical background. Asmeret graduated from USIU – Africa with a CGPA 4.0 in Information Systems and Technology. Having been involved in a couple of ventures, she has hands-on experience in business and product development in a typical startup business environment with extensive sales and marketing experience. Currently, Asmeret is the co-founder of IntellSync Ltd. In the company she is instrumental in the development and implementation of numerous IT projects, innovation, and strategic partnership management. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Asmeret plans to continue her work in IT to bring about sustainable, innovative, value- and technology-driven economic growth in Africa.

Dina B Tsehay

Dina B Tsehay is a Sociology graduate from the University of Mumbai, and has over four years’ experience in various fields of community development. Dina currently works as a project officer at a local NGO called MLWDA, where she primarily focuses on designing economic empowerment projects for marginalized women. Dina has also done various volunteer work in fighting against leprosy, child abuse, and violence against women in India, Tanzania, and Ethiopia. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Dina plans to continue her work in women’s economic empowerment and create a network for women to participate in cross-border business trade in the East African region.

Wachemo Akiber Chufo

Wachemo Akiber Chufo has over nine years of experience in different positions in Arba Minch University, Ethiopia. Currently, he teaches various courses in the field of Environmental Engineering and advises undergraduate and postgraduate students at Arba Minch University, Ethiopia. Akiber Chufo holds PhD degree in Environmental Engineering from Beijing University of Chemical Technology, China. His research areas are production and optimization of renewable energy from biomass wastes and development of solid-waste management methods. Additionally, he works in mitigation of climate change in the community using locally available resources. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Akiber Chufo plans to develop green energy-generation strategies for the community from locally available biomass wastes.

Kibrom Aregawi

Kibrom Aregawi is an assistant professor with over 10 years experience in teaching, research, and consultancy services in the Department of Management at Mekelle University, Ethiopia. Currently, he is the coordinator of the Center for Entrepreneurship Development. He is tasked with promoting an entrepreneurial culture and climate in the university community and beyond by organizing entrepreneurship training and providing support services. Kibrom volunteers in training, mentoring, and extending business-development support services to small and medium enterprise operators and students. Kibrom has also assumed various university leadership positions, including coordinator of the management program and head of quality assurance of the College of Business and Economics. Kibrom holds an MBA and an MPP from Mekelle University, and KDIS, South Korea, respectively. After completing the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Kibrom plans to continue and scale up efforts to expand community outreach in ways that will impact the lives of millions in the region.

Seifu Yilma

Seifu Yilma is Ethiopian and communicates in Ethiopian sign language. At the age of six he became deaf due to meningitis. He attended regular hearing schools and finished his master’s degree in Special Needs Education. He did his Bachelor of Arts in Ethiopian Sign Language and Deaf Culture. He has been serving in several public service activities voluntarily, that benefits the deaf communities in Ethiopia. Seifu served as chairman of the Deaf Association at the Addis Ababa branch of the Ethiopian National Association of the Deaf. He’s also been serving as a board member for the Federation of National Association of Persons with Disabilities. In these commitments, he effectively discharges his responsibilities on advocating the rights of deaf people in getting decent employment, education and social welfare. He was also chairman of a committee at the Addis Ababa University representing deaf students. He is currently a guidance counselor.

Tirsit Retta

Tirsit Retta has over 10 years of experience in leadership and public mobilization in the community, and academia and charity organizations. She engages herself in humanitarian services through the Red Cross, Family Guidance Association and Missionaries of Charity to deliver medical services and health education to the poor and destitute. In academia she plans, organizes, directs, and monitors medical professionals who deliver health services to the public. Her unwavering interest in research led her to initiate the largest epidemiological study in Ethiopia, which examines 500,000 patient records to determine skin disease trajectories. Tirsit earned her medical doctorate degree from Jimma University and her postgraduate specialty certificate from Addis Ababa University. Her plan after attending the Mandela Washington Fellowship is to establish an evidence synthesis center in Ethiopia to produce high-quality research, and then inspire women and physicians in the areas of science, environment, and education.

Yilkal Yilkal-Wudneh

Yilkal has over three years of experience in various community service activities. Currently, Yilkal is an active participant in Debre Berhan University’s free legal aid center, which advocates cases for vulnerable sections of the society. Yilkal is also manager of the Northern Shoa Zone Blind Teachers’ and Students’ Professional Development and Cooperation Association. In these roles he follows up the legal aspects of its activities and designs and implements its various projects. Yilkal also volunteers in his association and trains blind members of the association on how to use computers with a screen reader program called Jaws. Yilkal has got his LLM from the Ethiopian Civil Service University. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Yilkal plans to continue his work in ensuring the right of access to information for the blind and to advocate for vulnerable sections of the society.

Amel Yimer

Amel is an executive radio producer for a popular and reputable radio station – 702, based in Johannesburg, South Africa. Amel has worked in the field of family planning, reproductive health, and HIV/Aids on behalf of key players such as Pathfinder International and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. With over 10 years of experience in public heath communication and training, design, and facilitation, she now uses her media skills to produce a breakfast show that emphasizes the importance of positive leadership, accountability and dialogue about national affairs. Although a sociologist and filmmaker by trade, Amel, enjoys transcending the boundaries of traditional media to create new means of communication that can reach those in need of inspiration, empowerment and most importantly, a platform.

Tawetu Abreha

Tawetu Abreha has over five years of experience in various fields in the educational sector. She has been assistant professor at Mekelle University, system division officer at Meles Aerospace Science and Engineering Dynamics, and gender office head focusing on gender mainstreaming at the Ethiopian Institute of Technology-Mekelle (EiT-M). Currently, Tawetu is head of the school of Electrical and Computer Engineering at EiT-M, where she is responsible for the overall management of the school, including teaching and learning activities, research and community service, and local and international collaborations. She also volunteers in the Tigray Science and Technology Agency to coordinate the Girl’s Camp program. Tawetu holds a master’s degree in Communication Engineering from Addis Ababa University. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Tawetu plans to continue her work as a school head with a focus on school-to-industry and international university linkages, and girl’s empowerment.

Mahlet Tesfaye

Mahlet Tesfaye has over four years of public management experience in higher academic institutions and diplomacy. Her major areas of interest include gender issues and education policy reform advocacy, where she focuses on designing, implementing and researching on learning schemes. Mahlet worked as an educator and researcher signifying the importance of formal and informal education. She also volunteered in a book and database project that documents stories of hundreds of accomplished Ethiopian women, and served as a motivational speaker on different platforms focusing on education and youth. Mahlet currently works in the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She received her bachelor’s degree in Philosophy from Addis Ababa University. Upon return, she aspires to work on education diplomacy, education advocacy and the global initiative on education. Her long-term career plan includes working on influential research that could become recommendations to effectively address the challenges in the Ethiopian education system.

Meet the 2015 Mandela Washington Fellows from Ethiopia
Meet the 2014 Mandela Washington Fellows From Ethiopia

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EDF Announces 2016 Ethiopian Diaspora Fellows

From left: Sergut Dejene, Mariam Admasu, Kidist Tesfaye, Bethlehem Mesfin and Aster Mengesha Gubay. (Photos courtesy of the Ethiopian Diaspora Fellowship -- EDF)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Friday, June 3rd, 2016

New York (TADIAS) — The Ethiopian Diaspora Fellowship (EDF), which provides Ethiopian American youth with a 6-month fellowship to work in Ethiopia and participate in leadership and creative storytelling programs, has announced its 2016 Fellows.

“After receiving impressive and competitive applications from highly qualified members of the young Ethiopian Diaspora community, the selection committee chose the next five EDF fellows to pave the way for the new generation,” stated their press release. “We are very excited to announce members of the new class.”

Below are the names and bios of this year’s EDF Fellows:

Aster Mengesha Gubay

Aster holds a bachelor’s degree in International Relations specializing in African Affairs and a master’s degree in Public Policy (M.P.P) from the School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs, at George Mason University. Alongside her studies, she served as the VP for the Graduate and Professional Student Association (GAPSA) and worked closely with faculty, the student body, and alumni associations to ensure adequate African diaspora representation in policy discussions concerning the continent. Currently, she is an analyst/contractor with the Department of Homeland Security where she is expanding her consulting experience with the federal government. Prior to consulting, she was the lead Research/Grant intern with the DC Mayor’s Office on African Affairs (OAA). As an intern, she researched, compiled, and stratified demographic data, pertaining to African immigrants and coordinated capacity building and informational sessions for the District’s culturally and linguistically diverse African immigrant community. Aster is delighted to be part of the second EDF cohort, and looks forward to contributing to the diaspora’s impact on the continent.


Bethlehem Mesfin

Bethlehem Mesfin received her BS in Management, with dual concentrations in Marketing and Leadership & Consulting from Binghamton University (SUNY) in New York. Since graduating, she has been employed at Morgan Stanley, and is currently working as an HR Operations Analyst. She first worked on the Executive Compensation team, evaluating and administering deferred compensation. As an analyst on the HR Operations team, she works on the firm-wide Performance Management system by processing the full lifecycle of annual performance evaluations. She is also a member of Delta Sigma Pi, one of the largest co-ed professional business fraternities in the United States. Bethlehem is excited to become an EDF fellow in order to serve in Ethiopia, learn more about her culture, and find ways to contribute towards financial and technological development within the country.


Mariam Admasu

Mariam Admasu is an Ethiopian-American from Portland, Oregon. She graduated from the University of Oregon in Spring 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts in Family and Human Services. During her undergraduate career she mentored high school students in the community through a program called ASPIRE. She also mentored incoming freshmen at her university campus through a program called IMPACT. She takes pride in mentoring and shaping leaders of the future. For her senior project she worked as a juvenile counselor at the Lane County Juvenile Detention Center where she was given the opportunity to shift mindsets of underprivileged youth. Collectively, her professional and personal experiences have lead her to realize that every adolescent needs a mentor and someone who believes in them. She understands the stigmas facing Ethiopian youth, and acknowledges that equipping our youth with leadership skills can capsize these stigmas. Mariam is thrilled to be able to use her experiences to help youth in Ethiopia break barriers through the development of confident leaders in their communities.


Sergut Dejene

Sergut is currently a gift officer at the University of Chicago and works with alumni from the college to strengthen annual philanthropic support through the university’s reunion program. Prior to that, Sergut served as a program manager at U. Chicago’s Career Advancement office, and has experience building and leveraging relationships with stakeholders both in the U.S. and in Asia. Additionally, Sergut is the Founder and President of the Auxiliary Board for the Ethiopian Community Association of Chicago, where she leads young Ethiopian professionals in the planning and execution of various social events. More recently, Sergut founded the city’s annual Ethiopia Fest where she led marketing efforts and established partnerships with Ethiopian-American entrepreneurs. Sergut is elated to join EDF and learn how she can leverage her experiences to tackle challenges facing Ethiopia’s entrepreneurship sector. Sergut holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


Kidist Tesfaye

Kidist Tesfaye is a recent graduate from the University of Minnesota where she obtained her Bachelors of Individualized Studies. Her undergraduate studies included focusing on public health, global studies, and strategic communications with a minor Spanish. She has been affiliated with or served on the Board for the Ethiopian Student Association, Students for the Horn of Africa, Black Motivated Women, African Student Union, and the Undergraduate Public Health Association. Her direct involvement in a variety of student and non-profit organizations like the American Relief Agency for the Horn of Africa is a reflection of her dedication to bridging the gap between the diaspora and her country of origin. Kidist has spent the last five years working at TCF Bank. As a member on the management team she has developed exceptional leadership and operational skills. She also committed over 4 years to volunteering at the Methodist Hospital where she has been a part of innovative expansions and operational efforts valuable for the advancement of healthcare in the United States. Kidist is looking forward to being part of the second cohort of EDF fellows. It has been her lifetime dream to contribute to the growth of hospitals in Ethiopia, and she is eager to be engaged in this effort through the fellowship.


You can learn more about the program at

EDF’s 2015 Ethiopian Diaspora Fellows
Highlighting Ethiopian Diaspora Fellowship

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Architect Sara Zewde’s Urban Monument Design Has Brazil Buzzing

Ethiopian American Landscape Architect Sara Zewde. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Liben Eabisa

Published: Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

New York (TADIAS) — In the Spring of 2011 Sara Zewde was on her way to Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (GSD) to study landscape architecture when she found herself in the middle of a movement to preserve a historic Afro-Brazilian heritage site in the Pequena África (Little Africa) neighborhood of Rio De Janeiro. Today Sara, who works for a major U.S. architecture firm in Seattle, has the attention of Brazil’s second-largest city as it prepares to complete part of a design proposed by the Ethiopian American landscape architect before the 2016 Summer Olympics commence there in August.

“I was working in Brazil as a transportation trainer and my job was to consult on a specific project in the Pequena África section of Rio,” Sara recalled in a recent interview with Tadias. “And during that time they were conducting some excavation of the streets and they found the ruins of a very infamous slave port.”

In fact the discovery was the biggest slave port in the Americas. “22% of all the slaves brought to the Americas came through Rio de Janeiro” Sara pointed out. As a result “Brazil actually has more black people than any other nation other than Nigeria. It is a very African country.”

According to the Associated Press the discovery of the port named Valongo, “which was excavated as part of a multibillion-dollar project aimed at bringing big business to Rio’s long derelict port neighborhood, has sparked heated discussions about how Black heritage sites are handled in Brazil.”

Sara, whose urban planning Master’s thesis at MIT focused on the relationship between the African Diaspora and architecture was eager to assist. “I basically approached some of the activists on the ground about the topic and they were excited about my participation,” she told Tadias. “And five years later here I am. I ended up getting really involved and proposed a design that they can use.”

Sara’s proposal includes “a promenade around the old wharf, embellished with fluid shapes that echo the ‘rodas’, or circles, where people engage in the traditionally black Brazilian martial art of capoeira and samba music, which was born in the port district,” AP noted describing her vision. “African plants, such as the baobab tree, would evoke the space’s African soul and a concrete “ribbon” inscribed with historical details would guide visitors.”

Sara Zewde’s monument design to memorialize the Valongo Wharf in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. (Courtesy image)

(Courtesy of Sara Zewde)

Design by Sara Zewde. (Courtesy image)

In an article entitled “Sara Zewde has the Mayor of Rio de Janeiro Paying Attention — And For Good Reason” the non-profit organization Next City noted on their website that “by July 2014, [Sara] was presenting a design proposal at a meeting in Rio’s city hall convened by the Mayor’s office. His representatives and those from the public-private partnership redeveloping the port were there, as well as private developers with a stake in Porto Maravilha, staffers from the federal agencies…and various community activists. Zewde’s audience also included Milton Guran, a Brazilian who serves on UNESCO’s International Scientific Committee and will help decide in the next year whether Valongo Wharf receives designation as a World Heritage Site.”

Sara Zewde’s design, as shown in this rendering, includes native African plants. (Courtesy of Sara Zewde)

What Rio’s leaders “are advocating for now is to build pieces of it before the Olympics,” Sara said. “So there is a huge push, as you can imagine, in terms of infrastructure and construction, just trying to make the city ready for all the visitors.” Some pieces of the design have already been completed, and currently Sara adds that they are “working on a budget and aiming to have at least a quarter mile of the design built before the Olympics.”

Sara, who is 29-years-old, was born in Houston. When she was about a year old her family, who emigrated from Ethiopia, moved to Louisiana where they resided until she was a teen. At the age of 13 her family moved back to Houston and lived there for another five years. “At 18 I moved away and I’ve just been kind of everywhere since then,” Sara said with a slight laugh. In between, she attended Boston University for her undergraduate education and MIT and Harvard for graduate school.

“I grew up in Louisiana where there is not a lot of Ethiopians, especially not 30 years ago,” she shared. “So basically I relied on what my parents told me about Ethiopia. So as a child I had the privilege of growing up with this romantic version of being in Ethiopia.”

The stories that Sara heard from her parents had a positive impact on her profession as an architect. “What that meant for me was that as an architect you need to romanticize, it’s a skill in architecture to be able to romanticize a condition. Your job as an architect is to make something beautiful so it takes a sort of deep understanding of what brings people joy.” She then shared the way her mother, who came from a rural part of Ethiopia called Yifat, told stories of her native home. “She does not talk about it the way people do in the media or books; she talks about it as if it’s all about joy for her.”

Embracing the stories she grew up with Sara ties it back to her focus as an architect. “Understanding people’s life experiences and understanding that joy in relationship to this long-term history, it’s a pretty powerful skill to use with whomever you work with, whatever their history, regardless of their condition,” she said while remembering to add a question: “What is it that brings them joy?”

Sara has traveled to Ethiopia twice — once when she was nine and then a second time ten years ago. “I plan to travel there next year and check it out,” she said. I am excited to see the energy; it seems like there is a lot going on.”

As for her ongoing project in Brazil, “I do the work on the weekends and after work,” Sara said. During the week she is busy at her full-time job at Gustafson Guthrie Nichol, a landscape architecture office in Seattle.

This past Fall her employer’s website proudly highlighted Sara’s work on Rio’s urban monument design, which she presented at the first “Black in Design Conference” organized by her alma mater, Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD). The feature underlined how Sara had started this project while still a student at GSD and that “she continues to work in partnership with the Rio World Heritage Institute.”

“The firm that I am employed with, they do a lot of really great work,” Sara added. “My friends are working on the building of the National Museum of African American History on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., which is opening this year. They focus on history and culture as an entry point for architecture. That’s why I wanted to work for them.”

Unearthing of Rio slave port sparks debate over black space (AP)
Young American helping Brazil memorialize the slave trade (PRI)
How a 29-Year-Old Designer Is Reinventing the Urban Monument (Next City)
Harvard School of Design: Sara Zewde Named National Olmsted Scholar (GSD)

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Meet Abai Schulze: Owner of Zaaf Collection, a Luxury Handbag Brand Made in Ethiopia

Abai Schulze is the founder of Ethiopian handbag brand Zaaf Collection. (Courtesy Photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Saturday, January 9th, 2016

New York (TADIAS) — Long before she launched Zaaf Collection, a luxury handbag business headquartered in Ethiopia, Abai Schulze spent her earliest years in Wollo Province and then in Addis before entering an orphanage at around age four and moving to America seven years later. “It had naturally shaped me in a dynamic way,” Abai recalls of her childhood in Addis. “Being adopted at a later age meant that I had a certain amount of attachment to Ethiopia.”

In addition, her adoptive family encouraged her to keep up with her written and spoken Amharic. “I became part of a large and loving family, and benefitted from excellent education and many opportunities to experience travel near and far,” she shares. That included earning a degree in Economics from George Washington University and returning back to Ethiopia on a number of occasions. “Across my secondary school and college years, my driving passion and vision were centered around using my education and experiences to create economic opportunities in my country of birth,” Abai told Tadias. At the same time Abai also pursued training in fine arts and design. “So it all came down to a convergence of both opportunity and passion,” she adds. “I understood the value of my education, and I was determined to leverage the potential and trends of my home country. My passion derives from the reality that design and creative expressions of “physical creation” had always been a driver for me, even as I spent my university years focused on the hard facts of economics.”

The name for her luxury handbag business, Zaaf, is the Amharic word for tree. “At the same time it is a simple word with symbolic meaning across all cultures,” Abai said. “I was inspired by the notion of deep roots reaching into abundantly rich Ethiopian culture and heritage, while bring out beautiful new branches of creativity and functionality, it is a theme that works well — most of our products are named after Ethiopian trees.”

Zaaf Collection started out with a small team of six, and has now grown to seventeen including artisans and administrative staff. “Our artisans work hard and we are always focused on quality control and continuous improvement in all we do,” Abai emphasizes. “We all take great pride in our work, and we operate as a team. I make sure we engage in times of team building that bring encouragement and motivation to all of us, and underscores the sense of purpose and excitement we have in bringing forth this vision and these beautiful products. Our team will continue to grow in number, along with skills and capacity.”

ZAAF workshop in Addis Ababa. (Courtesy photo)

The leather and hand-woven textiles that ZAAF uses to make its bags are all sourced from Ethiopia and produced by local artisans. “Real economic development is about producing top quality products using unique cultural, natural, and human resources that can find a place at the highest levels in the global marketplace,” Abai explained. “So the vision is really very big — it is about setting standards of excellence and innovation; it is about demonstrating and affirming that we can be a top fashion brand competing with the biggest names in the world in terms of both creative design and quality.”

Asked about her plans for expansion and where she sees her brand in 10 years time, Abai says “Ethiopia is the birthplace of ZAAF, and will serve as the foundation of a luxury lifestyle brand as we expand out to draw on the rich heritage and culture that can be found across the continent. In ten years we want to be a widely recognized and sought after brand that equates “Made in Africa” with brilliance in craftsmanship, artistry, and deep cultural roots.”

Model with Zaaf Collection handbag. (Courtesy photo)

Zaaf Collection, which launched two years ago, has already been showcased at New York Fashion Week and featured in Vogue, Elle and Lucky magazines. Last month Abai — who is the recipient of the UNESCO Tremplin 2014 Prize for Entrepreneurship and one of the finalists for the 2015 Africa Awards for Entrepreneurship — was a speaker at the UNESCO conference in Paris themed “Emergence in Africa.”

“We are off to a good start,” Abai says. “I look forward to rewarding and exciting things ahead.”

You can learn more about Abai Schulze’s work at

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Mizan Kidanu’s New Album

Ethiopian-born musician Mizan Kidanu's new CD "Dark Blue" is included in this year's list of Rolling Stone magazine's 20 Best R&B Albums. (Photo via NPR)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Monday, December 21st, 2015

Mizan Kidanu’s New EP Makes Rolling Stone’s 20 Best R&B Albums of 2015

New York (TADIAS) — Rolling Stone magazine has ranked Mizan Kidanu’s new six-song EP Dark Blue among the 20 Best R&B Albums of 2015. Mizan made the pop culture magazine’s annual list along with The Weeknd, Kelela, Erykah Badu and Janet Jackson.

“The Ethiopian-born New York musician makes confessional songs that resemble the winsome and melancholy electro-pop of Erlend Øye and Junior Boys as much as left-of-center R&B voices like Solange Knowles,” Rolling Stone said. “She comforts a depressed friend on “Awe” as she sings, “All the color, the golden of the sky/How could you see it, if your darkness never lights.”

Mizan who grew up in Ethiopia relocated to the U.S. four years ago. “Her choice of relocation after graduating from college in Delaware was decisive in that it exposed her to whole ecosystems of musicians and showed her, from the benefit of other artists’ experiences, that talent is not the prerequisite of success,” Heran Abate wrote two years ago in Tadias, profiling Mizan. “As in, establishing music as a career is not just about creating the music, it requires the business savvy to run a one-woman show however long it takes to delegate management and operations.”

Rolling Stone added: “And she knows how to make songs that make you move, too: “Looking For” casts her as the seductress over a throbbing club beat, but her “what are we looking for” chorus reveals unease over whether she’ll be embraced or rejected.”

Read more at »

Songs We Love: Mizan, ’7 Billion (NPR)
Tadias Interview With Mizan Kidanu

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Meet Golf Player Aberon M. Bauchau

Aberon Michael Bauchau, a golf player from Ethiopia, trains in New York. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Bethelhem T. Negash

Published: Monday, November 2nd, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — The flight from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to New York is a long one and it gives one passenger, Aberon Michael Bauchau, a chance to consider his mixed emotions. On one hand, the 20-year-old Bauchau is leaving his Ethiopian family and friends and the place where he grew up. On the other hand, he is pursuing his lifelong dream of becoming a professional golfer.

With his family’s support and unmatched hope of finding sponsorships and scholarships, Bauchau landed in New York on May 10th, 2015. Ever since his arrival all he does involves golfing; what he eats, drinks, reads, plays and practices has mainly to do with golfing.

In golf terminology, Bauchau has a handicap score of three. His dream is to lower his handicap score and make a name for himself in the golf world. But for Bauchau, Ethiopia, can no longer cradle his dream with the limited access and resources for the game of golf. It was time to get out of his comfort zone and make his dreams come true.

Bauchau has been looking at his passport for hours now. It is an American passport. He was born in Orange County, California. However, his days of living in California are counted and his memory of it very faint. He has no distinctive recollection of the land he was born in, except images of it he collected from the stories told by his family,and movies and video clips he grew up watching. This is his first visit to the United States of America in eighteen years.

Bauchau didn’t think life in the U.S. would be easy. He is trying to fit in to the American lifestyle, yet still each step has its own challenges and obstacles to tackle down. Living with his aunt in a small apartment in Harlem, he is very much aware of his expenses, which he tries to minimize every chance he gets, even if it means walking over 50 blocks a day to cut the cost of the subway fare. Everyday, he trains by himself at Randall’s Island Golf Center after paying 14 dollars for a bucket of 110 golf balls. He monitors his swings and positions and scores through a video record of his phone. For Bauchau, the various phone applications on his phone are the only coaches and caddies he can afford right now.

It was during a summer trip to South Africa when he was six that he took his first swing to learn the game of golf. A family friend, Haile Ghebreezigabher, an Ethiopian club professional golf player, introduced him to the game. Bauchau, however, didn’t only want an introduction to the game; he wanted golf to be more than a hobby. He wanted a relationship with the game — a lasting one. He didn’t predict the love of this game would make him leave his parents, family and friends behind at one point in time.

What motivates Bauchau to pursue golf including during the weekends and while on vacation from school is the ‘feeling’ that overcomes him when he becomes one with the ball, which mutes the world outside. “When I went to play at St. Andrews in Scotland, I had a real exposure and broad view of the game, its rules and techniques. I fell even deeper in love with the game. Everyone in the tournament came to see me play. I guess it didn’t make sense to them to see an Ethiopian golf player among them.” He takes a long sip from his bottled water and adds, “But I kept my focus on the ball. After all, its all about me and the ball.”

Bauchau says he is often engulfed with nostalgic feelings of family, friends and his life in Addis. Sometimes the loneliness is overwhelming.

“My passport says this is my home. I used to dream a lot about this home of mine” he says, squinting his eyes over the recorded video of his shots for a few seconds and adds, “But when I got here, home wasn’t here.”

About the Author:
Bethelhem T. Negash is a student at Columbia University School of Journalism in New York.

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Watch Meklit Hadero at TED Talk

Meklit Hadero. (Photo: Video still TED Talk 2015)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Saturday, October 17th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — In the following video TED Senior Fellow Meklit Hadero speaks about how everyday sounds (nature, language and silence) inspire her creativity. “As a singer/songwriter people often ask me about my influences or as I call them my sonic lineages,” says the Ethiopian American artist. “And I could easily tell you that I was shaped with the Jazz and Hip-Hop that I grew up with, by the Ethiopian heritage of my ancestors, or by the 1980s pop on my childhood radio stations, but there is another genre. How do the sounds that we hear everyday influence the music that we make?”

“The world is alive with musical expression,” she says as she explores popular Amharic interjections. “We are already immersed.”

Watch: Meklit Hadero: The unexpected beauty of everyday sounds | TED Talk

Meklit Hadero, The Nile Project at the Lincoln Center in New York
An Interview with Ethiopian-American singer Meklit Hadero
Photos: Meklit Hadero at Artisphere in DC
Tadias Interview: The Irresistible Meklit Hadero Blends Ethiopia and San Francisco

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U-Michigan Names Dr. Lia Tadesse Head of Center for Reproductive Health

A former Addis Ababa hospital CEO and maternal health champion Lia Tadesse selected as executive director of University of Michigan's Center for International Reproductive Health Training. (Photograph: U-Michigan)

University of Michigan

Press release

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — While an Obgyn resident in Ethiopia, Lia Tadesse saw too many women suffer and die simply because they didn’t have access to proper care. She vowed she’d pursue a path in Obgyn to help prevent such deaths in her home country.

Now, the former hospital executive will play a key role in improving maternal health in Ethiopia as the new executive director of the Center for International Reproductive Health Training (CIRHT) at the University of Michigan.

“I saw women die from preventable deaths and I knew I had to get involved with efforts to help stop it,” says Tadesse, M.D., M.H.A., who is known in Ethiopia as “Dr. Lia.”

“I am honored by the opportunity to lead a center that will play a critical role in saving lives and empowering women. Women are the anchors of their families and communities. Stronger, healthier women lead to more stable families and ultimately, a more productive country.”

CIRHT, based in the department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the U-M Health System, launched in 2014. In this first phase, the center is working with nine medical schools in Ethiopia to help integrate comprehensive reproductive health training for aspiring doctors, nurses and midwives. There are currently 5,922 medical students and interns, 266 Obgyn residents and 57 faculty under the program. This pre-service training helps to ensure that, even before graduation, providers have the knowledge, technical skills and insight to provide women with the full range of reproductive health services they need.

Women’s health continues to be a particularly urgent development issue in Ethiopia where the maternal mortality ratio is 420 for every 100,000 births, among the highest in the world. That compares to a maternal mortality ratio of 28 per 100,000 in the U.S., 8 per 100,000 in the U.K. and 3 per 100,000 in Norway.

During the next five years, the Center aims to expand the program to other countries in Africa and Asia. Globally, reproductive health issues are a leading cause of poor health and death of women of childbearing age. As a result, women in developing countries disproportionately experience unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions and sexually transmitted infections leading to disability or death.

Tadesse has an extensive background in work improving women’s health. Most recently, she served as project director of the country’s Maternal and Child Survival Program implemented by Jhpiego, where she oversaw programs to improve the capacity of health facilities and skilled birth attendants to provide high- quality care to women and newborns.

“Dr. Lia has devoted her entire career to improving the health and lives of women in Ethiopia,” says Timothy R. B. Johnson, M.D., Bates Professor and Chair of the U-M Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. “We couldn’t be more pleased to have someone with her rich expertise in the field help lead our efforts to ensure women have access to high quality comprehensive reproductive health services. She will play a critical role in our institution’s efforts to reduce maternal deaths across the globe.”

Tadesse also served as the CEO of St. Paul’s Hospital Millennium Medical College in Addis Ababa Ethiopia between 2007 and 2010 (when it was known as St Paul’s General Specialized Hospital). St. Paul’s Hospital was the first site to begin working with U-M in 2012, adopting an integrated medical curriculum that includes comprehensive reproductive health training and pioneering a new approach in Ethiopia. As CIRHT expands its comprehensive pre-service reproductive health training to the eight other medical schools throughout the country, St. Paul’s Hospital Millennium Medical College is the Center of Excellence for this effort.

She was nominated for a “women of excellence” award by the Association of Women in Business in Ethiopia in 2014.

Dr. Lia Tadesse’s other posts at St. Paul have included vice provost for academic programs and research services, vice provost for medical services and assistant professor in obstetrics and gynecology.

Prior to coming to St. Paul, Tadesse was a senior obstetrician and gynecologist at the Federal Police Referral Hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia where she was responsible for managing obstetric and gynecologic patients in maternity, labor and gynecology wards and providing family planning and other reproductive health services.

“There have been many efforts to improve women’s health in Ethiopia but there are still significant gaps,” Tadesse said. “CIRHT will help fill some of those gaps by preparing future doctors, nurses and midwives to care for girls and women and save lives.” Tadesse says.

“Maternal mortality is too high in Ethiopia and most deaths are preventable. Improving reproductive health services is a critical part of the foundation of our country. If we are able to integrate comprehensive reproductive health services for students so they can be skilled, competent and compassionate health givers, we can make a monumental impact on improving access to quality care throughout Ethiopia and the region.”

Learn more about CIRHT on its website:

University of Michigan becomes a key partner in Ethiopia’s medical revolution
$25 M grant backs U-M project to curb maternal deaths in Ethiopia, other developing nations

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Meet the 2015 Mandela Washington Fellows from Ethiopia

(Photos courtesy: Mandela Washington Fellowship)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Thursday, June 4th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — Below are the names and biographies of the 2015 Mandela Washington Fellows from Ethiopia. The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is the flagship program of President Barack Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI).

The fourteen fellows from Ethiopia, all under the age of 35, are part of 500 other promising young leaders from across Africa who are selected to attend top U.S. universities over the summer for a six-week academic and leadership institute in one of three areas: business and entrepreneurship; civic leadership; or public management.

According to YALI: “Immediately following the academic institutes, Mandela Washington Fellows convene in Washington, D.C. for a Summit. During the Summit, participants interact with President Barack Obama and other prominent U.S. government, business, and civic leaders. 100 Fellows will remain in the United States for an additional six to eight weeks after their academic institute and Summit to participate in internships in the public, private and non-profit sectors with organizations throughout the United States.”

Here are this year’s fellows from Ethiopia:

Helen Abelle Melesse

Helen Abelle has over five years’ experience in various fields of the legal sector. Currently, she is a researcher and trainer in the Southern Nations Nationalities and People Regional State Justice Organs Professionals Training and Legal Research Centre, where she focuses on conducting research and training on current legal, social, and human rights issues. Helen obtained a Master’s degree in Human Rights from Addis Ababa University, managed to get some of her research published, and is a volunteer for the Ethiopian Red Cross Society and Ethiopian Human Rights Council. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, she plans to continue her work in the development of human rights protection and good governance in her community.

Abdela Alite

Abdela Alite has over seven years of experience in different departments of South Omo zone health department, first in drug supply and distribution expert for about a year, then as a quality control process coordinator for another two years. Currently he is head of the department, coordinating about 33 health centers, 247 health posts and one general hospital. He also volunteers in fund-raising activities for helpless children to continue education, as part of a local organization called Male Development Organization. Abdela holds a Master’s degree in Public Health from the University of Arbaminch. Upon completion of the Fellowship, Abdela wants to continue working on the education of maternal and child death and also on combating communicable diseases.

Hana Bekele Ayele

Hana has over 7 years’ experience in the area of disability, particularly in leadership positions and the teaching of basic computer skills for blind persons. At present, she is working as general manager in the Ethiopian National Disability Action Network, where she gives due attention to strengthening collaboration and creating a united voice among disability-based organizations. She volunteers in associations for women with disabilities, is board vice-chair and a member of the general assembly enabling her to give advice, design projects, and reflect the issues of persons with disabilities at different stages. She has certificate in Basic Computer Skills, a diploma in teaching English, and graduated from the Addis Ababa University with a first in sociology. After completing the Fellowship, she plans to share her experience with the disability community, and facilitate ways where persons with disabilities can access equal opportunities and participate in every sphere of society.

Hilina Berhanu Degefa

Hilina Berhanu Degefa has four years’ experience as a women’s rights advocate. She has been working in the area of human rights for women with a particular focus on grassroots advocacy, gender-based violence, and empowerment of women in educational institutions. She is co-founder of the Yellow Movement AAU and Women for Change in Ethiopia as well as youth-led organizations that promote women’s rights. She is responsible for having managed campaigns and run online activism in support of women’s rights, serves as the president of Women for Change in Ethiopia, and is also involved in the Sanitation for Education project. Hilina holds a Bachelor’s degree in Law from Addis Ababa University, School of Law. Upon completion of the fellowship she plans to work on youth mentorship and expand the Sanitation for Education project by setting up sanitary booths and selling or giving sanitary pads for free all across Ethiopia.

Dagnachew Bogale Wakene (Dag)

Dag has been working for over nine years as an advocate, educator, and research consultant with a focus on disability rights and inclusive development. He holds a Bachelor of Law degree from the Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia, and a Master’s of Philosophy majoring in Rehabilitation and Development Studies from Stellenbosch University, South Africa. He is currently the Africa Regional Coordinator at Disability Rights Promotion International, a project run by York University, Canada to establish a monitoring system that addresses disability discrimination globally. He’s also co-founder of ThisAbility Consulting, an initiative which aims to bridge existing gaps of participatory disability research in Africa. A childhood polio-survivor, Dag embraces an outstanding blend of lived experience and professional excellence in his fields of expertise. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, he will continue his robust contributions to efforts of creating an inclusive society in Ethiopia and the continent.

Maji Hailemariam Debena

Maji is a social work and mental health professional with over five years’ experience working with different academic and research institutions. Her major areas of interest include mental health, poverty, migration, food security, and gender. As an educator and researcher, she is working with Hawassa University in Ethiopia and currently pursuing her PhD in Mental Health Epidemiology. Her doctoral dissertation combines an intervention and research on understanding barriers to equitable access to mental health care. In her undergraduate, she majored in Philosophy with a minor specialization in Sociology. She has a Master’s degree in Social Work. Her long-term career plans include initiating a regional research and training collaboration involving five East African countries. Upon return, she aspires to invest on equipping the next generation of social activists in Ethiopia.

Yordanos Jembere Dessalegn

Yordanos has over seven years’ experience working with coffee farmers’ cooperatives in different positions, particularly the export department. She established her own coffee exporting company, Coffee Culture Coffee Export PLC, where she is the manager. Yordanos also serves as a chairperson of women organized to support each other to address socio-economic problems. She volunteers at Give Hope Ethiopia, a charity helping orphaned and vulnerable children, youth, and women in Ethiopia to which 10% of her company’s revenue goes. She has long-term plans to be one of the top coffee exporters, with her own coffee farm and processing plant producing traceable and quality coffee, creating more jobs for others, mainly women. After the completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Yordanos plans to apply the knowledge and skills obtained from the opportunities she gains to improve her business and enhance the community she serves.

Meron Kassahun Asfaw

Meron Asfaw is an architect, lecturer, and researcher at the Ethiopian Institute of Architecture, Building Construction and City Development (EiABC) of Addis Ababa University. She is currently involved in research related to sustainable rural housing initiatives, Sustainable Rural Dwelling Unit (SRDU). In collaboration with her colleagues, she spearheaded the SRDU research and has been closely involved in it for the past four years as an author and point person for the management of documentation, publication, and design as well as construction tasks. She strongly believes that real change in rural areas will come when modern science and traditional knowledge learn from each other. Upon completing the Fellowship she plans to continue working on sustainable building practices that will enhance the livelihoods of farmers, particularly in Ethiopia but even more importantly across the African continent.

Dawud Mohammed Ali

Dawud has over six years’ experience in teaching, research, international relations, and community service. He is currently a lecturer and researcher at Samara University of Ethiopia, where he also serves as an executive director for the international and public relation affairs directorate of the university. He has been serving in different senior leadership positions of the university for many years and is the founder and president of a NGO called the Afar Development and Scholarship Fund which is dedicated to the advancement of education and development affairs in Afar state of Ethiopia. Dawud holds a Master’s degree in business administration from Andhra University in India, where he focused on international business and leadership aspects of management. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Dawud plans to continue serving his University and to work in promoting development and education to eradicate poverty focusing on activism for youth education and empowerment.

Balayneh Nekatibeb Begna

Balayneh holds Master’s degree in Development Studies from Addis Ababa University. For over 10 years, he has designed and managed a number of agricultural growth and economic development programs and projects with NGOs, donor agencies and the Ethiopian Government. He is currently working in Ethiopia as capacity development advisor to the Department of Foreign Affairs Trade and Development of Canada. He volunteers as a board member for KMG Ethiopia, a community-based organization that helps thousands of rural women, girls, and marginalized communities to emancipate themselves from violence and discrimination. His experiences, beyond developing his skills and capacities in development management, have enlightened him to learn about business opportunities that can hugely benefit smallholder farmers in Ethiopia and beyond. He believes that the Mandela Washington Fellowship will help him acquire the skills, networks, and resources he needs to establish a socially viable, prototype Agribusiness Centre in Ethiopia on his return.

Israel Tibebu Taye

Israel Taye is young pan-African lawyer from Ethiopia, passionate about African renaissance, youth empowerment, sustainable development, and human rights. He aspires to fast-track youth participation in continental and international development initiatives and has over three years’ experience in various fields in the public management sector, in human rights in particular. Currently, he serves as a legal assistant for the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights under the African Union’s youth volunteer program. In this capacity, he focuses on issues relating to extractive industries and environmental rights, as well as other human rights violations in Africa. Israel holds a Bachelor of Laws degree from Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia and volunteers for community initiatives aimed at youth empowerment through life-skills development and career guidance. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, he plans to engage in youth empowerment and development forums both nationally and within the African Union system.

Marta Tsehay Sewasew

Marta Tsehay Sewasew has six years’ experience and involvement in several developmental programs on girl’s education, women economic empowerment, youth leadership, adolescent and youth reproductive health, and orphan and vulnerable children support projects. Currently, Marta is working for the Development Fund of Norway in Ethiopia as a program coordinator on the Girls Education and Youth Participation program, where she focuses on program design and development, management, monitoring, and evaluation. Further, Marta initiated a program called Mobile for Students Reproductive Health (M4SRH) for University students, which uses mobile technology to convey reproductive health messages. She also played an important role in the preparation of a national life-skills manual for students in Ethiopia. Marta has a Master’s degree in Social Work with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology. She plans to continue her effort on scaling up girl’s education and the M4SRH initiative on completion of Fellowship.

Ethiopia Wondimu Robi (Ethiopi)

Ethiopi has over three years’ experience in various fields in the real estate sector and works passionately towards introducing green buildings to Ethiopia, and developing a culture of sustainability within the real estate sector. Currently, she is the principal founding member and general manager of Olympus Real Estate P.L.C, a green company committed to developing eco-friendly homes. Ethiopia holds a Master of Science degree in Real Estate Management from the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden where she focused on rapid urbanization and housing shortage in Africa while reflecting on the opportunities within the problem facing her country. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, she plans to continue her work in her real estate company with a focus on building green, and establishing a positive influence on her fellow professionals in the industry into becoming more environmentally consciously, ensuring a better future for all.

Hermella Wondimu Woldehana (Hermi)

Hermi has spent five years working with rural communities in Ethiopia focused on the provision of clean water and promotion of hygiene and sanitation. She is currently the general manager of Drop Of Water, the NGO she co-founded as a university student, and believes it is the honor and moral obligation of all university students to stand for the betterment of their community. Demonstrating the power of grass root volunteerism, Drop Of Water has provided clean water access to tens of thousands of rural communities in Ethiopia. Hermi has a degree in civil engineering from Mekelle University, and has completed training certifications on emergency water and sanitation and water safety plans. Through people working together, she believes the water crisis can be ended, and upon completion of the Fellowship plans to continue her work with volunteers with a focus on community leadership and fundraising.

Meet the 2014 Mandela Washington Fellows From Ethiopia

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From Ethiopia to Israel to Harlem: Q&A with Beejhy Barhany, Owner of Tsion Cafe

Beejhy Barhany. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Hasabie Kidanu

Published: Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

New York (TADIAS) – In the historic neighborhood of Sugar Hill, Harlem we celebrate one of its newest additions — Tsion Café and Bakery. Formerly known as Jimmy’s Chicken Shack, 763 St. Nicholas Ave had housed the famous eatery and hangout frequented by jazz musicians, writers and poets; Malcolm X worked there washing dishes. Now converted into a trendy cafe and bakery Tsion is located a few doors away from the former St. Nick’s Pub – a renowned jazz club established in the 1940s. That’s where, according to The New York Times, “The musicians Frank Lacey, Olu Dara, Sarah Vaughn and Wynton Marsalis played through Harlem’s ups and down. The pub drew famous faces and busloads of tourists.”

Today, the most delicious Ethiopian food with a Mediterranean and Israeli twist comes out of the same kitchen as Jimmy’s Chicken Shack. It’s a space where you can finish your novel, meet a friend for lunch, sip on fair trade, organic coffee, or simply hang out.

The owner and founder, Beejhy Barhany, was born in Ethiopia, raised in Israel and moved to New York fifteen years ago. Beejhy says her mission is to carry on the essence of the establishment’s former identity – a meeting place for wholesome food, art, culture and musical performance. Behind Tsion Café is an incredibly rich life story that led her here; from bungee and cliff jumping in the Amazon, to trading diamonds in New York, to serving in the army in Israel. Her passion to communicate her Ethiopian heritage, while highlighting her Jewish upbringing has led her to establish a space and platform where the richness of her life experience can be heard, seen, tasted, and experienced. Tsion Café is the physical manifestation of Beejhy Barhany’s personal story spanning continents and cultures.

With sweet traditional tunes humming in the background, we start our chat.

TADIAS: What was the inspiration behind Tsion Café, and why did you choose a location in Harlem?

Beejhy Barhany: It is important for me to highlight Ethiopian culture and its rich heritage, and paying homage to my Jewish background. I moved to New York in 2000, and after living and working here for a few years, I founded BINA (Beta Israel of North America) as a way to create a platform to raise greater awareness about Ethiopian Jews. I started organizing events, film screenings, showcasing cuisine, stories, and music. It kept growing, expanding, I had an office, but I always wanted a venue. And I always wanted something in Harlem; it’s historical, it has some connection to Ethiopia. I was looking at a lot of different places, and I was interested in this particular venue. Jimmy’s Chicken Shack was once this exact place, where all the poets and musicians were spending time, I wanted to bring that back and carry on the tradition, I wanted to honor writers, artists, have readings and performances, and this place simply worked.

TADIAS: Your drive to highlight the beauty of Ethiopian culture is so heavily influenced by your life; you’re Ethiopian, Jewish, a New Yorker. It seems Tsion is a byproduct of your experiences, and even with heavy revision, you’ve had a jam-packed life so far, so I wanted to start at the beginning, tell us a bit about your childhood.

Beejhy: I was born in Tigray, in a small village; I don’t have much memory of Ethiopia since I left at a very young age. From the stories and vague memories, it was a peaceful life, surreal; I remember rivers, cornfields, eating fruit, climbing trees. I left the country with my family and started a journey to Israel, the holy land; we did it because of a strong determination connected to our religious ideology. In a way, we escaped with a mission in mind. We had people show us the way, make sure we didn’t bump into roadblocks, maneuver between villages, take us to Jewish villages to stock up with food and water.

TADIAS: I think this particular journey that you have partaken in comes in story form to the rest of the country and the West, do you think the stories of the Ethiopian Jewish community may be somewhat misrepresented?

Beejhy: I think it is something that is a bit exaggerated, we didn’t suffer in Ethiopia, I think that history needs a bit of revision. It depended on what area you came from. The image of Ethiopia in general that is exported into the West is not completely accurate. Surely, it was a difficult journey but it was a pure and spiritual passage that Ethiopian Jews carried out, not for economic opportunities, not because we were unhappy in Ethiopia, but because we wanted to be in Israel. The level of devotion was incredible, it was difficult on various levels but the people had an unbelievable drive. For instance, there was a pregnant woman walking among us, when she gave birth, people waited until she recovered to continue. We wouldn’t walk during Shabbat – the group had that level of devotion.

TADIAS: I would imagine you had to take intentional detours, to avoid roadblocks and dangers?

Beejhy: Yes, so we walked to Sudan and we stayed there for almost three years. I had a few family members and a cousin who worked with different NGOs and Mossad (the national intelligence agency of Israel) who had secret missions to get families to Israel. So, we were told to prepare, take pictures, pack, and one night we were picked up with a Land Rover and a Scottish and Kenyan driver, all under a secret operation. At the age of 7, I continued this epic journey, I remember sitting on the roof of the truck amongst suitcases looking at wild animals in the safari. It was magnificent time for me, but surely, for the elders it was frightening, especially passing through borders with a Scottish driver who was up for much interrogation. He was consistent in claiming he was a “tour guide.” The authorities wanted to know more, but with the connection and good sum of money, they were able to transport us through multiple borders. At some point I could see Ethiopia from Kenya, but that was the route you used to smuggle. We arrived in Uganda and hid there two weeks, until proper documentation was ready, from there we flew to Israel.

TADIAS: So, after several years, you were finally in Israel. How was the first reaction, reception, and adjusting to a new life?

Beejhy: It was a group of incredibly sincere people who had carried out this journey, and it was an absolutely emotional moment for us. The reception was two-pronged. There were so many who were excited to welcome us, the new Jewish Diaspora! Yet, there was some discrimination. The whole interaction between white and black was not easy – there was name calling on both sides. There was also the notion that you were not good enough, even after that level of devotion during the trip you had to reclaim your religion anew with Mikveh (the ritual immersion in a bath to symbolize the conversion into Judaism, to regain purity before entering the Temple). I was young, but I understood the process of the ‘new immigrant.’ I started a new life, new language, new home. I was integrated into all of it. I learned Hebrew. I met kids form Ethiopia and Russia, and after some time I started taking regular classes – I grew up. I learned to be very independent since all of my family members were integrating into a new life as well. I had to do homework by myself for instance. I decided to do my high school in a Kibbutz (a collective community based on agriculture, a co-operative life where everything is shared). Then I decided to join the army, and I served for three years. After that I wanted to travel the world, so I started with the U.S.

TADIAS: Okay, so now we are getting closer and closer to New York and Tsion. Tell us about the journey that ended in you moving to New York City in 2000.

Beejhy: I had saved some money and went backpacking. I was twenty-two. I traveled a bit in the U.S., the Islands, then to Latin America. I traveled to Venezuela, Peru, Chile, Argentina, and Brazil, hitchhiking and backpacking. I did the Machu Picchu trail for a week. I mean the adventures were endless – I bungee-jumped, trekked snow mountains, did 100 feet jumps from bridges into rivers, walked the jungles of Peru. It was madness. I went back to Israel and I could not stay. I had seen too much. I went back to New York in 2000 and started babysitting for a Jewish family. I soon started a job in the diamond district managing an office. I started designing jewelry and trading diamonds while going to school, and graduated with a Liberal Arts degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University.

In 2003 I founded Beta Israel of North America Cultural Foundation (BINA). Throughout my encounters in life, people did not know about Ethiopian Jews or Ethiopia in general. I wanted to create a platform to bring that richness to the world. I started organizing events and BINA was incredibly important in its role of discarding the negative images of Ethiopia; we are strong people with such a magnificent history, and it was important to underline that. After some years, it was clear that I wanted a venue, so the scouting for Tsion Café started.

TADIAS: How did you decide on this particular location?

Beejhy: It is quite ironic because when I first moved here, people told me not to go to Harlem. Now I live and work here. It was serendipity that we ended up here. I wanted a location that was near to home, because of my family, but also a place that demonstrated the history of Harlem. When I first saw the space I felt there was something to it, but didn’t know what. It was only just before construction began that we learned of the historic significance — any lingering doubts about the space was removed at that time. But, the place was like a junkyard, layers of flooring had to be taken out, walls taken down, everything had to be cleaned up. But eventually, it was up and running.

TADIAS: Your staff is a creative bunch; the head chef is Samson Kebede, a bass player for ARKI sound, an Ethiopian Jazz band. Beniam Asfaw is the Art Director and curates work for the Tsion Art Show. Was that intentional when it came to things like designing the menu or the general ambiance?

Beejhy: The food celebrates my upbringing, so we wanted to craft up something that was Ethiopian with a Middle Eastern, Jewish twist, a sort of hybrid. So we have something like Firfir (a dish made from shredded Injera, in a spicy buttery sauce) that is traditionally Ethiopian/Eritrean, but we also have the Malawa (a layered puff pastry dish served with eggs and tomato dip or honey), which is more of a reference to Yemen/Israel. We also try to be efficient with our ingredients; we serve fresh, organic food. The Ethiopian influence is there for sure, but we add a bit more to it. Soon, we will have some fresh bread and pastries to sell. We also have Ethiopian honey wine, and of course, we will have the traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony.

TADIAS: What are your hopes for Tsion Café in the coming years?

Beejhy: I see it becoming a gathering place for the community – where writers can be comfortable to come here and finish their books for instance. We want to highlight art and culture. I see it as a place where we celebrate the diversity within Harlem, a place for growth of ideas, spirituality, and respect for one another, and in a way you will have a better understanding of Ethiopia. It is a space that is envisioned as a positive addition to Harlem. A gift from my family and me to the Harlem community. Tsion means the ‘ultimate spiritual place.’ You come here, and we fill you with good food and a good cultural grounding to all things Harlem — old and new.

If You Go:
Tsion Cafe
763 St. Nicholas Ave.
Harlem, NY 10031

To submit artwork: Please be ready to provide your artist bio and artwork list (i.e. title, medium, dimensions and retail price for each artwork). Please include your name, address, email and phone number on your artist bio and artwork list and submit your art to to be considered.

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Founder of Whiz Kids Bruktawit Tigabu

Bruktawit Tigabu, founder of Ethiopia's Whiz Kids Workshop, has been selected as one of two individuals awarded the 2014 Tremplin Prize, in partnership with UNESCO, in recognition of “social entrepreneurship.”

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Thursday, December 4th, 2014

New York (TADIAS) – Bruktawit Tigabu, co-founder and CEO of Ethiopia’s Whiz Kids Workshop, has been awarded the 2014 Tremplin Prize, which recognizes innovative social business projects. The award given in partnership with UNESCO includes a $10,000 subsidy along with a year of international consulting and media coverage.

Bruktawit launched Whiz Kids Workshop in 2006 and developed Ethiopia’s first educational TV show for preschool kids entitled Tsehai Loves Learning that is watched by approximately 5 million children and broadcast in schools, refugee centers, and clinics. The educational TV show has earned several other international accolades including the Japan Prize International Contest for Education Media, Next Generation Prize at Prix Jeunesse International (2008) and Microsoft Education Award (2011). Bruktawit was named a Rolex Young Laureate in 2010.

The award ceremony will take place at the UNECA building in Addis Ababa on December 5th.

Bruktawit Tigabu. (Photo: ©Rolex Awards/Ambroise Tézenas)

(Photo: ©Rolex Awards/Ambroise Tézenas)

Cover Image: Courtesy of Whiz Kids Workshop P.L.C

Tadias Interview With Bruktawit Tigabu: Her Amharic Classroom Library Project

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Five Questions for Prof. Lemma Senbet

Professor Lemma Senbet is the Executive Director of the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC) in Nairobi. He is currently on sabbatical from the University of Maryland, College Park. (Courtesy photo)

The UB Alumni

As a freshman at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, Lemma Senbet clearly remembers his first day on campus standing in line to register for his engineering classes. Noticing a large number of students filing up for another subject, he asked what the line was for. When he learned that students were enrolling in for the university’s newly established business school, he decided to switch majors.

Unbeknownst to Senbet, that moment would lead to a successful career in economics and a position as William E. Mayer Chair Professor of Finance at the University of Maryland.

Senbet earned a Bachelor’s degree in accounting from Addis Ababa University and an MBA in finance from the University of California in Los Angeles. After graduation, Senbet planned to return to Ethiopia. However, civil unrest in the country forced him to wait out the war in a doctorate program in the United States. After searching for universities in New York, he chose UB over Columbia University for the personal attention and family-like atmosphere the university’s doctoral program offered.

Senbet’s first academic appointment was as an assistant professor of finance at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

He progressed rapidly along the tenure track, earning the rank of full professor after seven years, and later, the Charles Albright Chaired Professorship! However, the chance to help build a finance program led him to the University of Maryland.

Currently, Senbet is on sabbatical from Maryland, working as the head of the African Economic Research Consortium, a Kenya-based non-profit organization that conducts research on the management of economies in sub-Saharan Africa.

Five Questions with Lemma:

If you could create another national holiday, what would it be called?
Holiday for Immigrants. The United States is a country of immigrants and that doesn’t receive much attention. The holiday would celebrate the energy and vibrancy that led to the creation of U.S. And it would honor both current immigrants and historic immigrants, and the opportunities created for them to make it in a different environment.

Read the rest of the Q & A at »

Tadias Interview with Professor Lemma Senbet: New Head of AERC

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Texas: Spotlight on Birhan Mekonnen

Birhan “Mac” Mekonnen who owns 23 Domino’s Pizza franchise locations in Texas at his home in Heath, Texas which is modeled after the Fasilides' Castle from his hometown of Gondar in Ethiopia. (D Magazine)

D Magazine


Birhan “Mac” Mekonnen is standing on his balcony, surveying acres of land, reflecting on what he’s built. The balcony rests just below the most unique architectural feature of his home in Heath—a dome modeled after Fasil Castle in Gondar, Ethiopia. Gondar is Mekonnen’s hometown, the hometown he fled in 1977, three years after war erupted.

Along with his future wife, the 18-year-old walked for days, finding refuge in Sudan, where their first child would be born. The young family of three relocated to North Dakota 18 months later, where Mekonnen’s sponsors suggested he seek employment at a grocery store. He refused and went on to receive a degree in electrical engineering. And with that, the Mekonnens set out again, this time to Dallas, where a network of relatives and friends was rapidly developing. That was 28 years ago.

Today, an estimated 35,000 Ethiopians call North Texas home. One of the fastest-growing ethnic groups in Dallas, they’ve gravitated toward Rowlett, Wylie, and Garland, where the Ethiopian community association that Mekonnen heads hopes to build a community center.

“It was designed to bring Ethiopians together and keep the tradition and culture,” Mekonnen says of the association, “to teach our children, making sure they know their roots.”

Read more at »

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Meet the 2014 Mandela Washington Fellows From Ethiopia

(Photo courtesy: YALI - Young African leaders Initiative)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

Washington, D.C. (TADIAS) – Ethiopia is represented by 13 young leaders in the newly renamed Mandela Washington Fellows for Young African Leaders program.

Per the White House: “Selected from nearly 50,000 applications, the 500 Mandela Washington Fellows represent the extraordinary promise of an emerging generation of entrepreneurs, activists, and public officials. Mandela Washington Fellows are between 25 and 35 years old; have proven track records of leadership in a public, private, or civic organization; and demonstrate a strong commitment to contributing their skills and talents to building and serving their communities. The first class of Fellows represents all 49 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and includes equal numbers of men and women. Despite their youth, more than 75 percent of Fellows already hold a mid-level or executive position, and 48 percent have a graduate degree. Twenty-five percent of Fellows currently work in a non-governmental institution and 39 percent of them operate their own business. Nearly all Fellows are the first in their families to visit the United States.”

Below are the names and brief bios of the 2014 Mandela Washington Fellows from Ethiopia:

Fozya Tesfa Adem

Fozya Tesfa has over nine years of experience working in the education sector. She is founder and current Dean of the School of Education at the University of Gondar, responsible for recruiting instructors, working with instructors on curriculum planning and delivery, training and advising students, and organizing and delivering pedagogical trainings. Fozya holds a Master of Arts in Educational Planning and Management from Addis Ababa University focusing on identifying management problems and prioritizing possible solutions in technical and vocational education and training institutions. She is also a Ph.D. candidate in Comparative and International Education at the same university with a special emphasis on pre-primary education. Upon completion of the Washington Fellowship, Fozya plans to work towards improving the quality of education in Ethiopia by empowering teachers and students and to advocate for children and other stakeholders throughout the educational system.

Mesganaw Assefa

Mesganaw Assefa has experience working in the areas of governance, human rights, and education. He currently serves as a national Peace Expert for the Ministry of Federal Affairs where he advises on strategic directions, policy formulation, and capacity building efforts in its conflict prevention and resolution tasks. He also teaches law for undergraduate students at Addis Ababa University. Previously, he worked at the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission as a member of the team of experts that drafted the first National Human Rights Action Plan of Ethiopia, which is currently being implemented. Mesganaw holds two master’s degrees, an LLM in International Human Rights Law from Lund University and a Master of Arts in Global Political studies with specialization in peace and conflict studies from Malmö University. Upon completion of the Washington Fellowship, Mesganaw plans to continue to engage with public institutions to influence the implementation of strategic policy decisions on safety and justice issues with a particular focus on issues of women and girls.

Darara Mole Banti

Darara Mole has five years of experience working in community development. Currently, he serves as a Program Coordinator with the Harmee Education for Development Association, an organization that works with women, children, youth, and people with disabilities located in rural areas. He is also chairman of the Youth for Action and Charity and previously worked with the Office of Government Labor and Social Affairs. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a minor in Sociology and is currently working towards a master’s degree in Social Work at Addis Ababa University. Upon his return from the Washington Fellowship, Darara plans to share his acquired skills and knowledge with his community and engage in leadership cultivation programs at schools to inspire youth to be responsible citizens. He is also very keen to engage in charitable activities and to continue working with children.

Helawi Beshah

Helawi Beshah is an architect that researches and lectures for the Ethiopian Institute of Architecture, Building Construction and City Development (EiABC). For the last seven years he has researched and conducted experiments focusing on innovative, green, and affordable housing alternatives and constructing prototype buildings for lower income neighborhoods in Ethiopia. He is also the founder and Executive Editor of Building Ethiopia, the first architecture and urban scientific journal in Ethiopia. He is skilled in photography, visual communications, and graphics design. Helawi received his bachelor’s degree in Architecture from the Addis Ababa University and a master’s in advanced studies in Urban Design at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. Upon completion of the Washington Fellowship, Helawi plans to create publications, documentaries, and platforms that focus on innovations and change by youth across Africa.

Saba Bisrat

Saba Bisrat has over five years of experience in the construction business sector. She is currently the founder and Managing Director of Revo Construction where she executes projects that mainly focus on alternative construction methodologies. She is also a partner with a turnkey solution company called TKM Maestro Technology PLC and serves as co-founder and committee president for an international student organization called AIESEC. Saba is planning to launch a labor training center focused on providing skills for those working in the construction sector. Saba holds a bachelor’s degree in Construction Technology and Management from Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia. Upon the completion of the Washington Fellowship, she plans to share her acquired knowledge and skills with her community by giving workshops to different construction associations and graduating students who will be entering the construction industry.

Deginet Doyiso

Deginet Doyiso has four years of experience working as a Public Prosecutor in the Kambata Tambaro Zone Justice Office, in the SNNP Region of Ethiopia. As a disabled person, Deginet works to ensure that all disabled people in Ethiopia are given equal opportunities and do not live in poverty. He has received training in various areas including project management and planning, fundraising, and public speech from the International Institute for Social Entrepreneurs in Kerala, India. He is founder of an NGO that focuses on issues and problems important to the disabled community and also has a center that provides training to disabled women in small businesses. After completing the Washington Fellowship, Deginet plans to renew his energy and further improve his NGO to empower disabled persons economically and socially.

Haleta Giday

Haleta Giday has over three years of experience working in community development. She is currently a Lecturer of Law at the Woliyta Sodo University and serves as a public prosecutor in southern Ethiopia. She focuses on the rights of women and children and has conducted several trainings to increase awareness regarding the legal and financial rights of women. Haleta holds a degree in Law from Jimma University and conducted her research on human rights violations in Africa. After completion of the Washington Fellowship, she plans to work with the United Nations and African Union on issues related to peacekeeping and conflict resolution in Africa. She also plans to conduct trainings on gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Yonas Moges

Yonas Moges has over ten years of experience working in the hospitality industry with major international hotel chains. Currently, he is a managing partner at Calibra Hospitality Consultancy and Business Plc, where he focuses on advising local hotel developers in hotel design concept development, site selection, conducting feasibility studies, searching and selecting a hotel operator, and sourcing debt and equity finance for hotel projects. Yonas received his Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from Addis Ababa University and is currently pursuing an MBA-HRM in Distance Education from Cambridge International College. Upon the Completion of the Washington Fellowship, he plans to work on strengthening third party hotel management and introducing the first franchised family restaurant to his home city. He is also working to start an Ethiopian Vocational School of Hospitality with an international hotel school accreditation system.

Michael Addisu Haile

Michael Addisu Haile has more than 8 years of experience in lecturing, consultancy and business management, with a focus on the financial sector. He worked in several positions before starting a new and pioneering microfinance institution called Nisir Microfinance. Nisir provides medium size and demand-driven credit, saving, micro-insurance, micro-leasing and business advisory services to medium sized enterprises. Michael was inspired to start Nisir when writing his Master’s thesis in 2006, when he discovered a large gap in the Ethiopian financial sector that was not being served; existing microfinance institutions focused only on the bottom segment and commercial banks mostly served high-end customers only. He was able to raise over $800,000 from over 200 shareholders to establish his company. Upon returning to Ethiopia, Michael will continue to provide young entrepreneurs, including women-owned businesses and other emerging companies through business development and financial services. Michael has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Finance and Accounting, and is currently a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) candidate from the CFA Institute.

Edda Zekarias

Edda Zekarias has eight years of experience working in child and adult education, communication, and advocacy. She currently works closely with UNDP Ethiopia’s Governance and Capacity Building Unit where she is responsible for reporting and sharing program developments with different parties including the Ethiopian government and its people as well as international partners. She also assists with media related projects by producing content and pictures for the UNDP Ethiopia website and writing updates for the organization’s social media networks. Edda also serves as the Secretariat of the UN Communication Group (UNCG) in the office of the UN Ethiopia Resident Coordinator, assisting efforts to strengthen and promote the work of the UN in Ethiopia and also engage the state and private media in developing communication. After The Washington Fellowship, Edda plans to share acquired knowledge and skills with her UNDP Ethiopia and UNCG colleagues.

Aichatou Tamba

Aichatou Tamba has five years of experience in conflict prevention and African peace and security dynamics with the African Union (AU). She is currently working on the AU Border Program, focusing on capacity development in a dozen African States with an emphasis on promoting borders as a conflict prevention tool and an instrument for African integration. Previously, Aichatou conducted research focused on the relation between African regional and continental integration bodies and on the concept of “African Solutions.” For two years, she was the liaison officer of the Africa Peace and Security Program, which gave her advocacy skills and access to a network of multilateral organizations and actors focused on mediation, peace, security, and governance. She received her degree in Comparative Law and Politics with a specialization in International Analysis and Prospective from the University of Auvergne. Upon completing the Washington Fellowship, she plans on advocating for strong diversity management policies for conflict prevention in Africa.

Mitiku Gabrehiwot

Mitiku Gabrehiwot is a lecturer at Mekelle University with over 10 years of research and teaching experience. He is a postgraduate Coordinator at the Department of Anthropology and is responsible for launching and supervising master’s programs within the department. He also works with the Mekelle School for the Blind where he organizes and coordinates volunteers from several different countries including Ethiopia, UK, and USA. He received a bachelor’s degree in History and Law and a master’s degree in Journalism and Medical Anthropology. He is an accomplished photographer and speaks seven different local languages. Upon completion of the Washington Fellowship, he plans to mobilize and encourage youth in his community to be active in volunteerism and public service.

Tsion Teferra Zeleke

Tsion Teferra Zeleke has seven years of experience serving as a development practitioner. Her work has focused on providing services in strategic development and management, result based program implementation and management, partners appraisal and management, and promotion of community and children participation. She is currently serving as the Director of Child Protection for Save the Children Ethiopia. Her responsibilities include developing and implementing the in-country child protection program and performing advocacy work to positively influence policies. She has a Master of Arts in Social Work and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. Upon completion of the Washington Fellowship, Tsion plans to be engaged in advocating for adequate budgeting for the implementation of projects that protect vulnerable children and families.

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Style: Liya Kebede Talks Lemlem’s Evolution

Supermodel Liya Kebede. (

July 25, 2014

Having spent roughly half her life in the fashion biz, Liya Kebede has come a long way in the industry since leaving Ethiopia at the age of 18 to model in Paris. In the following decades, Kebede has established herself as a bona fide icon—not only as a “super” still busy with runway and editorial work, but additionally as a philanthropist/advocate for maternal health and an emerging entrepreneur. Back in 2007, she launched her ready-to-wear brand, Lemlem, as a way to create new opportunities for the traditional weavers and artisans based in her hometown, Addis Ababa. The word lemlem means “to bloom” in Amharic and is also a nickname Kebede gave her 8-year-old daughter, Raee. Indeed, the line itself—comprised of beach-ready wares that are handwoven and embroidered in Africa—has been flourishing in a big way: Just this week, Kebede was announced as a new member of the CFDA.

Fresh off of the haute couture and menswear circuits (in Paris, she walked Dior and posed for pal Haider Ackermann’s presentation), Kebede joined to preview her new collection. At our appointment, the supermodel was the epitome of summertime casual in a gray T-shirt, striped Lemlem skirt, and canvas sneakers. While the has introduced new jersey and merino wool categories in recent seasons, Resort ’15 focused on best-selling gauzy tunics, caftans, and scarves in vibrant hues. Kebede personally gravitates toward some of the more directional silhouettes, including strapless jumpsuits, raw-edged maxi ponchos, and long boy shorts. Our takeaway? Both Kebede and her beachy clothes are beautiful in every way. Read on below for five things we learned about Kebede and Lemlem.

Read more at »

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Michael Million: One Man’s Story Of Survival And Fatherhood (Video)

Daniel Million kissing his father Michael after graduating from the Preuss School at UC San Diego (

KPBS San Diego

By Matthew Bowler

Monday, July 14, 2014

Michael Million is a proud father. He raised his two kids alone. Not one, but both of his kids are Bill and Melinda Gates Scholarship winners. That means they can go to any college where they are accepted, and they won’t have to pay a dime.

In 1999, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave $1 billion to the scholarship fund. To qualify you must be the first in your family to go to college, be a minority and demonstrate financial need. Every year just 1,000 of these scholarships are awarded. If you win one, the Gates Foundation will pay for your entire college education.

For most of us, having two children win such a scholarship would be the highlight of our story as parents, but for Million, it’s one part of a much larger story of survival and resilience.

Read the full story at KPBS San Diego »

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David Mesfin: 2014 Hyundai FIFA World Cup Ad Features Work by Ethiopian Artists

David Mesfin (R) & Wondwossen Dikran (L) working on the Hyundai FIFA World Cup AD. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

New York (TADIAS) — David Mesfin credits his love of visual communications to his teenage days in Addis Ababa in the late 1980′s where he used to hang out at a place called Neon Addis — a design and advertising firm that produced neon signs, billboards, and other forms of print ads. Today he is at the forefront of his field in the United States and his latest project as an Associate Creative Director includes new multi-platform commercials for Hyundai car company entitled “#BecauseFutbol” ( designed for the 2014 FIFA World Cup getting underway this week in Brazil.

The TV spots – created by the advertising agency Innocean USA — also come with microblogging on the social networking website Tumblr, and will be broadcast on ESPN and Univision “as part of Hyundai’s exclusive whistle-to-whistle automotive advertising sponsorship of the World Cup series.” The ad also made an appearance in New York’s Times Square yesterday via Hyundai’s large billboard space. For the Tumblr site, David told Tadias Magazine that he worked with “two amazing Ethiopian artists,” Ezra Wube and Wondwossen Dikran.

“Few things bring us together like the World Cup,” David enthused. “The excitement and passion for the game all culminate into something so extraordinary, that for 30 days the world pauses and allows permission for anything.” He added: “Grown men cry, blood pressure rises, families reunite in living rooms, strangers embrace, fathers and sons bond at 3 a.m. Why? Because Fútbol. Once we defined the Because Fútbol slogan and the TV spots, I began experimenting with converting short videos of emotionally charged Fútbol fans to GIF animations,” David shared. “It began with one video of an Argentinian Fútbol fan yelling at the TV while watching a game.”

David proposed, and the ad agency and client agreed, that Tumblr was the best social media platform to display the images and to engage the soccer fan community. “While working on the project I reached out to two Ethiopian friends who I thought would be the right people for this project: Ezra Wube and Wondowssen Dikran,” he said. “We set the objective to create and curate over 120 original pieces. It could be photography, illustration, digital rendering or GIF animation. What type of content might a fútbol fan enjoy and share? We also looked at different thematic ideas such as celebration, defeat, community, rivalry, ritual and more.” So far only two of the Hyundai Because Fútbol ads have been released: Boom and Avoidance. ‘Avoidance’ features a man trying in vain to avoid the unavoidable — the FIFA World Cup frenzy- where this month teams from 32 different countries will battle for a chance to be crowned the globe’s soccer champion.

Wondowssen Dikran’s involvement with the Hyundai 2014 FIFA World Cup campaign began when his company, Activator Pictures, was approached by the ad agency Innocean USA to produce a couple of spots that were going to be used in the campaign. “Being familiar with David Mesfin’s previous work for the brand, I was very excited to jump on board as the producer, along with Activator’s Creative Director Olumide Odebunmi, to put together a game-plan to implement the vision that Hyundai and Innocean both believed in,” said Wondowssen who is also the filmmaker behind the 2004 Ethiopian movie Journey to Lasta. “As a fanatic Futbol fan, this was a very exciting project to be involved with because we got to work with some very talented freestyle soccer players from Southern California. They were all young, full of energy and totally devoted to the sport.”

“One more interesting insight we have to share is a guinea pig called ‘Tony The Wiz’ who is going to predict key match-ups during the World Cup,” David added. “He will also make some appearances on social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter in real time. I’m really looking forward to this.”

Wondowssen shared: “Our company has always wanted to work with David Mesfin and his creative team, and when the opportunity presented itself, we jumped right in. Activator is very proud of the work we have done on this particular campaign. It is not everyday that you get to do work that represents prestigious brands such as Hyundai and FIFA.”


Client: Hyundai Motor America

Spots: “Boom” and “Avoidance”


Executive Creative Director: Greg Braun

Creative Directors: Barney Goldberg and Tom Pettus

Associate Creative Director, Art: David Mesfin

Senior Copywriter: Nick Flora

VP, Director of Integrated Production: Jamil Bardowell

EP/Content Production: Brandon Boerner

Associate Creative Director: David Levy

Senior Copywriter: Ryan Durr

VP, HMA Account Services: Marisstella Marinkovic

Account Director: Lester Perry

Account Supervisor: Casey Nichols

Production Company: Biscuit Filmworks

Director: Aaron Stoller

Managing Director: Shawn Lacy

Executive Producer: Holly Vega

Producer: Mala Vasan

Directors of Photography: Jess Hall and Jokob Ihre

Editorial Company: Union Editorial LLC

Editor: Jim Haygood

Vice President/Executive Producer: Megan Dahlam

Music Company: The Rumor Mill

Telecine Place: CO3
Online Place: Resolution

Record Mix Place: Eleven Sound

Mixer: Scott Burns

Tumblr Artists: Adhemas Batista, Adam Osgood, Dušan Čežek, Ali Graham, Matthias Brown, Daniel Nyari, Kieran Carroll and Ezra Wube

Production Company: Tool of North America

Managing Partner, Digital: Dustin Callif

Producer: Simi Dhillon

Managing Director, Live Action: Oliver Fuselier

Creative Director: Michael Sevilla

Creative Director: Bartek Drozdz

Senior Designer: Josh Jetson

Jr. Designer: Yuee Seo

Senior Developer: Simon Lindsay

Senior Developer: Richard Mattka

Senior Developer: Josh Beckwith

Tech Manager: Vincent Toscano

Head of Digital Production: Joy Kuraitis

Digital Producer: Simi Dhillon

Content Creators: Activator Pictures, ilovedust, Golden Wolf

Hyundai USA Releases World Cup AD “Epic Battle” Video by Wondwossen Dikran

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White House Science Fair Features Ethiopian-born Student Felege Gebru

President Barack Obama poses for a photo with Felege Gebru, 18, and Karen Fan, 17, both of Newton, Massachusetts who participated in the fourth-ever White House Science Fair on May 27th, 2014. (TOD)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Saturday, May 31st, 2014

Washington, DC (TADIAS) – President Barack Obama hosted the 2014 White House Science Fair last Tuesday, May 27th highlighting some of “America’s most innovative students” and featuring a variety of projects, including a pedestrian alert system designed for use in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia invented by Ethiopian-born Felege Gebru, 18, and Karen Fan, 17 (both representing Newton North High School in Newton, Massachusetts).

The White House Blog Post by David Hudson stated: “Noting the sobering statistic that Ethiopia has the highest rate of pedestrian deaths by vehicle in the world, Felege Gebru and Karen Fan designed a pedestrian alert system for use in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, that alerts drivers to crossing pedestrians and helps pedestrians safely cross congested roads. The invention, designed to be powered by solar energy, uses a dual-sensor method to calculate the arrival time of oncoming vehicles and indicate safer crossing times to pedestrians. Felege and Karen are leaders of the Newton North High School “InvenTeam” — which works on prototype solutions to be showcased each June at the Lemelson-MIT Program’s EurekaFest event.” Felege is currently an undergraduate majoring in Computer Science & Visual Arts at Brown University.

“An invitation to the White House Science Fair is an incredible honor for these students,” Leigh Estabrooks, the Lemelson-MIT Program’s invention education officer, who oversees the national InvenTeam initiative, told MIT News. “Katelyn, Olivia, Felege, and Karen exemplify the qualities we look for in our InvenTeams because of their passion for invention and devotion to inspiring other youth. These students have successfully blended their minds-on knowledge with their hands-on skills, and show what is possible when rigorous academics are blended with relevant career and technical education.”

The MIT News report also notes that “Gebru shared his firsthand knowledge of the dangers that pedestrians encounter in his home country of Ethiopia, and the InvenTeam has partnered with a sister school in Ethiopia to inform its understanding of the problem and guide the design.”

We congratulate Felege Gebru and Karen Fan on their accomplishments!

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Harvard School of Design: Sara Zewde Named National Olmsted Scholar

Sara Zewde, who is a Master of Liberal Arts (MLA) student in Landscape Architecture at Harvard University Graduate School of Design, has been named National Olmsted Scholar. (Courtesy photograph)

Tadias Magazine
News Update

Published: Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

Harvard University – Sara Zewde (MLA ’15) has been recognized as the 2014 graduate level National Olmsted Scholar. The award is the highest honor in the Landscape Architecture Foundation’s Olmsted Scholars Program, the premier national award program for landscape architecture students.

Sara intends to use the $25,000 award to return to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and New Orleans, Louisiana to continue working with the communities of Pequena África and Treme in designing their urban landscapes in a culturally and ecologically relevant manner. The award will also enable her to pursue additional projects where communities desire a spatial interpreter of cultural values.

Now in its seventh year, the Olmsted Scholars Program recognizes and supports students with exceptional leadership potential who are using ideas, influence, communication, service and leadership to advance sustainable planning and design and foster human and societal benefits.

Source: Harvard Gradudate School of Design

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Tadias Interview With Bruktawit Tigabu: Her Amharic Classroom Library Project

Bruktawit Tigabu, founder of Ethiopia's Whiz Kids Workshop. (Photo: ©Rolex Awards/Ambroise Tézenas)

Tadias Magazine
By Tseday Alehegn

Published: February 27th, 2014

New York (TADIAS) — As a primary school teacher in Addis Ababa, Bruktawit Tigabu wanted to improve literacy skills not only for children in her classroom but also for those who had limited educational opportunities. In 2006 she launched Whiz Kids Workshop and developed Ethiopia’s first educational TV show for preschool kids entitled Tsehai Loves Learning, which is watched by approximately 5 million children and also broadcast in schools, refugee centers, and clinics. 25 million listeners also hear Tsehai Loves Learning via radio. The educational TV show is highly successful and has earned several international accolades including the Japan Prize International Contest for Education Media and Next Generation Prize at Prix Jeunesse International (2008) and Microsoft Education Award (2011). Bruktawit was named a Rolex Young Laureate in 2010.

Following Tsehai Loves Learning Bruktawit released a TV series made by students called Involve Me in 2010. She was featured as one of the ‘Most Creative People of 2012′ by Fast Company and is currently running a crowdfunding campaign to launch her latest idea — building Tsehai’s Amharic Classroom Library Project and establishing 60 classroom-based libraries in several public elementary schools in Addis Ababa. Bruktawit’s dream is to have classroom libraries in schools across Ethiopia.

Below is our interview with Bruktawit Tigabu:

Bruktawit Tigabu. (Photograph credit: ©Rolex Awards/Ambroise Tézenas)

TADIAS: Please tell us a bit about yourself and how you started Whiz Kids Workshop. What inspired you to develop it?

BRUKTAWIT: I began my career as a teacher in my hometown of Addis Ababa. After a few years as a classroom teacher, I noticed most children entered the school system as late as age seven. This is because Ethiopia lacks public kindergartens. At Whiz Kids, we call this the early education gap and it is one of the main contributing factors to the high illiteracy rate in Ethiopia. These early years between ages three and six are developmentally critical to a child’s educational success; I knew something had to be done to fill this education gap for so many children. Whiz Kids Workshop began as an idea of how the power of television could close the gap. My husband Shane and I started out by making short films using some of the low-cost media technology that was becoming available to us at the time. We tested our films in classrooms and then conceived of the character of Tsehai, a curious young giraffe who loves books and music. Her show, Tsehai Loves Learning (Tsehai Memare Tewedaletch), has become a national hit that reaches millions weekly throughout Ethiopia on public television. Although our television show continues to reach and impact more and more children, we decided, a few years ago, to increase this impact by going beyond television into radio programming. This season, Tsehai’s radio programs will be reaching up to 25 million young listeners. We have also created Tsehai classroom libraries, where children and teachers can have a rich experience of our reading materials that include storybooks, workbooks, classroom posters and flashcards, developed by a large team of literacy experts, writers and artists.

TADIAS: Can you share some highlights of achievements and lessons learned from producing the Tsehai Loves Learning educational series?

BRUKTAWIT: Since we began in 2005, we have produced over 60 episodes of Tsehai Loves Learning that are viewed regularly by over 5 million children across the country. We continue to be the longest standing children’s TV series in the country. We have also been recognized for our work with over six international awards including Japan Prize in 2008, 2009 & 2010, Prix Jeunesse International – Next Generation Prize in Germany, 2010 Rolex Young Laureate award in Switzerland, and Microsoft Education Award 2011 of The Tech Awards in the USA. We recently won All Children Reading grant which helped us produce 32 episodes of Tsehai Loves Learning television and radio series.

We have learned many valuable lessons in this amazing journey of developing an educational series for children in Ethiopia. The three most meaningful are:

First, we never compromise on quality. Despite the challenge of producing for children, we have learned that to ensure and maintain quality—children’s production must be educational, fun, culturally and age appropriate, and relevant. To guarantee that we meet this standard, we spend close to a thousand hours of work for each episode of Tsehai Loves Learning. Besides the labor of love, we also use research, music, beautiful artwork and animation to bring it to life.

Second, dedication and persistence is a must to overcome the daily challenges of being a pioneer of such innovative work in Ethiopia. We face numerous challenges including financial, human resource capacity in the field, and bureaucratic hiccups on a daily basis. But we have learned that when we stay focused on our goal—reaching the millions of children who eagerly wait to see what we are producing and the vision of a better Ethiopia because we are providing children’s education– we are incredibly energized to persevere.

Third, building community — We have learned that no development or growth is sustainable or successful without the involvement of its community. We believe that every child in Ethiopia deserves the very best educational materials, regardless of their economic background. That’s why we are so excited to be reaching out to Ethiopians across the world to make this campaign succeed.

TADIAS: You recently announced the launch of an innovative crowdfunding campaign for an Amharic Classroom Library Project. Please tell us more about the initiative. Is this also in conjunction with the TV series?

BRUKTAWIT: Reading is a foundational skill for all learning in school. In some regions of Ethiopia, according to the 2010 Early Grade Reading Assessment, a majority of children have 0% comprehension, even at the end of grade 2. The same research showed that having teachers who provide focused reading instruction and story books, are a promising approach for identifying and beginning to remedy this critical problem. This is the reason we are building Tsehai classroom libraries beyond our TV and radio programs; to ensure sustainable reading success, the reading materials must be in the children’s hands.

Each classroom library revolves around a set of powerful elements that achieve reading success. Our classroom library materials includes 32 full-color, original storybooks that focus on one of the families of Ethiopian fidel; 32 beautiful classroom posters of all the fidels; 297 illustrated flashcards for learning the fidels; a wall-mounted sleeve used for teaching the fidels; five shelves for displaying the books, mounted at the right height for children to reach; and a mural featuring the beloved character Tsehai to create a special space for reading and exploration. We also include teacher training videos to demonstrate to teachers how to these materials in the classrooms most effectively.

Our initial goal will be to establish 60 classroom libraries in public schools in Addis Ababa. But if we go beyond our initial $25,000 goal it means we will be able to reach more schools in the country.

The new season of Tsehai Loves Learning is fully integrated into this initiative. Each of the 32 new episodes of the show features one of the books as an animated short within the show, with the characters reading them along with students and using the flashcards to learn the fidel. We will be including these episodes in each classroom library set on eight DVDs.

TADIAS: What is one thing you absolutely enjoy about running Whiz Kids Workshop?

BRUKTAWIT: I love to see people’s reactions to our work. It never gets old for me to see children sing along with Tsehai as they watch the show or to see a teacher’s reaction to the new classroom set we have developed for them. Most Ethiopian children know and love Tsehai; today’s teens grew up with her and adults keep telling me how much they wished for our materials to have been available when they were growing up.

TADIAS: Where do you hope to take your organization in five years?

BRUKTAWIT: Over the next five years we will continue to produce more innovative episodes of Tsehai Loves Learning that help children develop capacities in literacy, science, math, the arts, and moral values. We are going to keep building our library of books and supplementary materials, not only in Amharic, but in other Ethiopian languages. We want to create a nationwide movement based upon an appreciation of the importance of reading as the foundation of success in education and in life! This campaign is the beginning of raising awareness among parents, teachers, and school administrators to elevate the importance of helping children fall in love with books and learning to read by putting the right kind of learning materials into their hands. I can also see the Tsehai brand expanding beyond the borders of Ethiopia to develop curriculum in other African languages.

TADIAS: Is there anything in particular that you want to share with Tadias readers?

BRUKTAWIT: Having lived in the U.S. for a few years with my children, I know how hard it can be to maintain our language and culture while we are away from Ethiopia. We all know how important it is for us to help our children stay connected to our people and our heritage while we are far away, but it isn’t an easy task when they are immersed in another culture and strongly influenced by it.

With this new campaign, we are reaching out specifically to Ethiopians living abroad and giving them two important ways to meaningfully strengthen their connection with their country and people. By becoming contributors to our campaign, they will be the very first to get access to our new set of books, videos flashcards and posters to enjoy with their family. At the same time, they are making a direct contribution to the improvement of quality education in Ethiopia – critical to the development of our country.

To participate in the crowdfunding campaign to build Tsehai’s Amharic Classroom Library Project please visit:

Tseday Alehegn is Co-Founder & Editor of Tadias.
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Tadias Interview: Dr. Enawgaw Mehari on Pan-African Health Conference

Dr. Enawgaw Mehari, Founder and President of People to People - P2P. (Courtesy photograph)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Monday, February 24th, 2014

New York (TADIAS) — Ethiopian-born Neurologist Enawgaw Mehari, Founder and President of People to People (P2P), keeps a busy schedule at his job as a consultant at St. Claire Regional Medical Center and Neurology Course Director for University of Kentucky, but he always finds time to form global partnerships on healthcare related projects in Ethiopia. P2P, an Ethiopian doctors association that he founded in 1999, has a worldwide membership of over 55,000 as well as close ties with medical institutions in Ethiopia and the United States. Recently the California-based non-profit organization, US Doctors for Africa (USDFA), announced that it has partnered with P2P as its “Strategic Co-host” of the upcoming Pan-African Medical Doctors and Healthcare Conference to be held in Addis Ababa from May 21st through 23rd, 2014.

“It is so natural these two organizations have agreed to come together to host such a high level conference,” Dr. Enawgaw said in a recent interview with Tadias Magazine. Dr. Enawgaw noted that the gathering will highlight what he calls a “Triangular Partnership,” a term used by People to People — which also runs a free clinic in Kentucky for the working poor — to describe the relationship of three global groups: Diaspora, developing countries and Western institutions. “For so long the donor communities have given huge amount of money to Africa but have not invested sufficiently in capacity building,” he added. “People to People believes in a pragmatic vision that Triangular Partnership is the new paradigm.”

Dr. Enawgaw pointed out that Ethio American Medical Group (EDAG) and Global Ethiopian Medical Enterprise, both members of the Ethiopian Diaspora, have merged together to build a state of the art hospital in Addis Ababa. “The goal is to mitigate the migration of Ethiopians to other countries for their high caliber healthcare,” he said. “The group believes we are where we are and we have what we have and it is therefore natural to give back to the people who made our dreams a reality.”

Dr. Enawgaw emphasized that there are many distinguished Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopians who are making a difference in many ways “such as Dr. Girma Tefera from University of Wisconsin coordinating the emergency medicine program, Dr. Senait Fisseha from Michigan University helping St. Paul University with its post graduate training, Dr. Elias Siraj from Temple University supporting the Endocrinology program, Dr. Dawd Siraj and Dr. Makeda Semret from McGill University in Canada supporting the infectious disease program at Black Lion hospital, Dr. Kassa Darge supporting the radiology program at Black Lion, Dr. Zelalem Temesgen from Mayo Clinic developing HIV/AIDS online education program for Ethiopia, and Dr. Anteneh Habte supporting the palliative and hospice educational effort to be added to medical school curriculums. In addition, Dr. Fikre Girma from McMaster University in Canada has played a significant role in introducing CME for emergency medicine in Ethiopia. The Hakim Workneh and Melaku Beyan society has been playing important roles in medical education and the health care system in Ethiopia. The list is huge and I hope I am not in trouble for forgetting important names.”

The upcoming conference at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa headquarters in Addis Ababa, Dr. Enawgaw said, is open to medical students, medical doctors, health care specialists, policy makers and any one interested both at home and abroad. He said some of the topics at the conference will include “Technology, education, infrastructure, social media, medical ethics, mental health, brain drain, brain circulation, brain gain, women’s health, burden of diseases, and non-infectious emerging chronic diseases such as diabetes mellitus, heart attack and stroke.”

You can learn more about the conference at

Ted Alemayehu Prepares for Pan-African Healthcare Conference in Ethiopia

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Azla + Tesh: Contemporary Artisan Ethiopian Food & Merchandise in LA

Nesanet Teshager Abegaze and her mother Azla Mekonen at their family owned business Azla+Tesh in Los Angeles. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Aida B. Solomon

Updated: Monday, December 23, 2013

Los Angeles (TADIAS) — Walking into the Mercado La Paloma on a Saturday evening, you feel an immediate tranquility from the busy streets of Downtown Los Angeles. The open space of Mercado La Paloma presents a line of eateries, with an unexpected new tenant nestled into one corner: Azla Ethiopian Vegan. Alongside the simple white countertops is a joint space labeled Azla+Tesh, filled with goodies ranging from jewelry to vinyl records to original stylish crop tees. As someone who has frequented Little Ethiopia in Los Angeles’ Fairfax District since childhood to indulge in Ethiopian cuisine and merchandise, pleasantly surprised is an understatement to describe this newest modern addition to the LA food scene.

So who was the mastermind behind Azla? Needlessly to say, it was a family effort as Nesanet Teshager Abegaze tells Tadias Magazine. With mother Azla Mekonen as the head chef behind the vegan and gluten-free menu, and siblings Nesanet, Sonny, and Banchamlak Abegaze as the brains behind the lifestyle brand and boutique next door named Azla+Tesh. Nesanet runs the day-to-day operations, while Banchamlak, an attorney, handles the legal and financial aspects of Azla. Their brother Sonny Abegaze, a DJ and manager of the Ethio-jazz group Ethio-Cali, dons the title of “Chief Vibe Creator” curating merchandise and producing events. Together the powerhouse family has created not only nutritious vegan treats, but also an empowering space for Ethiopians and non-Ethiopians alike to come together around the concepts of wellness, health, and creativity.

Nesanet’s journey to opening Azla first began after graduating from Stanford University with a degree in Human Biology. She soon began working for The New World Foundation in New York City, supporting non-profits advocating for environmental justice and workers rights among other causes. Nesanet’s work in the nonprofit sector took her to the South where she became increasingly involved in education policy. She went on to obtain a Masters at UCLA in science education, and began working at various schools, eventually becoming an assistant principal. However it was Banchamlak opening her own law firm that would shift Nesanet’s career from school administration to management. After a few years, one of Banch’s clients offered both sisters an opportunity to work at Atom Factory, an entertainment company. Nesanet served as Vice President of Operations for the creative division, managing campaigns including superstar Lady Gaga’s perfume line, Fame and clients like Barneys New York. Nesanet was able to explore her love of marketing and design and gain confidence in her creative skills.

Combining her work experience with her passion in health and nutrition, Nesanet developed the concept of a contemporary, family-owned Ethiopian restaurant – Azla – that serves traditional Ethiopian vegan cuisine alongside modern artisan fare. Azla emphasizes supporting local, organic farmers and uses their produce in designing their menu.

“Throughout all of my career transitions, the common denominator has been my love for food and wellness. It’s been a lifelong dream to create a space to share our family’s love of healthy cuisine, as well as Ethiopian art, fashion and culture. We are very excited to share the rich culinary and art/design tradition of Ethiopia with our customer base, which includes neighboring USC students and professors, downtown professionals, creatives, and members of Los Angeles’ thriving Ethiopian community,” Nesanet says.

Azla has been open for just six months and is already creating a buzz with its fresh vegan Ethiopian meals, as well as their signature Ethiopian pizza made with a berbere marinara sauce, soups, and inventive desserts. It was a no-brainer to the family that the restaurant be named after the matriarch, Azla, whose family dinners are said to be nothing short of legendary. Azla’s genuine love for cooking fresh meals for her six children and husband was contagious, as Nesanet says that all of her siblings not only share a passion for food, but are also vegetarian/vegan. “For us my mother really expressed her love through food.” And the customers agree. “A lot of customers have told us that they can taste the love in the food. They say it tastes like a big hug. We love seeing how people respond to the food, often coming by to meet chef Azla.”

What also sets Azla’s menu apart is the incorporation of ingredients such as kale to a classic collard green (gomen) dish and making gluten-free injera to ensure not only taste but healthier food options, which is a vital aspect of Azla’s mission.

“I feel that Ethiopian cuisine has so much to offer as the awareness of the benefits of a plant-based diet grows,” Nesanet said. “Oftentimes, people turn to processed meat alternatives when exploring vegetarianism, but Ethiopian food offers abundant flavor and texture with unprocessed whole foods.”

Nesanet cites The China Study written by T. Colin Campbell as a personal favorite in her personal journey of following a plant-based and vegan diet. The book argues that most chronic diseases can be reversed through a plant-based diet, and Nesanet says that the rest of the public is catching on and becoming more empowered. “A lot of customers who eat meat religiously come in and are open to trying our food because they realize their current diet is making them sick and lethargic. They often say ‘I never knew vegan food can taste like this.’”

In addition to the cuisine at Azla, Azla+Tesh next door offers unique jewelry including colorful acrylic and wood Orthodox cross earrings, apparel including crop-tees and sweatshirts with graphics such as the Lalibela churches and a vintage Alemayehu Eshete album cover. Honoring timeless design elements from Ethiopia, while incorporating current fashion elements is the approach that the Abegaze siblings take in order to attract both Ethiopian and non-Ethiopian customers to the merchandise. “We’ve always been enchanted by Ethiopian crosses and the intricacy of their designs,” Nesanet shares. “We’ve worked to create jewelry that explores new materials such as acrylic and wood with pop colors to speak to a younger demographic.” The collection also includes necklaces with vintage bridal pendants and telsum beads from Ethiopia, using thicker bold chains, and a juxtaposition of modern and classic that guides the Azla+Tesh design aesthetic. In addition to accessories and clothing, Azla+Tesh offers old-school vinyl records, Ethiopian literature and films, and artisan food products that are packaged in beautiful mason jars.

As for what the future has in store for Azla and Azla+Tesh, there will be a series of free monthly events for the community, including guest speakers in acupuncture and yoga, vegan supper clubs in collaboration with local vegan chefs, as well as musical performances and networking events. The Azla team is dedicated to providing customers with a wonderful dining experience, as well as inspiring a more healthful lifestyle by providing cooking tips, recipes, and cooking demonstrations. Sure enough, Azla is already making its mark in Los Angeles not only for its fresh and tasty vegan dishes, but by providing a new space for Ethiopians and Non-Ethiopians alike to indulge in history, fashion, music, and health all in one place.

You can learn more about the restaurant at and shop for Azla+Tesh products at Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Soundcloud handles are @azlavegan and @azlaandtesh.

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Liya Kebede Honored at Glamour Women of the Year Awards (Video)

Liya Kebede at New York’s Carnegie Hall during the Glamour Women of the Year Awards and Gala on November 11th, 2013. (Photo: INF)

Atlanta Black Star

November 13, 2013

Supermodel and businesswoman Iman presented fellow models Liya Kebede and Christy Turlington with the Role Model of the Year award at the Glamour Women of the Year awards held at Carnegie Hall in New York on Monday evening.

Both models were honored for the work done through their respective foundations that help make motherhood safer for women everywhere. Turlington’s Every Mother Counts is a campaign to end preventable deaths caused by pregnancy and childbirth around the world, and the Liya Kebede Foundation supports maternal health care in Ethiopia.

Other notable honorees included, 16-year-old Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai, Lady Gaga, Barbra Streisand, and former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Watch Iman present the award to Turlington and Kebede.

Glamour Women of the Year: Iman, Lady Gaga, Liya Kebede & More Attend (Uptown Magazine)

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Photos & Fun Facts: Miss Universe Ethiopia Mhadere Tigabe in Moscow

Mhadere Tigabe, 19, will represent Ethiopia at 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow on November 9th. (Photos: Miss Universe)

Tadias Magazine
News Update

Published: Monday, November 4th, 2013

New York (TADIAS) — 19-year-old Mhadere Tigabe, the recently crowned Miss Universe Ethiopia, is currently in Moscow, Russia participating in preliminary contests for this weekend’s 2013 Miss Universe competition.

The Ethiopian beauty queen, who hails from Addis Ababa, is a mechanical engineering student at Mekelle University. “I believe my father equipped me with all the life lessons that allowed me to become independent, powerful, self-confident and educated,” Mhadere notes on her profile page on the pageant’s website.

You can read more fun facts about her and see photos at

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Miss Israel in America: Titi to Visit Little Ethiopia in Los Angeles

Miss Israel, Yityish Aynaw, will travel to California on September 28th, 2013. (Photo: Tadias Magazine)

Tadias Magazine
Events News

Published: Friday, September 20th, 2013

Los Angeles (TADIAS) — Miss Israel 2013, Yityish (Titi) Aynaw, is scheduled to visit L.A.’s famous Little Ethiopia next week. The Ethiopian Community Development group, a project of the Southern California-based non-profit ‘Community Partners,’ is set to host a “Meet and Greet Reception” on her behalf at the Little Ethiopia Cultural Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, September 28th.

Organizers said the reception will be followed by a buffet dinner (open to the public) at Rahel’s vegan Ethiopian restaurant, located a few doors down from the center on Fairfax Avenue.

“We are very much looking forward to welcoming Miss Israel with warm Ethiopian hospitality,” said Negest Legesse, Director of the Little Ethiopia Cultural Center.

The Ethiopian-Israeli beauty queen will also attend Saturday morning service at a synagogue in Beverly Hills. “Then for the rest of the afternoon and early evening, she will be our guest,” Negest said.

Titi’s tour is co-sponsored by the African American, faith-based initiative: Juneteenth Education Technology Mobile Arts Center (J.E.T.M.A.C.). In a statement the organization said Miss Israel’s L.A. stop is part of a national campaign. “The mission of the tour is to lay the groundwork for a 2014 Juneteenth Israel Reconciliation Tour, July 7-17, 2014, to build closer relationships with Israel through the Jewish Ethiopian community,” the press release said. “Miss Aynaw’s message welcoming and celebrating ethnic diversity in Israel is compelling.”

Miss Israel’s trip to America includes Washington D.C., Virginia, Illinois, and California.

If You Go:
Little Ethiopia to Host Miss Miss Israel 2013
Meet and Greet Reception in L.A.
Saturday, September 28, 2013
3:00pm – 5:00p
Little Ethiopia Cultural Center
1034 1/2 Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, CA
R.S.V.P. by September 25th (seats are limited)
Phone: (323) 937-8402.
Dinner at Rahel Ethiopian Vegan Cuisine
(Open to the public, there is cost for the buffet)

Photos: Miss Israel 2013, Yityish Aynaw, in New York, June 11th, 2013 (Tadias Magazine)

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Tahunia Rubel: Ethiopian-born Contestant Wins Israel’s ‘Big Brother’

Tahunia Rubel. (Photo by Patrick Lindblom / Sleek MakeUP)


By Gili Izikovich

Tahunia Rubel was named winner of the fifth season of Israel’s “Big Brother” reality TV show, it was announced Tuesday at the season’s finale.

Rubel, an Ethiopian-born 25-year-old model from Beit Shemesh, palmed the first prize, worth NIS one million. She is the second woman to win the show, the first being Shifra Cornfeld, who won the first season.

Second place was awarded to Levana Gogman, and third went to Leon Shwabsky. The other two contenders who made it to the season’s final episode were Dor Damari and Itay Wallach.

Rubel was considered a prominent contender from the season’s start, in much part due to her stormy countenance and the many squabbles that surrounded her- many of which were related to issues of race and identity. Earlier in the season, such tensions led to the eventual disqualification of two contestants, father and son Roni and Gili Miley.


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Steeplechaser Sofia Assefa Follows in Olympian Eshetu Tura’s Footsteps

Ethiopia's Sofia Assefa won bronze in the women’s 3000m steeplechase Tuesday at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow, Russia. (Photo credit: Getty Images)

Tadias Magazine
By Sabrina Yohannes

Updated: Thursday, August 15, 2013

MOSCOW (TADIAS) – History was made in Russia’s Luzhniki Stadium as an Ethiopian made the podium in the steeplechase at a global championships for the first time ever on July 31, 1980, when Eshetu Tura took the bronze medal at the Moscow Olympic Games. Thirty-three years later, history repeated itself when one of his athletes, Sofia Assefa, also took steeplechase bronze in the same stadium at the 2013 athletics world championships on Tuesday night, becoming the first Ethiopian — male or female — to medal in that race at the biennial event.

“Repeating Eshetu Tura’s achievement places me in the history books,” said Sofia, who also followed in his footsteps last year in London, when she became the first female steeplechaser from her nation to medal at the Olympics, earning bronze. “I’m very happy, praise God.”

Sofia’s accomplishment in Moscow was made all the more dramatic after she fell at a jump during the race and recovered to finish in 9:12.84 behind Kenya’s African champion Milcah Chemos and national champion Lydia Chepkurui, who ran 9:11.65 and 9:12.84.

With two laps to go, Sofia was comfortably tucked in the lead pack, in fifth place behind the two Kenyans and Ethiopia’s All Africa Games runner-up Hiwot Ayalew and Etenesh Diro. “The race was tough … but I was doing well,” said Sofia. “I took a running leap and crashed into the hurdle. When I fell, I was very worried, because it’s very difficult to fall and get up again. I only had 700m left. The effort you make to catch up costs you a lot of energy.”

Sofia was quickly dropped by the leading four runners and overtaken by Kenya’s Hyvin Jepkemoi, leaving her adrift in sixth place. “But I just kept going, thinking that I’ll leave with whatever God gives me, whatever I get,” she said.

She gradually regained contact and resumed her fifth place position at the bell and coming into the final turn, she overtook Hiwot and chased the Kenyan pair down the homestretch, gaining ground but unable to reel in either. “If I hadn’t fallen, I think that even if I didn’t win, we would at least have finished closer together,” she said. “I don’t know, maybe I might have been second.”

She didn’t think she would have beaten Chemos. “She’s strong and she always beats me,” said Sofia, who has beaten Chemos in one steeplechase race each season since 2009 compared to the nearly two dozen times the Kenyan has bested Sofia. “But I would have stayed with them and fought hard til the very end, and if I had been beaten, I would have been beaten,” added Sofia. “But God be praised, this for me is sufficient.”

She was still in a slight daze over her fall and eventual outcome when she encountered Ethiopia’s newly-crowned 800 meter champion Mohammed Aman in the mixed zone for athletes and media, and he embraced and congratulated her. She started talking to him about her fall and her voice trailed off. “Ayzosh,” he comforted her in Amharic. (“It’s OK.”)

She had just come from the track where she had been handed an Ethiopian flag and congratulated by members of the team who had been on hand to see her medal, including Eshetu Tura and the head national steeple coach Bizuneh Yaye, though neither she nor they had brought up Eshetu’s Moscow bronze. “I didn’t think of it at the time,” she said. “But both of them were there, and they’re very happy.” Upon being reminded of the decades-old historic achievement she’d emulated in the same city and stadium, she added, “Even though it’s with another bronze, it’s great that it was repeated.”

Eshetu also earned a steeplechase silver medal representing Africa at the 1977 International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) World Cup, a continental team competition that was a predecessor to the current IAAF Continental Cup, in which both Sofia and Ethiopian men’s steeplechaser Roba Gari medaled for Africa in 2010, he with a silver and she with another bronze. (The competition is not, however, seen as a global championship in the same sense as the Olympics or world championships.)

In the season leading up to her Moscow bronze, Sofia had five podium finishes in the IAAF Diamond League series of one-day competitions. Prior to emulating Eshetu’s Olympic feat in London last year, she had four. “I had high expectations because I had run well in the Diamond League,” said Sofia, who had run her personal best and Ethiopia’s national record 9:09.00 in the Oslo Diamond League meet on June 7, 2012 behind Chemos’ 9:07.14 African record. “The whole time I was running [at the London Olympics], I was thinking about medaling,” said Sofia. “I may not have had the confidence to be first, but I thought I might place second or third.”

After the Olympics, she arrived in Ethiopia without fanfare. “I didn’t return with the team,” she said. “I had races scheduled and I went straight to the site of a race from London. I saw the team’s homecoming reception in Addis Ababa on the internet and it was nice. As I didn’t even [finish my race] in Stockholm, I wished I had gone back with them.”

She received plenty of praise from Ethiopia’s only other Olympic medalist in her event , Eshetu, and her other coaches, including former steepler and 1980 Moscow 5000m runner Yohannes Mohammed. “The coaches are great,” she said. “They were very happy. They always encourage me, telling me I can run even better.”

A year after London, Sofia has indeed increased her global medal tally, and made her mentors proud. Coming into Moscow, she had hoped to reach a higher step on the podium, and that future hope remains. “I have bronze,” she said. “I believe I have to put in my effort to, God willing, achieve something better — be it silver or gold.”

Ethiopia Celebrates Highest Ever World Championships Medal Haul in Moscow

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Tadias Interview: Grammy-nominated Singer and Songwriter, Wayna

Wayna (Woyneab Miraf Wondwossen) is an Ethiopian-born, Grammy-nominated R&B singer. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tsedey Aragie

Published: Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Washington, D.C. (TADIAS) – The following is Tadias Magazine’s exclusive video interview with Ethiopian-born, Grammy-nominated singer and songwriter, Wayna, about her upcoming show in New York at Drom on July 27th featuring her new album and video to be released in September.

I spoke with Wayna last week over lunch at Dukem Ethiopian Restaurant in Washington, D.C. and at her studio in Bowie, Maryland.

Video: Tadias catching up with Wayna at Dukem and at her studio in Maryland (July 2013)

Tadias Video Interview: Ethiopian Rock Band Jano Live in DC (UPDATED)

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Tadias Video Interview: Ethiopian Rock Band Jano Live in DC (UPDATED)

Jano band performing at Howard Theatre in Washington, DC on July 4th, 2013. (Photo credit: A. Kiiza)

Tadias Magazine
By Tsedey Aragie

Updated: Monday, July 15, 2013

Washington, D.C. (TADIAS) – The sound of Ethiopia’s new generation, the rock band Jano, delivered one of the most exciting and highly anticipated live musical performances scheduled during the 2013 Ethiopian soccer tournament festivities held in Washington, D.C. last week.

The following is Tadias Magazine’s exclusive and in-depth video interview with members of the band who played for the first time in the United States on July 4th at the historic Howard Theatre.

Watch: Color and sound updated — JANO Band July 4th – Howard Theatre (TADIAS Interview)

Tadias Video Interview: Grammy-nominated Singer and Songwriter, Wayna
CNN Features Ethiopian Rock Band Jano
Summer of Ethiopian Music Continues: Krar Collective in NYC, Young Ethio Jazz in D.C. (TADIAS)
Tadias Interview: NYC Abay Team’s Success at 30th ESFNA Tournament
Mahmoud Ahmed and Teddy Afro Bring Echostage Home (The Washington Post)
Debo Band & Young Ethio Jazz Band at Yoshi’s in San Francisco – July 17th (TADIAS)
Highlights of Ethiopian Music During Soccer Tournament Week (The Washington City Paper)
Summer of Ethiopian Music: Jano to Fendika, Teddy Afro to Mahmoud Ahmed (TADIAS)
Hailu Mergia: A Beloved Ethiopian Musician of a Generation Ago (The Washington Post)
Reissues Songs From Hailu Mergia, Local Cab Driver (The Washington City Paper)

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DCTV Honors Tsedey Aragie: ‘New Producer of the Year’

Tsedey Aragie accepts an award at the DCTV Viewers' Choice Awards on June 22, 2013. (Photo: A. Kiiza)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Sunday, June 30, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – Tsedey Aragie, Tadias Magazine’s video reporter since 2010, has been honored by DCTV with the “Best at Viewers’ Choice” award for her TV program on the local public access channel highlighting health and lifestyle topics affecting residents of Washington, D.C.

Tsedey received the “New Producer of the Year and Innovative Program of the Year for creativity, production quality and audience impact” awards at a ceremony held in the District for her show entitled The 30-Day Health Challenge.

“I am very humbled by the awards,” said Tsedey, who shared the stage on June 22nd at the DCTV Viewers’ Choice Awards gala with other winners including Denise Rolark Barnes, Publisher of The Washington Informer, whose publication was recognized in Sports category for an interview marking the resurgence of boxing in the District of Columbia.

“I can honestly say the awards came by surprise,” Tsedey told Tadias. “The purpose of the show is to educate and empower people to be proactive about their health and lifestyle and influence others around them.”

In an interview with The Washington Informer, Bob Thomas, DCTV’s vice president of operations, expressed his admiration for Tsedey and her contribution to the station. “I really appreciate her growth,” he said. “The awards are very important because they allow not-famous producers to become known.”

Tsedey, who was born in D.C. and raised in New Jersey, has covered several Ethiopia-related events in Washington and New York for Tadias, including the unforgettable performance by Debo Band and Fendika collective two years ago at the 41st annual Lincoln center summer music festival in New York, where she interviewed the band members, as well as the Director of Public Programming for Lincoln Center. The same year she sat down with Ethiopian-born couture bridal fashion designer Amsale Aberra highlighting the reality TV show Amsale Girls, the celebrity designer’s success in the wedding-gown industry, and her memories of Ethiopia. More recently Tseday had a well received Google hangout session with Emmy award-winning Ethiopian American journalist Bofta Yimam, and a series of Town Hall meetings spotlighting mental health issues in the community, which has attracted the attention of health authorities both in the U.S. and Ethiopia.

Regarding The 30-Day Health Challenge on DCTV, Tsedey notes that the participants in the show are committed to a one month challenge to adopt long-term lifestyle changes. “The outcome has been outstanding,” she said. “In the 30-day period our participants experienced a range of results.” She added: “Some were able to loose 10-30 lbs., discontinue the use of blood pressure medication, reverse diabetes, and even discontinue the use of inhalers.”

This fall “The 30-Day Health Challenge Reality T.V. show” (3rd season episode) is heading to Eleanor Roosevelt High School, a Maryland public magnet high school specializing in science, mathematics, technology, and engineering. “Very excited about that,” Tsedey said. “It has been my goal since the inception of the show to work with the youth. In this country the statistics are staggering and young people are suffering from high instances of obesity and diabetes. And so, I’m really looking forward to work in a field that I’m passionate about.”

DCTV Honors the Best at Viewers’ Choice Ceremony (Washington Informer)

Watch: 30 Day Health Challenge – TV Show (2nd season)

For updates you can follow the program on Twitter @30DayHCTV.

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David Mesfin: A Look at his Role in Hyundai TV Ad w/ Bob Marley’s Song

David Mesfin, top right, working on the set of the Hyundai TV ad featuring Bob Marley's melody "Three Little Birds." (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Thursday, May 16th, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – David Mesfin may no longer have the dreadlocks that he used to sport when he was in college, but he still has a cat named Kaya, and Bob Marley is his favorite musician. “I grew up listening to Bob,” he shared in a recent interview with Tadias Magazine. David is also the Associate Creative Director behind a new Hyundai TV ad featuring the remix of the reggae legend’s popular song Three Little Birds produced by Stephen Marley and Jason Bentley.

“It was an honor to work on the spot with Bob’s music,” David said.

Hyundai’s television commercials (see videos below), which will begin airing in various U.S. markets this month, highlight “Assurance Connected Care” to the car manufacturer’s customers. The TV ads are designed to enhance confidence and the feeling of security among the brand’s drivers with proactive protection and services provided by the company’s Blue Link telematics platform.

“My copywriter partner Nick Flora and I wrote and produced four spots featuring the Marley track,” David said. “The idea we came up with uses ordinary street signs that communicate assurance and safety to new Hyundai owners, letting them know that everything is going to be all right, hence the music track from Bob Marley.”

“It’s amazing how much work goes in to a 30 or 60 seconds spot,” David said, speaking about his role in the project, which started months ago with concept development, presentation to client, producing and editing the final product along with the director, producers, music editors, editorial house and CG companies. “Overall what you are left with is the knowledge you have accumulated through the process, not to mention, the wonderful people along the way,” he added.

David also engineered the high-profile “Hyundai Epic Playdate” Super Bowl advertisement that aired nationally in February 2013. “That was a herculean task given the difficulty and amount of work that needed to be produced in a short amount of time,” he said. “But overall my team and I are truly happy with the end result.”

“How does it feel to see your work being shown during Super Bowl?” we asked. After all, it is the most watched television event of the year in the United States.

“By far it’s the most humbling experience,” he answered. “I watched it at home with my 8 year old son and wife.” David added: “The one minute Epic Playdate Spot played right before the kick off. The commercial featured the band, The Flaming Lips. They performed their original song written for the commercial called, ‘Sun Blows Up Today’ while a family had the most epic day ever.”

David’s career in advertising began in 1986 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he was born and raised. “I know it sounds like a long time ago but I was only 12 years old at the time,” he said. “I used to spend a lot of time at a firm called Neon Addis — a design and advertising office. There I was exposed to many forms of visual communications, print ads, billboards, neon signs and more.”

Later, after he moved to the U.S. and commenced college in the 90s, David said he knew exactly what he wanted to do in life. He graduated with a BFA degree in Visual Communication from California State University, Long Beach. “I have been enjoying this wonderful field for quite some time now,” he said. “Thus far I have worked with multiple agencies and clients such as Hyundai, Honda, Toyota, Isuzu, Farmers Insurance, Neutrogena, Network Associates, La-Z-Boy, Mandalay Bay, Walt Disney, Sony, Coldwell Banker, LA Phil, Los Angeles Master Chorale, Adidas, Oakley and MOCA.”

What guides David’s art in terms of creativity? “Have a compelling message and idea that can solve the problem in a unique and interesting way,” he said.

As to those who want to follow in his footsteps? “Be patient and have an open mind,” David advised. “It’s a very competitive and subjective field, so proceed with caution. If you really want it, give it all, and give it your best.”

The remix Bob Marley track is available to download for free on

Watch: Making of “Three Little Birds” Remix Hyundai AD (Hyundai USA)

Client: Hyundai Motor America
Product: Assurance Connected Care TV Spot

Executive Creative Director: Greg Braun
Creative Director: Max Godsil
Creative Director: Robert Pins
Associate Creative Director, Art: David Mesfin
Senior Copywriter: Nick Flora
VP, Director of Integrated Production: Jamil Bardowell
Producer: Curt O’Brien

Production Company: Biscuit Filmworks
Director: Philippe Andre
DP: Alex LaMarque
Editorial Company: Arcade Editorial
Editor: Paul Martinez
Editor: Christjan Jordan
Executive Producer: Nicole Visram
Music company: Stimmung
Animation/Graphics Co.: yU+CO
Telecine Place: CO3
With Whom: Stefan Sonnenfeld
Online Place: Airship Post
With Whom: Matt Lydecker

Watch: 2013 Super Bowl Hyundai Santa Fe Big Game Ad “Epic Playdate” (Hyundai USA)

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Gossa Tsegaye: Training Leaders in Television and Radio Production

Gossa Tsegaye is an Assistant Professor of Television and Radio at Ithaca College in New York where he teaches Documentary Studies and Film Production. (Photo by Marisa Mankofsky)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Friday, May 10, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – Last month the Center for Faculty Excellence at Ithaca College in upstate New York announced the recipients of the 2013 Faculty Excellence Awards, including Professor Gossa Tsegaye who has taught at the Department of Television and Radio for more than two decades. The accolade recognizes faculty members for outstanding work in the areas of teaching, scholarship, and service.

“I am very honored to receive the award because in my field of work it’s equivalent to the Oscars in academia,” Professor Gossa said in a recent interview with Tadias Magazine. “It’s always wonderful to be recognized by your colleagues.”

The gifted teacher, whose former students include David Muir, an Emmy award-winning anchor and correspondent for ABC News in New York, teaches media production at Ithaca College and has produced over 80 documentaries including a highlight of the 1969 Black students’ uprising at Cornell University, the homeless community in Ithaca, salt mine workers at Cayuga Lake, the Amish Community of Western New York, and Gossa’s favorite: Smile in the Wind, which explores the story of migrant labor in the United States.

Professor Gossa, who was born and raised in Addis Ababa and came to the United States as a high school student in 1970, said he developed his passion for broadcasting while growing up in Ethiopia where he had his own radio show in secondary school.

“I went to Teferi Mekonnen and I was actively involved in the media program,” he said.

While he was in high school Professor Gossa said he became a guest host on Ethiopian TV for a variety music show called Hibret Terit. “The regular host had traveled to Germany for a six-month training program and they were looking for someone to fill the position,” he said. “My teacher encouraged me to apply.” He added: “It was a great experience. Plus, I was getting paid 12 birr and 50 cents per episode. At the time, my friend, that was a lot of money for a 16-year-old.”

In America Gossa went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Television and Radio Production from Ithaca College and a masters in Communication from Cornell University. As an undergraduate he had brief gig with BBC’s Good Morning Africa while spending a semester abroad in London.

Today, Professor Gossa, who lives in Ithaca with his wife and 13-year-old daughter Nile, said his primary focus is teaching students how to write, direct, and produce in-depth documentaries for a television audience.

“The advent of social media has completely changed the landscape and the way we produce, deliver, receive and process information,” Professor Gossa said. “Increasingly media professionals are relying on text-messaging, Twitter and Facebook for breaking news coverage and often getting it wrong.”

“I am a traditionalist when it comes to teaching,” he added. “Because ultimately, how to write well and tell a story accurately matters. And the responsibility in construction of those images are important.”

We congratulate Professor Gossa Tsegaye on his accomplishments.

To learn more about the Television-Radio program at Ithaca College, please visit:

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The International Leadership Academy of Ethiopia: Q & A with Haddis Tadesse

The International Leadership Academy of Ethiopia is located on the campus of Hope University in Addis Ababa. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Sunday, May 5, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – The International Leadership Academy of Ethiopia (ILAE), which opens in September 2013 on the campus of Hope University in Addis Ababa, began as a vision of Ethiopian American social entrepreneurs living in the Seattle, Washington area, including Haddis Desta Tadesse, the Country Representative for the Gates Foundation in Ethiopia. “We had found success in the U.S. and like many Ethiopians, we still have strong ties with and care deeply about the future of Ethiopia,” Haddis said in a recent interview with Tadias Magazine. “We admire how developed countries harness their land, labor, capital and infrastructure.”

Haddis added: “We also admire Ethiopia’s quest for prosperity and recognize the role that strong, capable leaders play in making that happen. We therefore thought that one contribution we could make to Ethiopia would be to establish a school for the academically talented girls and boys from around the country, and offer them an education that would prepare them in leadership skills equal to the best schools in the world.”

To this end, Haddis said, the group has launched a preparatory program for 20 students who are attending weekend and summer classes to prepare them for high school.

Below is our Q & A with Haddis Tadesse:

Haddis D. Tadesse (Photo courtesy Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)

TADIAS: We understand that the school is one of the first of its kind to be set up in Ethiopia. Please tell us about the challenges and opportunities facing the new leadership academy.

Haddis Tadesse: We may be unique in today’s Ethiopian environment but the concept is not new to Ethiopia. General Wingate Secondary School played a similar role and produced many leaders in various disciplines. We also understand there is one other school in Ethiopia currently that targets gifted students. From what we know, we believe that our approach is unique in Ethiopia. While using the Ethiopian curriculum as a base and preparing students for the national exams, our curriculum is developed by experts taking best practices from around the world, introducing academic rigor, critical thinking at many junctures, responsibility for the environment through service programs both on and off campus, a strong sense of community within the student body based on collaboration and developing leadership skills. So far, the students seem ready and receptive to this program, as are their parents. As students will come from various school systems across the country and different proficiency levels, development and skills, they will require individual attention. That requires hiring capable teachers who know how to educate and nurture very smart kids and that requires capital to execute effectively. So, the financial burden will be our challenge.

TADIAS: How does admission to the school work?

Haddis: Similar to most selective, high quality independent schools around the world, admission is based on various criteria, including the student’s academic record, recommendations and interviews which examines the overall capacity and potential of the student. We have experts who are helping us with this effort including people who helped establish the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa.

TADIAS: Is it tuition based? If so, are there scholarship opportunities available for those who cannot afford it?

Haddis: The majority of our students would come from poor environments and they will not pay any tuition. However, we will have some paying students from families who can afford to pay and seek high quality education as well as from other country nationals who reside in Ethiopia.

TADIAS: Does the school have a relationship with other institutions of higher learning that would allow the students to continue their education after they graduate from ILAE?

Haddis: We have a relationship in Ethiopia with Hope University College, as we share their campus, facilities and to some extent will be exchanging teachers, but also have a primary relationship with the Northwest School in Seattle, an established, prestigious independent school. We will be having student exchanges through technology, and through them, will also have partnerships in Spain, France, China, Taiwan and El Salvador. In addition, we have a relationship with the University of Washington and Cascadia Community College. But our goal is not to send our scholars abroad. Our hope is that they will enter college in Ethiopia and other great universities in Africa and return to Ethiopia in positions of leadership and write a new chapter in the long history of the country.

TADIAS: What’s your vision for the academy five years from now?

Haddis: Five years from now we will have graduated our first class. We will most likely be on our own campus with dormitories, and have a student population from around the country. Every year after that, we hope to graduate students who will become CEOs of major business, political and social leaders, noble prize winner scientists, and many others.

TADIAS: Is there anything else that you would like to share with our audience?

Haddis: We are profoundly moved by the potential of these talented students and happy that we can affect the lives of at least a few people in Ethiopia. We deeply appreciate the generous support we have received to date. I also want to thank Tadias for your interest and support. I am a big fan.

You can learn more about The International Leadership Academy of Ethiopia at

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Le Figaro Names Three Ethiopians to ‘Africa’s 15 Most Powerful Women’ List

Tirunesh Dibaba, Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu and Liya Kebede are 3 of the 15 women that made Le Figaro's 2013 list. (Images - Creative Commons)

Tadias Magazine

By Tadias Staff

April 25th, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – Le Figaro has named three Ethiopians to its list of Africa’s 15 most powerful women, including the long distance track athlete and three-time Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba, and Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, the founder and CEO of the international Ethiopian shoe brand SoleRebels.

The French newspaper also selected Ethiopian-born model Liya Kebede who lives in the United States among Africa’s power women. Other leaders include Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the current President of Liberia, as well as the South African actress and fashion model Charlize Theron, and Kenyan activist, lawyer, and blogger Ory Okolloh who works as Google’s Policy Manager for Africa.

Click here to read the list at


Afrique: quinze femmes puissantes (Le Figaro)

New Book Highlights Stories of 70 Accomplished Ethiopian Women (TADIAS)

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Solomon Assefa: 2013 World Economic Forum Young Global Leader

Solomon Assefa (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tseday Alehegn

Published: Saturday, March 16th, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – IBM Research Scientist, Solomon Assefa, has been honored as one of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders of 2013. The Young Global Leaders “will join and co-create a community of insight and action that is committed to improving the state of the world,” stated the official press release. 199 young global leaders were selected from 70 countries worldwide including 19 honorees from Sub-Saharan Africa and 12 from the Middle East and North Africa. Other notable honorees in 2013 include Chelsea Clinton, Clinton Foundation Board member and special corespondent for NBC News; Nate Silver, statistician and writer of New York TImes Five Thirty Eight section; and William James Adams (aka, singer and founder of Foundation. There are currently 756 members of the Forum of Young Global Leaders and the annual summit will be held in Yangon, Mynamar from June 2-5th, 2013.

Solomon Assefa was selected as one of the world’s 35 top young innovators by Technology Review in 2011.

A complete list of the 2013 honorees is available at WEF Young Global Leaders 2013

Interview with Solomon Assefa: One of the World’s 35 Top Young Innovators

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Journalist Bofta Yimam Wins Emmy Award For Excellence in Reporting

FOX13 News reporter Bofta Yimam accepting her Midsouth Emmy for segment on Kimberlee's Law at 27th Annual Midsouth Regional Emmy Awards in Nashville, Tennessee on Saturday, January 26th, 2013.

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Monday, January 28, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – Ethiopian American Journalist Bofta Yimam, who is a reporter for Continue reading ‘Journalist Bofta Yimam Wins Emmy Award For Excellence in Reporting’

Helen Getachew: Miss Universe Ethiopia 2012

22-year-old Helen Getachew represented Ethiopia at the 2012 Miss Universe pageant held in Las Vegas on Wednesday, December 19, 2012 . (Photo credit: Miss Universe)

Tadias Magazine
By Tigist Selam

Updated: Friday, December 21, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – The new Miss Universe is Miss USA Olivia Culpo, a 20-year-old beauty queen from Rhode Island and the first American to claim the coveted title since 1997. Olivia was crowned Miss Universe 2012 by Miss Universe 2011 Leila Lopes of Angola at the annual international event held on Wednesday night in Las Vegas and televised around the world. Over the next year Olivia will hit the road on behalf of her cause alliances, namely HIV/AIDS prevention as mentioned on her official pageant profile.

Women from over 80 countries participated in the 61st Miss Universe contest. After years of absence from the global competition, Ethiopia was also back on the stage this year represented by 22-year-old Helen Getachew.

A ‘welcome to NYC party’ is being organized for Helen this weekend when she arrives here for post-pageant activities. Organizers say the event at Lalibela Restaurant in Midtown Manhattan on Saturday, December 22 will be a relaxing dinner affair that includes champagne, music and, of course, a chance to meet, chat and be photographed with Miss Universe Ethiopia 2012!

If You Go:
Date: Sat Dec 22nd
Time: 7pm
Lalibela Restaurant
37 East 29th St, Ny,Ny
Between Park & Madison Aves
$45 per person – Call to RSVP
Tel: 646.454.0913 or 646.454.1437

Meet Helen Getachew: Miss Universe 2012 Contestant From Ethiopia (TADIAS)
Photos: Miss Universe Ethiopia Fundraiser at Bati Restaurant in Brooklyn
Spark Communications Acquires License for Miss Universe Ethiopia

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Friends and Supporters React to Reeyot Alemu’s Media Award

Elias Wondimu, second from left, accepted the award on behalf of Reeyot Alemu at the International Women's Media Foundation's annual Courage in Journalism awards luncheon on October 24, 2012 in New York. (Photo: Award recipients, from left, Asmaa al-Ghoul, Zubeida Mustafa and Khadija Ismayilova/by Stan Honda/IWMF)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Monday, October 29, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – Several years ago in Addis Ababa, when a young, idealistic woman named Reeyot Alemu, who was working as a high school English teacher, began contributing part-time to local independent newspapers and writing mostly opinion articles that were critical of various government policies, she knew that she could potentially upset those in power. Reeyot, however, had no idea that her courage would one day earn her prestigious international recognition, albeit while in Kality prison.

Reeyot, now 31, is currently serving a five-year term on terror charges, and was among four women who where honored last week by the International Women’s Media Foundation for their courageous work in journalism. Reeyot, a former columnist for the the publications Awramba Times (now in exile and online) and the Amharic weekly Feteh (now blocked), was given the 2012 “Courage in Journalism” award at a ceremony held in Manhattan on Wednesday, October 24th.

“When I nominated Reeyot for the Award, I wanted to show the face of courage in her, so that girls in our country will not be discouraged from becoming a voice to the voiceless,” said Elias Wondimu, who accepted the award on her behalf and read a letter penned by her for the occasion.

“When I became politically aware, I understood that being a supporter or member of the ruling party is a prerequisite to living safely and to get a job,” Reeyot wrote in a letter sent from prison. “I knew I would pay the price for my courage and was willing to pay the price.”

Mohammed Ademo, a New York-based freelance journalist, who is the Co-founder and Editor-In-Chief of, as well as a graduate student at Columbia University, attended the luncheon and covered the ceremony for the Columbia Journalism Review.

“I thought the event was great. The courageous journalists honored here today inspire all of us who are in the business of storytelling,” Ademo told Tadias Magazine. “These are but few of those brave souls who are committed to exposing corruption, informing the public, and holding autocratic regimes accountable, often at a great personal peril.” Ademo continued: “This award means so much to journalists like Reeyot Alemu, who are silenced for simply speaking truth to power.”

In his widely publicized interview with Voice of America last month, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn took a hardline stance on the subject, strongly defending the continued imprisonment of a number of journalists. “Our national security interest cannot be compromised by somebody having two hats,” PM Hailemariam said, echoing the official claims, which accuses the prisoners of being “double-agents” for terrorist organizations. “We have to tell them they can have only one hat which is legal and the legal way of doing things, be it in journalism or opposition discourse, but if they opt to have two mixed functions, we are clear to differentiate the two,” the PM told VOA’s Peter Heinlein.

“How on earth can we compare a person who criticizes a government’s policy through writing and accuse them of being terrorists?” Elias asked.

Ademo said: “Reeyot’s only crime is carrying out her journalistic responsibility, being a voice for the voiceless. I wish her good health, perseverance, and peace of mind.”

Elias added: “Due to lack of proper training, our journalists are not and can not be perfect, but the way to remedy this should not be criminalizing their perceived mistakes, but to correct and educate them.”

Reeyot’s former colleague, the award-winning exiled journalist Dawit B. Kebede – Managing Editor of Awramba Times, said, for him, the award is personal. “I am very happy for Reeyot and for many reasons,” Dawit said in a phone interview. “But the number one reason is because Reeyot deserves it. This award is an important recognition not only of Reeyot’s personal struggles, but it is also a way to inspire young people to understand the unfairness of silencing those with critical voices.” Dawit added: “It also encourages those that are incarcerated along with her, including my friend Wubishet Taye, Deputy Editor of Awramba Times, and Eskinder Nega.”

Dawit pointed out that Wubishet had applied for pardon at the same time as the recently released two Swedish journalists, Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye, but was not granted similar clemency. “In my opinion, it was the most discriminatory and shameful pardon process,” Dawit said. “As an Ethiopian it is embarrassing to bypass your own people because they happen not to be backed by powerful Western influence. So the foreigners receive forgiveness, but not the Ethiopians.”

Reeyot Alemu, recipient of the 2012 Courage in Journalism Award. (Photo: International Women’s Media Foundation)

Regarding Reeyot, Mohamed Keita, Africa Advocacy Coordinator for the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), said this Ethiopian is now part of an exclusive club of extraordinary women whose life stories are seen as role models for young people around the world. “With the IWMF award, the world’s leading women journalists are embracing Reeyot Alemu as one of their own,” Keita said. “The Courage in Journalism award validates Reeyot’s legitimate right to write critically about her government and its policies, as she did, and recognizes not only the injustice of her imprisonment but her improbability as a terrorist suspect.”

For former judge Birtukan Midekssa, who is currently the Eleanor Roosevelt Fellow at Harvard University Law School with a joint appointment at W.E.B. Du Bois Institute, Reeyot is both a friend and an inspiration.

“It took me only a short while to get fascinated by her defiant spirit and her determination to be true to herself — both as journalist and as a responsible citizen — after I came to know my good friend Reeyot,” Birtukan said. “It is obvious that she did not commit any offence that could lead to lock her up except saying no to the menace of EPRDF government to silence her journalistic voice while it intensifies its forceful coercion against Ethiopian citizens.” She added: “She fiercely opposed the unacceptable authoritarianism which pervades the political sphere; she criticized the officials for incarcerating political prisoners including myself; she shed light on unaccountable and irresponsible transactions of the government.”

Birtukan said it is particularly striking to her that Reeyot knew in advance what she was getting into. “But she chose to bear the consequence instead of refraining from freely expressing herself,” she said. “Though it is enormously painful for me to see her young life confined by illegitimate use of government power.”

Birtukan added: “Her persistence, strength, courage and the international recognition she earned as a result, lead me to have more faith in Ethiopian youth that they will take charge of the destiny of our nation to eventually lead it to free and prosperous life.”

Government officials maintain all the jailed journalists have broken the law and are guilty of the crimes under which they were convicted.

Meanwhile, IWMF noted it’s concerned about Reeyot’s health. “Recently, she has fallen ill; in April of this year she underwent surgery at a nearby hospital to remove a tumor from her breast,” the organization said.

L.A. Times November 1, 2012: Reporter jailed in Ethiopia among women journalists honored in Beverly Hills, California.
Azerbaijan, Gaza, Ethiopia Women Win Media Awards (AP via ABC News)
Portraits Of Courage: Female Journalists Honored At International Women’s Media Foundation Awards (The Daily Beast)

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UPDATE: Interview with Buzunesh Deba: Eyeing the 2012 NYC Marathon

Bronx resident Buzunesh Deba at the end of a morning training session at Fort Washington Park in Manhattan on Saturday, October 20th, 2012. (Photo by Jason Jett for Tadias Magazine)

UPDATE: 2012 New York City Marathon Canceled

Tadias Magazine
By Jason Jett

Updated: Thursday, October 25, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – Having come so close to winning last year’s New York City Marathon, finishing second by a mere four seconds, Buzunesh Deba will be chasing victory again in one of the world’s greatest marathons which eluded her and instead was grasped by Ethiopian compatriot Firehiwot Dado a year ago.

Firehiwot, who pulled away from Buzunesh over the last 200 yards of the 26.2 miles event, will not defend her crown this year after withdrawing from the race last week with what her manager said was a foot injury.

This time around Buzunesh faces 2012 London Olympics marathon winner Tiki Galena and 2011 World Marathon Champion Edna Kiplagat of Kenya, among a deep elite international field.

This will be Buzunesh’s fourth New York City Marathon; she finished seventh in 2009 and 10th in 2010. A resident of the Bronx, she will be a hometown favorite and she knows the course well.

She also knows most of her competition — both their faces and their paces. There is no awe or intimidation when she speaks of the other elite runners, only self-confidence and the conviction that if she runs as well as she is capable she will win.

“I believe I will win, it is my dream,” said Buzunesh. “God will decide.”

She trains diligently, some say maniacally, six days a week, but she says the seventh day she devotes to attending St. Mary of Zion Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church in Yonkers, New York. An Orthodox Christian, her bedroom is decked with illustrations of the Virgin Mary. And, born in the Asela region of Ethiopia, Buzunesh said: “When I am running, and I get tired, I call on God,” she said. “That is my power.”

Buzunesh has trod through some valleys since her podium finish a year ago in Central Park. She spent the winter training at altitude in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She was accompanied by her husband Worku Beyi, who is also her coach and manager. Their relocation was made easier by sharing living quarters and training schedules with friends Genna Tufa, Serkalem Abrha and Atalelech Asfaw — all among a group of Ethiopian runners who left New York for the benefits of living and training at high altitude.

Returning to New York in April, Buzunesh was poised to stake her claim at a World Marathon Majors championship by following her second-place finish in New York with a win at the Boston Marathon. (Top-finishers in the New York City, Boston, Chicago, London and Berlin marathons compete for the $500,000 prize awarded every two years.)

Training had gone well winter into spring leading up to Boston. However, after completing her final pre-marathon track workout just days before the race Buzunesh miss-stepped, turning an ankle, as she walked off the synthetic surface and onto the stadium infield.

Neither prayer nor treatment could chase away the pain in time for Buzunesh to compete in the Boston Marathon. Ultimately, she was not able to return to running until mid-summer. Unable to train, Buzunesh became a spectator of the sport as she followed the race results of her friends and rivals during sleepless nights.

“When I am training, I go to bed early,” she said. “But when I could not run I would be up two and three o’clock in the morning on my computer.”

Buzunesh finally resumed training in August, and competed for the first time this year at the Rock n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon on Sept. 16. She finished eighth, in a time of 1:14:54.

The result was mind-boggling to running experts, fellow competitors and even enthusiasts: Buzunesh had run 1:09:18 over the half-marathon distance in winning the 2011 Rock n’ Roll San Diego Marathon in 2:23:31. Yet she ran five minutes slower over an equally fast Philadelphia course (Sharon Cherop of Kenya won the race in 1:07:19, followed by Mare Dibaba of Ethiopia in 1:07:44.).

Buzunesh was disappointed, of course. And Worku did a bit of head-scratching before reasoning it was simply a bad day.

“I don’t know what happened,” he said. “I saw her that day and she looked heavy.”

“She was not able to run fast that day, but she had had only six weeks of training at the time,” he added. “She will have had six more weeks before New York.”

There are critics that doubt Buzunesh will be competitive this year, let alone win. They point to Philadelphia, and note that she has barely raced this year.

“Look at her Philadelphia Rock n’ Roll results,” said Hicham EL Mohtadi, an agent-manager of runners based in New York City including Ethiopian Mekides Bekele. “She had lots of time off from competing on a high level due to injury. She still is not at full-force. I don’t see her being a factor in this year’s marathon.”

Mohtadi noted that despite these issues he is still rooting for Buzunesh. He added: “Though I’d love to see her win it because she’s a dear friend and a lovely young lady.”

Bill Staab, president of West Side Runners New York, which supports a large number of Ethiopian runners in the city, said Worku is the best barometer of Buzunesh’s chances.

“Due to her foot injury last April and the fact that her time at the Rock n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon was not up to her PR (personal record), it is hard to judge her chances.” he said. “But we all know Buzunesh trains with fervor.”

Buzunesh’s resilience has been further tested in recent weeks. Worku’s father died in early October, and there were several days of mourning. The funeral in Ethiopia took her husband and coach away from their marathon training for several more days.

And then there are the stomach cramps that Buzunesh said contributed to her being unable to hold the lead after pulling Firehiwot Dado along in overtaking Mary Keitany of Kenya at the 25-mile mark last year in New York. Firehiwot would pass Buzunesh in the final mile, and Keitany finished third. (Keitany, who won the 2012 London Marathon and was fourth in the London Olympics marathon, is not competing this year in New York.).

“She gets cramps after some workouts,” a concerned Worku said of his wife. “There is pain, and sometimes she throws up.”

Buzunesh hopes the problem does not recur during the marathon. She knows from training runs of 24 miles in Central Park and 26 miles on the New York Greenway along the Hudson River that she can cover the marathon distance without such pain.

And, she has her own belief-system for support. Buzunesh radiates a confidence steeped in humility. She does not boast, or deride other runners; she simply believes in herself. It is a belief rooted in her faith, which she takes as much care recharging every Sunday as she does her body following training sessions other days of the week.

Having a husband who is a good cook helps when it comes to revitalizing the body. A training-table dinner last week in the Buzunesh and Worku’s home, an apartment in Kingsbridge, consisted of a salad of green leaf, tomatoes, avocados, green peppers and oil-vinegar dressing, a vegetable medley of carrots, potatoes and broccoli, halved hard-boiled eggs and chunks of white-meat chicken.

While Buzunesh and Worku prefer traditional Ethiopian cuisine, or injera, they eschew it during training season in favor of lighter fare. Vitamin bottles and other supplements cover a tabletop in their home. Buzunesh noted she takes supplements when she remembers — indicating with her face and hands that often she does not. However, she is more reliant on the energy-electrolyte drinks that Worku prepares before and after workouts.

Buzunesh and Worku occasionally can be spotted running in Central Park or Riverside Park, but the bulk of work occurs at their favorite training site — Rockefeller State Park in Tarrytown, NY. Van Cortlandt Park, near their home, is their most-frequented site given its proximity.

They elected not to train at altitude for this marathon, having decided sufficient benefits can be gained simply through hard and smart training in New York. That belief has Buzunesh undaunted by Galena, Misikir Mekonnen and Kenyan runners coming directly from high altitude to compete in New York.

Hours after Buzunesh finished the 2011 New York City Marathon, reporters and photographers gathered around her and Worku following a news conference in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel at Columbus Circle. Hugging his wife, a beaming Worku held up his other hand leaving scant daylight between the thumb and index finger.

“She came this close,” he said. “She made a little mistake. We will correct it for next year.”

On Nov. 4, 2012 the couple will learn whether or not they were successful in making the necessary correction.
Below are slideshow of photos taken during Buzunesh’s morning training session on Saturday, October 20th, 2012.

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Women’s Champion Firehiwot Dado of Ethiopia Withdraws from NYC Marathon (AP)

Dinaw Mengestu Named MacArthur ‘genius’ Fellow (Video)

Dinaw Mengestu has been named one of the 2012 MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" winners. (Photo courtesy of Riverhead Books)

Tadias Magazine

By Tadias Staff

Published: Tuesday, October 2, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – Ethiopian American novelist and writer Dinaw Mengestu has been named a 2012 MacArthur Fellow. The Associated Press reported Dinaw’s selection along with the full list of the other 22 winners.

Dinaw is the author of The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears and How to Read the Air. In addition to the two novels, he has written for several publications, including Rolling Stone, Jane Magazine, Harper’s, and The Wall Street Journal.

According to MacArthur Foundation, the “genius grant” is a recognition of the winners “originality, insight, and potential” and each person will receive $500,000 over the next five years.

We congratulate Dinaw on a well-deserved win!

Watch: Writer Dinaw Mengestu: 2012 MacArthur Fellow | MacArthur Foundation

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Henok Tesfaye: Washington’s Ethiopian ‘car park king’

Henok Tesfaye is the President and CEO of U Street Parking, a Washington, D.C. based full service parking management company. (Photo: Kidane Mariam / TADIAS)

BBC News Magazine

Henok Tesfaye, an Ethiopian immigrant to the US, started in the parking business with just himself and a few family members as employees.

Now he manages some of the largest car parks in the Washington DC area, including the city’s convention centre, baseball stadium and Reagan National Airport, with a staff of over 600.

Now an American citizen, he hopes to leave his car park empire to his children.

Watch the video at BBC.

Interview with Professor Lemma Senbet: New Head of African Economic Research Consortium

Lemma W. Senbet, the William E. Mayer Chair Professor of Finance at the University of Maryland, College Park has been appointed Executive Director of the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC).

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Monday, August 13, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – Professor Lemma W. Senbet, an internationally recognized leader in finance studies, has been appointed as the new head of the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC) – a Kenya-based non-profit organization that conducts independent research concerning the management of economies in sub-Saharan Africa. Dr. Lemma currently teaches at the University of Maryland, College Park where he also chaired the Finance Department at the Robert H. Smith School of Business.

Dr. Lemma was selected for the AERC position after a worldwide search. Speaking to Tadias about the agency Dr. Lemma stated, “This is an organization which has already achieved immense success in building capacity for research and training to inform economic policies in Africa,” noting that his appointment as the Executive Director of AERC comes at a time when a number of countries in the region are enjoying strong economic growth.

“My goal is to lead it to move to the next level of excellence, and I will be embarking on strategies for full global integration of the AERC and its visibility beyond Africa as an organization that is at the cutting edge of best policy research practices,” Professor Lemma said. “It is also my purpose to aggressively work on enhancing diversity of global partnership beyond the current generous partners, including the UK development agency, World Bank, Rockefeller Foundation, Gates Foundation, Nordic countries, etc.” He added: “It is important that we scale up the partnership of African institutions as well as the private sector engaged at the interface of private and public policy issues, such as governance, risk management, and financial regulation.”

Professor Lemma noted that he hopes to emphasize research and finding ways of delivering measurable and credible results for those managing the content’s financial system. “In the ultimate, the purpose is to build capacity to do rigorous research and provide training to impact economic policies which help sustain, and even accelerate, the current economic growth momentum in Africa,” he said.

On a personal level Dr. Lemma said he feels honored that after an extensive international search, the AERC board has chosen him to serve as Executive Director. “I feel privileged that I am invited to head this premier policy research organization with global reach at this important juncture in the continent,” he said. “I cannot ask for better timing.”

Professor Lemma will take a leave from his academic position and relocate to Nairobi in Summer 2013.

In a profile highlight that appeared in this magazine in 2004, the Ethiopian native had shared with us then that as a young man he gave up his aspirations of becoming an engineer after hearing news of the opening of a new business school at Addis Ababa University. He enrolled at the business school and graduated with top honors. He went on to acquire a Masters in Business Administration from University of California, Los Angeles, and a PhD in International Finance from State University of New York in Buffalo.

Prior to joining the University of Maryland, he taught at University of Wisconsin, Madison, and was a visiting professor at Northwestern University, University of California, Berkeley, and New York University.

Since then, Professor Lemma has advised the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations, and several other agencies in areas relating to corporate finance, capital market development, financial sector reforms and banking regulation. He has also served as Director of the American Finance Association as well as President of the Western Finance Association. Over the years, Dr. Lemma has sat on the editorial boards of prestigious peer-reviewed publications, including the Journal of Finance, Financial Management, and the Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis.

More recently, he was recognized by the Society of Ethiopians Established in the Diaspora (SEED) as a distinguished scholar, teacher and role-model. And he is also a recipient of an honorary doctor of letters from Addis Ababa University, his alma mater.

Regarding his new job, Professor Lemma said he feels positive returning to Africa at this time in history. “Yes, Sub-Saharan African countries have been in what amounts to growth renaissance over the last five to six years,” he said. “The growth momentum has been in the same proportion of the Asian Tigers in the 1990s. Just today (August 9), The New York Times reported that seven of the world’s ten fastest growing economies are now domiciled in Africa.” He continued: “This just reinforces other recent stories, including the highly acclaimed cover story “The Hopeful Continent: Africa Rising” in the Economist (December 2011).”

“Is it sustainable?” we asked.

“That is the big question, “Professor Lemma answered. “On the optimistic side, it should be recognized that the recent dramatic gains are not accidental. They are payoffs to two decades of genuine economic and financial sector reforms, including large scale privatization programs and empowerment of private initiative, as well as improved economic governance.” He added: “Moreover, advances in technology and Africa’s increased integration into the global economy have fueled the development. Of course, at the center of that is human capital development which is an outcome of capacity building. Thus, on the positive, there are powerful forces that help sustain, and even accelerate the recent gains, and I am pleased that AERC will play a central role in the capacity building front. However, there are threats, particularly the ongoing Euro crisis, given that Europe remains a major trading partner to Africa. The Euro crisis could also affect Africa indirectly through the adverse impact on other trading partners, particularly China which is now the key player in Africa.”

Speaking of the “the Euro crisis”, what are Professor Lemma’s thoughts on the overall global financial crisis and how it may continue to affect African countries?

“Africa surprisingly weathered global crisis better than most regions of the globe in part because most countries have not been fully integrated into the global financial economy,” he said. “Those which were experienced immediate declines in stock market performance as well as trade flows, South Africa being among them.”

Professor Lemma, however, cautioned that things have stabilized and African economies are back in a growth trajectory. “It should be recognized that Africa is not monolithic but a continent of 55 countries with substantial variation in policies, governance, and reform pace, etc., and the global effects are not uniform,” he said. “The resilience to the global crisis is now overshadowed by the current crisis in Europe, and it is in the best interest of Africa (also the world at large) that the crisis be resolved soon.”
Senbet to Head Top African Economic Development Research Organization

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Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu: Ethiopian Shoemaker Takes Great Strides

Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu is the Founder & Managing Director of SoleRebels — the world's first fair trade certified green footwear company based in Ethiopia. (Photo: BBC)

BBC News

Eight years ago Ethiopia’s Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu decided to sell cool colourful shoes made of recycled materials, including car tyres.

The company which she started, SoleRebels, would soon become the planet’s first fair trade green footwear firm – certified by the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) – and is now one of Ethiopia’s most thriving businesses.

At the moment it sells its products in 55 countries, mostly through individual retailers, and its biggest markets are in Austria, Canada, Japan, Switzerland and the United States. The shoes are also sold online.

It all started in Zenabwork, the poor community in the outskirts of Addis Ababa where she was born.

“My mum and my father have been working hard. I grew up watching them,” she told the BBC series African Dream.

“My father is an electrician and my mother works in a hospital. They have really been building us to work with whatever we have. So I watched my parents; they’re a model for me to follow in their steps.”

Read more and watch the video at BBC News.

Abyssinian Fund, Coffee, Harlem and Ethiopia Connection (TADIAS Video)

Reverend Nicholas S. Richards, the Co-founder and President of Abyssinian Fund, at his office in Harlem during an interview with TADIAS last week. (Photo by Kidane Mariam for Tadias Magazine)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Saturday, July 14, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – Reverend Nicholas Richards, President of Abyssinian Fund, is also the Assistant Minster at Abyssinian, the legendary African-American baptist church in Harlem. “Abyssinian Fund came as a result of two things,” Rev. Richards told TADIAS, speaking about the four-year-old organization. “I had a really deep-seated passion to become involved in Africa and African development from my first trip there when I was still in college, and also because of the Abyssinian Baptist church’s history.” He added: “Abyssinian Baptist church is 204 years old and it was founded by Ethiopians and African Americans. So when I got to Abyssinian Church, I wanted to find a way to really bring together my passion for African development and Abyssinian Baptist church’s own history. And that’s really how we started Abyssinian Fund together. And when we decided to work in Africa, Ethiopia was of course the logical place for us because the church has such a really strong and rich history with the nation of Ethiopia.”

Reverend Richards describes Abyssinian Fund as an independent NGO formed by the Abyssinian Baptist church with the goal to reduce poverty in Ethiopia. “We try to do that by partnering with local coffee farming communities to increase their incomes, to provide training and equipment for them, and at the same time encouraging them to reinvest in their communities,” Richards explained. He pointed out that his group is working to create a market in the U.S. for Abyssinian Fund coffee grown in Harar, where buyers and donors would be asked to pay premium price – at least a dollar above market value, and that would be re-invested into the partnering coffee farm co-op in Ethiopia.

“And so this work, if nothing else, I hope that it is able to bridge communities together,” Rev. Richards said.

Watch the following video for the full interview with Reverend Nicholas Richards of the Abyssinian Fund.

Video: Harlem – Ethiopia Connection – President of Abyssinian Fund (TADIAS TV)

Debo Band’s First Album: Interview with the Group’s Founder Danny Mekonnen

Debo Band is an 11-member Boston-based group led by Ethiopian-American saxophonist Danny Mekonnen and fronted by vocalist Bruck Tesfaye. (Courtesy Photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Friday, July 6, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – In its recent, thumbs-up highlight of Debo band’s self-titled first album NPR noted: “The particular beauty of Debo Band is that you don’t have to be an ethnomusicologist to love it: It’s all about the groove. Debo Band transforms the Ethiopian sound through the filter of its members’ collective subconscious as imaginative and plugged-in 21st-century musicians. Klezmer-haunted wails dart in and out between disco thumps. The swooning, hot romance of [Yefikir Wegene] bursts up from the same ground as the funky horns of Ney Ney Weleba. From that hazy shimmer of musical heat from faraway Addis, a thoroughly American sound emerges.”

In an interview with Tadias Magazine, Danny Mekonnen, the group’s Ethiopian-American founder, agreed with NPR’s description, yet also pointed out that even he finds it difficult to explain the music. “It’s funny now that I am talking to the press more and more I am asking myself the same question”, Danny told TADIAS. “What is it?,” he said, admitting that he is not sure how he would categorize Debo’s music genre.

“I don’t think its Ethio-jazz because to me Ethio-jazz is a very specific thing branded by Mulatu Astatke. Its gentle,” he said. “Initially I didn’t want to start an Ethio-jazz band because I was interested in a lot of different things and influenced by unapologetic funk music as well, such as someone like Alemayehu Eshete, which is really about groove, dancing, and strong lyrics. That kind of energy.”

Debo’s debut album features originals, such as DC Flower and Habesha, the latter based on the Diaspora experience where a young man is mesmerized by an attractive East African woman walking down the street that could be either Ethiopian or Eritrean, while the former is an instrumental giving prominence to Embilta flutes and traditional drums. “The two songs are noteworthy because we are carving our space as a Diaspora, Ethiopian-American band,” Danny said.

Danny, who holds a Master’s degree in Ethnomusicology from Harvard University, said he became exposed to Ethiopian music at an early age while growing up in Texas, mostly from his parents cassette-tape collections of old songs from the 1960′s and 70s. “I was just soaking it up like a sponge,” he said. “I was attracted to it because of its horn melodies and its closeness to American jazz.” He continued: “Later, in the early 2000′s I was introduced to the Éthiopiques CD series, which gave me really accessible context including photos. That also led me to meet some great people in the Diaspora. So when I entered Harvard I had already started Debo band and my scholarly focus was on Ethiopian music.”

Even though Debo’s sound is heavily indebted to the classics of the 1960′s and early ’70′s, Danny said he is sympathetic to those who say the overwhelming focus on that era alone undercuts the contributions of subsequent generations of Ethiopian musicians. “Unfortunately the focus on the so called ‘Golden Age of Ethiopian music’ sort of discredits what came after it,” he said. “For example, if you listen to Teddy Tadesse’s Zimita album, that was a pretty heavy record, very progressive, and at least ten years ahead of its time. You can hear its influence in singers that came later like Gossaye and Teddy Afro.” He added: “Zimita was entirely arranged by Abegaz Shiota. Abegaz and bass guitarist Henock Temesgen are two of the many contemporary Ethiopian musicians that I have the highest respect for. They were part of Admas Band that worked with everyone from Aster Aweke to Tilahun Gessesse and Mahmoud Ahmed.”

Danny said his friend Charles Sutton, Jr. – the Peace Corps volunteer who in 1969 arranged for Orchestra Ethiopia, then led by Tesfaye Lemma, to tour the United States under the name “The Blue Nile Group” – was also instrumental in helping him to connect with older Ethiopian musicians in the U.S. “Charlie arranged for me a private lesson with Melaku Gelaw, one of the top washint and kirar players of that generation,” Danny said.

According to Danny, Mr. Sutton was also responsible for suggesting the name “Debo” as the group’s identity. “I told Charlie I was searching for a band name and he spoke to an Ethiopian lady friend of his and she came up with the word,” Danny shared.

“Debo means communal labor or collective effort in Amharic” Danny said. “An easy word to pronounce for non-Ethiopians, short four-letter word and very simple. But it also strikes up a fun conversation among Ethiopians because it’s an old archaic word and not part of their daily usage.”

“Ethiopians tell me that it sounds like Dabo (bread),” Danny said laughing.

If You Go:
Debo Band is getting ready for their CD release tour starting next week and will be performing at The Bell House in Brooklyn, the U Street Music Hall in Washington D.C. as well as at the renowned Philadelphia Folk Festival in Schwenksville, PA. For a detailed listing of their upcoming tour please visit Debo Band’s website. You can learn more about Debo’s new album and pre-order at

Watch: Debo Band Live (NPR)

Golden Age Pop – from Ethiopia (WNYC)

Business Insider: Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu Among Africa’s Top 5 Women Entrepreneurs

Business Insider Magazine names Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu (above) among "Africa's Top 5 Women Entrepreneurs" whose innovative business approach is receiving recognition. (Photo credit: AARON MAASHO/AFP/Getty Images)

Business Insider
By Greg Voakes, Hack College

Having risen to glory with their entrepreneurship skills in very less time, these women have proven their mettle and talent to the world. From being featured on Forbes Top List, to receiving global honor for their enterprise and their work, these women entrepreneurs are going places. Here’s a closer look at the five leading women entrepreneurs of Africa.

Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu
When she started in 2004 with the name soleRebels, Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu exactly knew where her enterprise of making hand-crafted shoes would take not only her but also her local community in Addis Ababa. According to her, the fine and skilled artisans employed from her local community (in Ethiopia) form the backbone of the company and the essentials of the company’s ethics. With the joy of spreading a bit of their cultural heritage with every shoe crafted, Alemu has emerged as a commendable entrepreneur consolidating her business in less than a decade with her gumption. Owing to Alemu’s grits and dedication towards soleRebels today, the company is the only achiever of WFTO fair Trade Certified Footwear Company title worldwide. Following the success of her business, Alemu was invited by Bill Clinton for addressing as a speaker by The Clinton Global Initiative’s panel. Subsequently in the year 2011, Alemu was again given the distinct honor by the World Bank Managing Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, she was the first African woman entrepreneur to get the invitation ever. In the same year, she received global recognition for entrepreneurship by different institutions. soleRebels was among the top 5 finalists of the 2011 Legatum Africa Awards For Entrepreneurship. Alemu gives workshops & mentorship to young rural girls for their economic empowerment and to equip them with self-reliance. Alemu envisages coming 3 years as the period of expansion of her business beyond Ethiopia in more than 10 locations with annual revenues topping $10 million.


BBC Breakfast: Interview With Emilia Mitiku

Singer Emilia Mitiku of Sweden performs and chats to Charlie and Louise on BBC Breakfast about her new album. She is the daughter of legendary Ethiopian musician Teshome Mitiku. (Photo: Courtesy of Emilia's Facebook page)


NYC: Taste of Ethiopia is About to Get a Taste of Stardom

As much as 70% of New Yorkers employed by the food industry are immigrants. (Photo: Hiyaw Gebreyohannes, the founder of Taste of Ethiopia, at Hot Bread Kitchen in Harlem / New York Daily News)

NY Daily News

Taste of Ethiopia, a food business launched in Harlem less than one year ago, is about to get a taste of stardom.

The fledgling company, which makes fresh Ethiopian dishes sold at local markets like Whole Foods and Foragers City Grocer, is one of four New York food manufacturers who’ve won the city’s first ever competition to be showcased at the Summer Fancy Food Show.

The winners also include Chulita’s Famous, a Latin sofrito maker in Long Island City; Morris Kitchen, an artisanal syrup company in Williamsburg; and Davidovich Bakery, a Queens bagel manufacturer.

They’ll all be heading to the Fancy Food Show in Washington D.C. on June 17, where their products will be sampled by some of the country’s premier food buyers, the kind of exposure that is rare for startups.

“It’s a huge deal,” said Hiyaw Gebreyohannes, 31, Taste of Ethiopia’s founder.

Read more at NY Daily News.

Taste of Ethiopia Launches Organic, Packaged Ethiopian Food (TADIAS)

Amha Eshete & Contribution of Amha Records to Modern Ethiopian Music

Amha Eshete is the Founder of the trailblazing Ethiopian music label "Amha Records." (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine

By Tadias Staff

Published: Friday, May 25, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – Five decades ago, when the Italian owner of the only record store in Addis Ababa could not keep up with growing local demand for more music variety, an Ethiopian music enthusiast named Amha Eshete opened his own shop. “I ended up opening the first music shop owned by a native Ethiopian, diversified the import and started buying directly from New York, India, Kenya, and West Africa,” Amha recalled in a recent interview with Tadias Magazine. “But there was one very important ingredient missing — I was selling foreign music labels, all kinds of music except Ethiopian records, which was absurd,” he added.

Amha Eshete is the Founder of Amha Records – the pioneering record company whose work from the “golden era” of Ethiopian music is now enshrined in the world-famous éthiopiques CD series.

“There was a government decree that granted music publishing monopoly to the national association Hager Fikir Maheber, but they did not produce a single record of modern Ethiopian music.” He continued: “After many sleepless nights I was determined to take a risk of probable imprisonment and decided to ignore the decree to start producing modern Ethiopian music.”

Referring to his first client on the Amha Records label Amha said, “Alemayehu Eshete was willing to take that risk with me.”

Amha describes the music scene in Ethiopia then as almost similar to that of today — buzzing with the mixture of international sounds, Ethio-jazz, and traditional music. “During the 1960s and ’70s modern Ethiopian music was emerging at an incredible pace even though there was an extensive government control and censorship every step of the way,” he said. “It was the first time that new and modern night clubs were being opened, records players were being installed in cars, and enjoying music was the spirit of the time.”

Professionally, Amha said he had no role models and that he learned through trial and error, often making business decisions based on “just gut feeling.”

“I had no experience, for example, on how to negotiate with the artists,” he said. “I did what I thought was right and fair to me and all the others involved at the time.” He added: “It was a lifetime experience and believe you me it worked because I was able to produce one hundred and three 45s and a dozen LPs in a few years.”

Amha leased the distribution rights of his originals to the French label Buda Musique in the ’90s. “My work is not owned by Buda Musique but it is definitely pressed and distributed under an exclusive license by them,” he noted. “The main credit should be given to Mr. Francis Falceto to bring about this re-birth of the golden age of Ethiopian music into reality in the form of the éthiopiques series.” He continued: “Mr. Francis was the one who was adamantly determined to reproduce this music and introduce it to the outside world. He should get all the credit because this music would have been buried and stayed buried somewhere in the suburbs of Athens, Greece where all the masters were stored until then.”

For Amha, the most dramatic recent change in the Ethiopian music industry has been the size of compensation packages for singers. “The Ethiopian superstar Tilahun Gessesse used to be paid about 200 birr per month,” he said. “I paid Alemayehu Eshete and Mahmoud Ahmed 2,000 birr for a single recording of an album.” He added: “This was all unheard of at the time, and in fact I can say it was the talk of the town.”

“Things have very much changed now,” Amha noted. “Payment of one million birr is no more a topic of conversation. The recent sales and revenue from Teddy Afro’s recording might gross millions of dollars.” he added: “This is definitely progress in the right direction and it is the beginning of good things to come.”


How Ethiopian Music Went Global: Interview with Francis Falceto

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Bruktawit Tigabu : The 100 Most Creative People in Business 2012

Bruktawit Tigabu is the Founder and Director of the Ethiopia-based Whiz Kids Workshop. (Photo: Fast Company magazine)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Thursday, May 17, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – What do Marcus Samuels­son, acclaimed chef & author, and Bruktawit Tigabu have in common? They both have been named among The 100 Most Creative People in Business 2012 by Fast Company magazine. Bruktawit, who lives in Ethiopia, is the Founder and Director of Whiz Kids Workshop, which produces educational programs for children, including Tsehai Loves Learning , a popular television series that is broadcast twice a week on Ethiopian national TV.

“Whiz Kids has a staff of nine, but Tigabu sews the puppets, outlines the story, reads Tsehai’s part, and supervises editing–when she’s not securing grants from UNESCO and others to meet her meager $100,000 annual budget,” noted Fast Company in its recognition of Bruktawit’s work. “Prior to shooting, she takes storyboards of an episode into schools to show young students.”

“I observe their attention,” she says. “If the storyboards work, the live action will too.”

As for Marcus, Fast Company notes that “after a celebrated run as executive chef at Aquavit Restaurant, the Ethiopia-born Marcus Samuels­son performed gustatory magic in Harlem.” The magazine adds “he built a spot both critically heralded and reflective of the area’s many cultures.”

“I bike and I walk every corner of Harlem, and see so much diversity that’s unexpected,” Marcus says. Then he builds a menu around those encounters.

We congratulate both Bruktawit and Marcus for their achievements.


Adanech Admassu: From Vendor to Film Prize Winner

Adanech Admassu, one of Ethiopia's few female film-makers, has won a prize at the One World Media Awards ceremony in London. (Photo from BBC Video)

BBC News

Film-maker Adanech Admassu tells the BBC about her award-winning film about forced marriages in Ethiopia.

She took the Special Award for her film Stolen Childhood, which tells the true story of a young girl who is forced into marriage.

She says it is a fate she managed to avoid with the help of The Ethiopian Gemini Trust.

Ms Adanech, who grew up in a one-room house in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, and sold snacks on the street to help her mother, told BBC Africa’s Akwasi Sarpong how she made the journey from vendor to award-winning film-maker.

Watch the video at BBC.

WEF Africa 2012: Bethlehem T. Alemu Named Social Entrepreneur of the Year

Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu has been named Social Entrepreneur of the Year at the 2012 World Economic Forum's meeting on Africa being held this week in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. (Photo courtesy of SoleRebels)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Thursday, May 10, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – As the World Economic Forum’s meeting on Africa wraps up in Ethiopia, The Schwab Foundation announced six winners of the Social Entrepreneur of the Year in Africa award that were presented at the Addis Ababa event on Thursday by the Forum’s Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab. The winners include Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu of Ethiopia, Co-Founder and Managing Director of SoleRebels; Sameer Hajee of Rwanda, Chief Executive Officer of Nuru Energy Group; Paul Scott Matthew of South Africa, Director of North Star Alliance Africa; Andrew Muir, also from South Africa who is Executive Director of Wilderness Foundation; and Seri Youlou & Thomas Granier of Burkina Faso, Co-Founders of the Association la Voute Nubienne.

According to The Schwab Foundation, the awardees are among a group of the foundation’s 17 social entrepreneurs from around the world who took part in the meeting. “Africa has seen tremendous growth over the past decade,” said Hilde Schwab, Co-founder and Chairperson of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. “Social entrepreneurs use innovative approaches to extend access to healthcare, education, energy and housing to marginalized populations that may not otherwise be included in the traditional markets. They ensure that growth, such as that Africa has experienced, is and will be inclusive.”

“I am truly honored that the Schwab Foundation Board has chosen to recognize me in this manner,” the Ethiopian winner Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu said in a statement. “I proudly share this recognition with every single one of the talented, industrious, committed and cultured people who everyday work alongside me to make soleRebels what it is – the coolest artisan driven footwear company on the planet.”

The ceremony, which was broadcast live via a web-stream on the forum’s website, was attended by hundreds of global leaders from various sectors and dignitaries from around the continent, including former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the secretary-general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Bekele Geleta, and heads of state from South Africa, Rwanda, Nigeria, Tanzania, Gambia, Gabon, and host nation Ethiopia.

“We deeply believe that economic as well as social progress can best be achieved through entrepreneurship.” said Schwab Foundation Chairman & co-founder Klaus Schwab. “Bethlehem embodies the vision and values of the global social entrepreneur community, and we are proud to honor her exemplary work in creating a highly innovative, ethical and sustainable business that continues to make a strong social impact with this special award.”

The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship was founded by Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, and his wife, Hilde. Since its inception in 2000, the foundation has recognized the world’s leading social entrepreneurs in over 40 countries.

Below are the 2012 Social Entrepreneurs of the Year in Africa:

Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, Co-Founder and Managing Director, SoleRebels, Ethiopia
SoleRebels taps into Ethiopia’s rich artisan heritage to create durable, stylish and eco-friendly footwear for international markets. The company offers training and employment to hundreds of underprivileged workers in Ethiopia, creating a new employment model for local enterprises. By using recycled automobile tires for the rubber soles and other environmentally friendly practices, soleRebels is committed to a zero carbon footprint.

Sameer Hajee, Chief Executive Officer, Nuru Energy Group, Rwanda
With many homes in sub-Saharan Africa not connected to electricity grids, Nuru Energy works with microentrepreneurs to disseminate its Nuru LED light, which can be recharged using an off-grid, pedal-powered platform. The LED light gives up to 26 hours of light and costs one-sixth of kerosene to recharge. To date, Nuru Energy has set up 70 village-level entrepreneurs who have sold 10,000 Nuru lights.

Paul Scott Matthew, Director Africa, North Star Alliance, South Africa
In the 1990s, Paul Matthew saw the alarming impacts of HIV/AIDS on mobile workers such as truck drivers and realized these workers lacked access to basic healthcare. North Star Alliance provides mobile workers and related communities with sustainable access to high-quality health and safety services through a network of interlinked clinics known as “Roadside Wellness Centres”. Since opening its first center in 2005 in Malawi, North Star has grown to 22 centers in 10 countries.

Andrew Muir, Executive Director, Wilderness Foundation, South Africa
The Wilderness Foundation, founded in 1972, integrates conservation programmes with social and educational programmes. It has trained thousands of youth to be community leaders and national park rangers. Through its social intervention projects, young people are empowered to become financially independent entrepreneurs andbreadwinners for their families. Under the stewardship of the Wilderness Foundation, over 200 000 hectares of African wilderness has been rehabilitated and expanded in the interests of conservation and environmental protection. More than 100 000 disadvantaged/vulnerable youth have benefited from the Wilderness Foundation through our social intervention and environmental education programmes.

Seri Youlou and Thomas Granier, Co-Founders, Association la Voute Nubienne, Burkina Faso
More than a decade ago, Seri Youlou, a farmer from Burkina Faso, and Thomas Granier, a French mason, built a Nubian vault home in Burkina Faso that inspired them to establish the Association la Vaute Nubienne. By training farmers in the construction of homes with vaulted earth-brick roofs they are providing an affordable, ecologically sustainable housing alternative and source of income during the off-seasons. Today, more than 200 masons have built over 1,300 Nubian vault homes in West Africa.

Balancing Economic Growth With True Sustainability (The Huffington Post)
World Economic Forum on Africa Goes Social (Voice of America)
Addis Ababa Hosts World Economic Forum & Ethiopia Investment Summit (TADIAS)

Editorial: Ethiopia Honors Dr. Catherine Hamlin with Honorary Citizenship

Dr. Catherine Hamlin who is from Australia has lived in Ethiopia since 1959. Dr. Hamlin is the founder of the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, which specializes in providing medical and social services to childbirth injury patients. (Photo credit: Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital)

Tadias Magazine

Published: Sunday, April 29, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – Ethiopia’s recent conferring of an honorary citizenship on Dr. Catherine Hamlin, founder of the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, is a well-deserved recognition for a remarkable woman who has spent a better part of her life in the service of her adopted home. According to the Ethiopian News Agency (ENA), Prime Minister Meles Zenawi vested the honorary citizenship at a ceremony held at his office in Addis Ababa on Thursday, April 26th. Meles announced: “Dr. Hamlin was awarded the citizenship for serving the fistula patients for more than five decades by establishing a fistula hospital in the country.”

“When we first arrived we were rather taken with the country because we saw our eucalyptus trees,” Dr. Hamlin, had told Tadias Magazine a few years ago in an interview recounting her memories of arriving in Ethiopia in 1959. The Australian native initially traveled there on a three-year government contract to establish a midwifery school at the Princess Tsehay Hospital. “I felt very much at home straight away because the scenery seemed very familiar to us,” she said. “We got a really warm welcome so we didn’t really have culture shock.”

Until her journey to Ethiopia, Dr. Hamlin, a gynecologist, had never met a fistula patient. “We had read in our textbooks about obstetric fistula but had never seen one,” she admitted. After arriving in Ethiopia with her husband Dr. Reginald Hamlin – a New Zealander who was also an obstetrician and gynecologist – she was warned by a colleague “the fistula patients will break your heart.”

Obstetric fistula is a childbirth injury that affects one out of every 12 women in Africa and approximately three million women worldwide. In developing nations where access to hospitals in remote areas are difficult to find, young women suffer from obstructive labor which can otherwise be successfully alleviated with adequate medical support. Unassisted labor in such conditions may lead to bladder, vaginal, and rectum injuries that incapacitate and stigmatize these women. Most patients are ousted from their homes and isolated from their communities.

Dr. Hamlin described the professional environment in the country as one where they “worked in a hospital with other physicians who were trained in Beirut and London.” However, as the only two gynecologists on staff they found it difficult to get away even for a weekend. For the first 10 years of their work with the hospital Reginald and Catherine Hamlin took weekend breaks at alternate times so as to have at least one gynecologist on call at all times, barely managing to take a month off each year to travel to the coast in Kenya. It is during their time at Princess Tsehai hospital that they first encountered fistula patients.

Since surgeries to cure fistula were not considered life-saving, few operating tables and beds were available for such patients at Princess Tsehai Hospital. Fistula patients were also not welcome and were despised by other patients and it wasn’t long before Reginald and Catherine decided to build a hospital designed to help these women, some of whom traveled hundreds of miles to seek treatment.

Speaking of her late husband, Hamlin noted, “When he saw the first fistula patient he was really overwhelmed. He devoted his whole life to raising money to help these women. He was a compassionate man and if he took on anything he would take it in with his whole heart and soul. He worked day and night to build the hospital.” The dream was realized in 1974 and soon the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital received 1 to 10 fistula patients at its doorstep on a daily basis. Women who heard about the possibility of being cured traveled to the Capital from distant villages across the country. Today the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital is a state-of-the-art, full-service medical facility entirely dedicated to caring for women with childbirth injuries.

Asked what her greatest satisfaction has been in this endeavor, Dr. Hamlin responded “It is in knowing that I am working somewhere where God has placed me to work. And I think that we gained more by living [here] and working with these women than we lost by leaving our own countries.” She fondly speaks of her late husband and his infinite compassion for his patients and his attachment to the country. “He loved the whole of Ethiopian society and when he was dying in England it was his final wish to return and be buried in Ethiopia,” she stated.

Dr. Hamlin equally enthused about her ‘home away from home’, emphasizing the joy she feels in seeing a happy, cured patient and her continued enjoyment of the landscape of Ethiopia and its people. Amidst her busy life she had found time in the “early hours of dawn” to write down the story of her life in her book The Hospital by the River, which was a bestseller in Australia. Her humble personality is evident as she replies to our inquiries about her past nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize by saying she didn’t know about it. Indeed along with being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999 she has also been awarded the Haile Selassie Humanitarian Prize in 1971, the Gold Medal of Merit by Pope John Paul in 1987, and an Honorary Gold Medal from the Royal College of Surgeons in England in 1989. In 2003 she was nominated as an Honorary Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, and she was the co-winner of the 2009 Right Livelihood Award.

At the ceremony last week, she said: “Although I was not born in Ethiopia, I love the country very much.”

We welcome Dr. Catherine Hamlin’s induction as a fellow Ethiopian!

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Celebrating Women’s History Month 2012: Tadias Interview with Birtukan Mideksa

Birtukan Mideksa is currently the Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow at the International Forum for Democratic Studies in Washington, D.C. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine

By Tseday Alehegn

Published: Friday, March 30, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – We conclude this year’s Women’s History Month series with a Q & A with political leader, human rights activist, and former judge Birtukan Mideksa who joined the Ethiopian Diaspora community in the United States last year. She is currently a Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow at the International Forum for Democratic Studies in Washington, D.C., which is supported by The National Endowment for Democracy. The program offers a select group of global leaders with a scholarly environment to reflect on their experiences, conduct research, write, consider best practices and lessons learned, and develop worldwide professional networks.

Prior to her arrival in the United States, Birtukan, who is a mother of a young daughter, had been twice imprisoned as leader of an opposition party in Ethiopia that won more than one-third of the seats during the 2005 elections. On January 6th, 2012 Birtukan spoke at the memorial tribute for Vaclav Havel, the former President of the Czech Republic who was also a playwright and poet, and recalled her imprisonment experience. Of the first 21 months behind bars following the 2005 elections Birtukan stated: “though going to prison despite not committing a criminal offense is a painful experience of every political prisoner, the pain didn’t make us weaker.” However, she described her second imprisonment for 19 months in solitary confinement as being “alone in every sense of the term.” Birtukan was released in October 2010. She noted: “coincidentally Aung San Syu Ki and I were released just days apart from each other. However, unlike her I found my party weakened when I went out. After all the pain that was inflicted on me and my dear ones, I had to ask myself if the struggle was worth it.”

At Vaclav Havel’s memorial tribute Birtukan referred to a book authored by Havel and acknowledged, “the truth illustrated in The Power of the Powerless has always preserved my fervent dedication for the cause of free and dignified human life.” She added: “So we should be vigilant and remind ourselves that the power of the powerless is directly correlated with features like friendship, compassion, forgiveness, and humility which might seem weak and meek rather than vanity, hate, and anger. Only the politics of the heart, which bases itself with capacities of love, friendship, solidarity, sympathy and tolerance are worthy of hardship.”

Birtukan Mideksa is the most prominent Ethiopian female political leader of our generation. Below is our Q & A with her:

TADIAS: As a fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy you have spoken about pathways to peace in the Horn of Africa. Can you share more about your current work? What do you enjoy most about it?

Birtukan Mideksa: As a Regan Fascel Democracy fellow, I am primarily engaged in an academic exploration focusing on the basic challenges of democratization in our country Ethiopia. The program gave me an opportunity to reflect on the issues and analyze the root causes underpinning the core political problems of the country.

The National Endowment for Democracy is a venue where political activists from across the globe come together to exchange views and experiences. What is so fascinating in my stay here has been observing the similarity in the challenges that citizens across borders have to overcome to realize their aspirations for free and dignified life. Yet, this comparative examination also helps one to realize that this noble cause eventually triumphs. That in turn is inspiring. Besides, as a fellow based in Washington, DC, I have lots of opportunities to shed light on the plight inflicted on my fellow Ethiopians by an authoritarian and unaccountable regime ruling the country.

TADIAS: Who are your female role models?

BM: One might say she was from the world of legend and myth. But, the heartfelt desire of the Queen of Sheba to acquire the wisdom and art of governance is celebrated by both major religions in our country. I am fascinated by her story, a story that is perhaps one of the most ancient ones showing a woman who did not consider her femininity as an inhibition for achieving something great and worthwhile.

Of course, there are lots of contemporary women, both Ethiopian and non-Ethiopian whose life is inspiring. I have, however, to single out Aung San Suu Kyi as one whose life has immensely influenced mine. Her courage, her moral integrity and her rigorous adherence and commitment to non-violence are unique in the stage of world politics. This woman who looks weak and frail, who has nothing to do with anger or malice, and who is often low-key and modest has exerted such a huge influence on world leaders, policy makers and more importantly millions of fellow humans including her countrymen and countrywomen. She showed fearlessness without foregoing her humility. She defied the rulers in the Military Junta of Burma without becoming hateful towards them. She is my icon who always affirms to me that it is possible to advance politics guided by moral principles based on respect and love for humanity.

TADIAS: What are some ways you have personally chosen to overcome the hurdles that you have faced both as a woman and as a leader in law & politics?

BM: What helps me most to survive the hurdles I faced is the depth and intensity of the ideal and vision I have with regard to the worth and dignity of the individual citizen and the way our society should be organized based on this universal ideal of human rights and the rule of law. My belief and conviction that we can and should change the status quo, though it appears to be daunting, has kept me going. And my trust in the power of the individual to bring about change enables me to consider the price I paid as a sacrifice made for a worthy causes and purpose.

TADIAS: What are some practical tips you can give for young women who want to follow in your footsteps?

BM: I would like to remind young women that public service or political engagement is not a domain exclusively reserved for men. In fact, I don’t think we can truly succeed in transforming the political system into a system which incorporates equality and fairness at its epicenter, unless Ethiopian young women are determined to contribute something significant to the process.

So I would like to encourage our young women to dream a future for our nation with a dignified and flourishing life for all citizens. And it’s important to believe in the ability of everyone of us to champion change. It is obvious the public discourse and the political process of our country is complex and traversing through it is an uphill journey. But if we stay committed and if we focus on the things we can offer and the societal issues we can be engaged in, all of us can play a role to lead our country towards freedom and democracy eventually.

TADIAS: Please tell us more about yourself (where you were born, grew up, school and how you developed your passion for your work?)

BM: I was born and brought up in the Ferensay Legacion neighborhood of Addis Ababa. I went to a public mid school called Miazia 23 and Yekatit 12 (Menen) for my elementary and high school education respectively. And I graduated from Addis Ababa University with a degree in law. I believe my passion for politics has a strong correlation with the fact that I was brought up in a community whose members are strongly committed to maintaining healthy social relations and to looking after the well-being of individual members. My training as a lawyer later on gave me some coherent narrative and vision for this aspiration of mine.

TADIAS: What would like to share on Women’s History Month with Tadias readers that we have not asked you about?

BM: I think we need to celebrate our unsung Ethiopian heroines who really made it in every realm of life. From the queens and wives and mothers of kings who take part in leadership to promote peace and security, to women advocates of change in Ethiopian popular revolution who paid dearly as equal with their male partners deserve our respect and commemoration for what they did and attempted to achieve in securing better societal destiny for our nation.

Most importantly, we should cherish and recognize the Ethiopian mothers and wives who bear tremendous burden and tirelessly struggle amidst challenges of impoverishment to feed their family, and to send their kids to school to get an education that perhaps they never had an opportunity to access themselves.

TADIAS: Thank you and happy Women’s History Month from all of us at Tadias.
Click here to watch Birtukan Mideksa’s tribute to Vaclav Havel.

Related Women’s History Month Stories:
Interview with Artist Julie Mehretu
Interview With Model Maya Gate Haile
Interview with Nini Legesse
Interview with Sahra Mellesse
Interview with Lydia Gobena
Interview with Author Maaza Mengiste
Interview with Grammy-nominated singer Wayna
Interview with Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu
Interview with Journalist Fanna Haile-Selassie
Interview with Dr. Mehret Mandefro
New Book Highlights Stories of 70 Accomplished Ethiopian Women (TADIAS)

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook

Tadias Interview with Julie Mehretu: Celebrating Women’s History Month 2012

Julie Mehretu is an artist best known for her large scale abstract paintings and drawings. She lives and works in New York City. (Photo Credit: ©Sarah Rentz)

Tadias Magazine

By Tseday Alehegn

Updated: Friday, March 30, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – Julie Mehretu is one of the most celebrated contemporary artists in the United States, and one of two Ethiopian-born artists whose work is part of the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art. Julie, who currently lives and works in New York, has received numerous international recognitions for her work including the American Art Award from the Whitney Museum of American Art and the prestigious MacArthur Fellow award. She had residencies at the Core Program at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston (1998–99), the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2001), the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota (2003), and the American Academy in Berlin (2007).

Julie was born in Addis Ababa in 1970 and immigrated to the United States with her family in 1977. Speaking about her upbringing Julie tells Tadias: “I was then raised in East Lansing, Michigan, where my father was professor of economic geography at the university and my mother a montessorian for young children.” Julie completed her undergraduate studies at Kalamzoo College and her MFA at RISD. “I was always drawing and painting since very young,” she said. “My parents always encouraged me to draw and pushed us to think differently.” She added: Although, it wasn’t until I was in graduate school that I really thought it could be possible to make a life as an artist. I think it is super important to realize that given a privileged circumstance you can craft a life like you can an object or a picture, with deep intention and vision.”

What does she most enjoy about her work? “Making art is difficult and intense work that consumes all of me,” Julie said. “Even still, I am so grateful and privileged that I am able to spend my time dedicated to painting and making art.”

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we asked Julie who her female role models are. “My mother, Doree Mehretu, my sister Neeshan Mehretu and my partner Jessica Rankin,” she shared, adding a few practical tips for young women who want to follow in her footsteps: “Work hard, don’t hesitate, and trust your intuition. Take deep care of your work and it will take care of you.”

We have updated this story and made the following correction: Mehretu is one of two Ethiopian artists whose work is part of the permanent collection at MOMA. The other artist is Skunder Boghossian.

Click here to watch Video of Julie Mehretu from Art 21 Season 5 Preview.

Related Women’s History Month Stories:
Interview with Birtukan Midekssa
Interview With Model Maya Gate Haile
Interview with Nini Legesse
Interview with Sahra Mellesse
Interview with Lydia Gobena
Interview with Author Maaza Mengiste
Interview with Grammy-nominated singer Wayna
Interview with Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu
Interview with Journalist Fanna Haile-Selassie
Interview with Dr. Mehret Mandefro
New Book Highlights Stories of 70 Accomplished Ethiopian Women (TADIAS)

Tseday Alehegn is Co-Founder & Editor of Tadias.

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook

Celebrating Women’s History Month 2012: Tadias Interview with Nini Legesse

Nini Legesse is the founder of the Virginia-based Wegene Ethiopian Foundation. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine

By Tseday Alehegn

Published: Monday, March 26, 2012

New York (TADIAS)- Nini Legesse was one of the fourteen community leaders from the East African Diaspora that were honored at the White House as “Champions of Change” last month. Her organization Wegene Ethiopian Foundation provided, among other services, financial support to build an elementary school in Abelti-Jimma, Ethiopia. The White House said: “These leaders are helping to build stronger neighborhoods in communities across the country, and are working to mobilize networks across borders to address global challenges.”

Below is our Q & A with Nini Legesse.

TADIAS: Please tell us about Wegene Ethiopian Foundation. What inspired it?

Nini Legesse: I founded Wegene in 2000 with similarly inspired friends who like me had left their home country in their teenage years. We felt morally obligated to give back. Even though my friends and I feel grateful for the security, opportunity, education and better life that we enjoy in our adoptive country, the United States, we wanted to assist those who have less opportunities in Ethiopia. The goal of Wegene is to enable hardworking, poor families to meet their daily needs and send their children to school in a sustainable way.

We also have Wegene Kids Club. The club raises funds through bake sales, movie nights, crafting, and other various activities in order to create awareness and reach out to Ethiopian American youth. In addition to our projects in Ethiopia, the Wogene Kids Club also volunteers by feeding and distributing clothing to the homeless in the Washington, D.C. area. One of Wegene’s unique features is that it is 100% volunteer based. As a result, our overhead cost is near to nothing, because everyone involved is donating their time, money, and other in-kind donations.

TADIAS: What do you most enjoy about your work?

NL: My work for Wegene is more of a mission and it’s something that I’m very passionate about. It is meaningful and intensely rewarding. Also, I’m grateful that Wegene has created an opportunity to cultivate social ties to my home country and to make a difference in someone’s life at a personal level. This work offers me fulfillment and civic satisfaction beyond imagination. I think we each have to realize our human potential for compassion and love. I see our world as a generous place where we reach out to others as we move through life. It doesn’t matter if our contribution is large or small; doing what we can to positively affect the life of a single person provides immense gratification. I also work full time as a patent examiner at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. I have been working at this job since 2001.

TADIAS: In a celebrating Women’s History Month, who are your female role models?

NL: I have numerous. One of my role models is Dr. Catherine Hamlin. I admire her lifetime devotion and mission to treating childbirth-related injures of disadvantaged women in Ethiopia. I’m amazed at how humble and loving she is. Her book, The Hospital by the River, is one of my favorite books. My other role model is Mrs. Marta Gebre-Tsadick, the founder of Project Merci. Marta is a remarkable woman. It is incredible what she and her husband have created. They built a school and hospital and established agricultural development programs. To me, she is a woman who has become a force of nature. Lastly, but equally as important, my mother and each of my six sisters have been my role models especially because I am the youngest child in my family.

TADIAS: Please tell us more about yourself (where you were born, grew up, school and how you developed your passion for your work).

NL: I was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. My parents are Mrs. Kebrework Senke and Dejazmach Legesse Bezou. I have five sisters and two brothers. Now I lost one of my sisters to Lou Gehrig’s disease. I came to the United States at the age of 17. The school that I attended in Ethiopia was Nazareth School, of which I have many good memories. I received my undergraduate degree from Berea College in Kentucky and my Master’s Degree in Industrial Technology from Ball State University in Indiana. I am happily married to Eskinder Teklu for over 17 years and I have three wonderful children ages 16, 15, and 11. I have many relatives and friends I love and adore. In addition to a lot of new friends I have made each year, I am lucky that I also still have my kindergarten friends actively involved in my life. In my spare time, I love to read, listen to music, write poems, watch movies, decorate, help my kids with their school projects, garden, and do craftwork.

TADIAS: What are some practical tips you can give for young Ethiopian women who want to follow in your footsteps?

NL: It’s okay to fail, as long as you learn from your mistakes and avoid making the same mistakes again. There is no single problem that can’t be solved through determination. Understand that hard work will pay off. The main thing is to find your purpose in life. Find something that gives your life meaning.

TADIAS: Is there anything else you would like to share with Tadias readers that we haven’t asked you?

NL: I just want to thank all of your readers for taking their valuable time to read about me and the Wegene Ethiopian Foundation. My heartfelt thank you to Tadias magazine for the opportunity given to me to share about my passion.

For more information about Wegene, visit their website at Stay tuned for more highlights celebrating Ethiopian women role models and change agents.

Video: Photo slide show of Wegene’s School Project in Abelti, Jimma – Ethiopia

Related Women’s History Month Stories:
Interview with Birtukan Midekssa
Interview with Artist Julie Mehretu
Interview With Model Maya Gate Haile
Interview with Sahra Mellesse
Interview with Lydia Gobena
Interview with Author Maaza Mengiste
Interview with Grammy-nominated singer Wayna
Interview with Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu
Interview with Journalist Fanna Haile-Selassie
Interview with Dr. Mehret Mandefro
New Book Highlights Stories of 70 Accomplished Ethiopian Women (TADIAS)

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook

Celebrating Women’s History Month 2012: Tadias Interview with Lydia Gobena

Lydia Gobena is an Intellectual Property attorney and a partner at the law firm Fross Zelnick Lehrman & Zissu in New York. She is also the owner of the jewelry line, Birabiro. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tseday Alehegn

Updated: Saturday, March 24, 2012

New York (TADIAS)- Our next interview for Women’s History Month features Lydia Gobena, a partner at Intellectual Property law firm Fross Zelnick Lehrman & Zissu and a designer who recently launched her own jewelry line, Birabiro. As a legal professional Lydia has represented diverse international clientele including those in the sports, fashion, architectural, engineering, music, and pharmaceutical sectors. She launched her own jewelry line at the end of 2011.

Below is our Q&A with Lydia Gobena.

TADIAS: Please tell us more about yourself and your interest in a legal career.

Lydia Gobena: I was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and moved to the U.S. when I was 2 years old. I grew up in Northern Virginia, where I graduated high school, and received a B.A. at the University of Toronto in Philosophy and History. After college, I worked in retail and at a law firm for a year and then studied law at the University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies (“SOAS”), receiving an LL.B. While working at the law firm, I realized that I enjoyed the intellectual aspects of the law. I was particularly interested in comparative law, having traveled extensively as a child. The program at SOAS appealed to me as it enabled me to take the more traditional legal courses while also studying different legal systems in Africa and Asia. After completing my law degree in London, I received an LL.M. at Georgetown University Law Center in International Law. I joined Fross Zelnick Lehrman & Zissu, an intellectual property boutique, in 2000 as an associate in the International Group. I became a partner in December 2005. I counsel and advise clients on international trademark, industrial design, copyright, and unfair competition issues. I have represented a diverse international clientele, including well-known fashion and apparel brands, a luxury goods company, a leading provider of engineering and architectural software, one of the world’s largest music and entertainment companies, leading pharmaceutical companies and beverage and sports brands.

TADIAS: You have recently also launched a jewelry design business called Birabiro. Can you tell us a bit more about this venture?

LG: I have enjoyed making beaded necklaces since I was a child. I started silversmithing in 2001, initially out of necessity. I love large rings and bracelets but could not find ones to fit my small fingers and wrists. While I have been making jewelry for friends and family over the years, I decided to launch my own jewelry line, which can now be viewed and purchased at, in order to make the designs available to a larger audience.

My love of jewelry most definitely came from my mother, who collects unique pieces from around the world. I love large, bold pieces of an artistic nature and this aesthetic is reflected in my line. Jewelry for me is an expression of who I am, and I am happy that I can share my creative expression with people outside my everyday circles.

TADIAS: Who are your female role models?

LG: In terms of career, I would have to say that my mother and her friends inspired me to pursue a challenging career. They were university-educated women in Ethiopia in the 60s/70s, who worked fulltime but yet managed to have a family. This career/life balance is something that I strive to have today, with a full-time career, a developing side business and a family life. I also have a number of female colleagues and clients at work, who have also helped guide my legal career. With respect to jewelry and style, my role models tend to be women, who push the boundaries when it comes to adornment. I was also inspired by my late sister, a fantastic artist, who had a unique worldview and aesthetic.

TADIAS: What are some practical tips you can give for young women who want to follow in your footsteps? (Both in law and in the arts).

LG: Find mentors at all stages of your career: I have had male and female mentors throughout my career and I actively seek them out to guide me in my professional life. I believe that it is particularly important, as a woman, to have female mentors, because they have been where you are and are good sounding boards when you need advice.

Follow your dreams: Many years ago, when reading The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, I came across the following quote that has guided me in my life and career “…[W]hen you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” In other words, desire, determination, dedication, and, above all, belief in your dreams, coupled with hard work, will enable you to achieve your goals. Be a mentor: Just as others have guided you, it is important to help others in their journeys. You will learn and grow from the experience of mentoring as well.

TADIAS: What are some ways you have personally chosen to overcome the hurdles that you may have faced as a woman executive?

LG: I am fortunate to work at a law firm where being a minority woman was irrelevant as I am judged based solely on my work product. Thus, I do not believe that I have faced significant hurdles in my current work environment because of my gender or color. To the extent there have been any during my career, I have tried to ignore them and focus on trying to be the best in my field (a byproduct of how I was raised). Initially, I faced hurdles because I took an untraditional route in my legal career. It took a fair amount of networking to secure my first IP job. However, my perseverance paid off. You have to realize that disappointment is a part of life. However, you need to use it to your advantage: You may not necessarily win every case, or get every client that you pitch, but each of these experiences can make you into a better lawyer and individual.

TADIAS: What would like to share on Women’s History Month with Tadias readers?

LG: It is OK to march to the beat of your own drum. My approach to my legal career was not traditional; neither was my path to being a jewelry maker. At the end of the day, you just have to love what you do.
Stay tuned for more highlights celebrating Ethiopian women role models and change agents.

Related Women’s History Month Stories:
Interview with Birtukan Midekssa
Interview with Artist Julie Mehretu
Interview With Model Maya Gate Haile
Interview with Nini Legesse
Interview with Sahra Mellesse
Interview with Author Maaza Mengiste
Interview with Grammy-nominated singer Wayna
Interview with Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu
Interview with Journalist Fanna Haile-Selassie
Interview with Dr. Mehret Mandefro
New Book Highlights Stories of 70 Accomplished Ethiopian Women (TADIAS)

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook

Celebrating Women’s History Month 2012: Tadias Interview with Maaza Mengiste

Maaza Mengiste is a writer based in New York City. (Photo credit: Miriam Berkley)

Tadias Magazine
By Tseday Alehegn

Updated: Thursday, March 22, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – Maaza Mengiste is the author of the critically acclaimed novel Beneath the Lion’s Gaze. She was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and graduated with an MFA in Creative Writing from New York University. Maaza is also the writer for the Ethiopia segment of the “Ten by Ten” project, a feature film that tells the stories of 10 extraordinary girls from 10 developing countries around the world. These stories, written by a female writer from the girl’s country and narrated by a celebrated actress, describe a unique personal journey of triumph and achievement against incredible odds.

Maaza ‘s book Beneath the Lion’s Gaze has been translated into several languages and her work has appeared in The New York Times, BBC Radio 4, The Granta Anthology of the African Short Story, and Lettre International, to name a few. She is a Fulbright Scholar who has also received fellowships from the Emily Harvey Foundation, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Prague Summer Program, and Yaddo. She teaches at NYU and lives in New York City.

Below is our Q & A with Maaza Mengiste:

TADIAS: What would you like to share about Women’s History Month with Tadias readers?

Maaza Mengiste: As I continue my reading and research and learn more about Ethiopian history, I’ve become increasingly aware of how significant women have been throughout that history. Can we talk about Ethiopian history without mentioning Saba or Zewditu or Taitu or so many of the women whose names aren’t in history books but in their families’ memories? I’m so proud of all the heroines, famous and unsung. My hope is that somewhere, there is a writer putting some of their stories down on paper.

I think it’s hard to consider Women’s History Month and consider Ethiopian women without thinking of what’s happening to domestic workers across the Middle East. In particular, the horrible and tragic death of Alem Dechassa. I still don’t have the right words to describe how I feel. I swing between so many emotions, most of them degrees of sorrow and anger. I think as women and as Ethiopians, we are each other’s sisters. In 10×10 film, through Azmera’s story and those young girls in her school who are saying ‘no’ to forced marriage and supporting each other to study hard, I’m hopeful of the potential we unleash when we band together. If we can reach even one woman trapped in an abusive household, if we can give her a place to tell her story and a place to turn for help, then maybe, in some small way, Alem’s death will not have been futile. It is a horrible price to pay, and one that I hope no other woman chooses, thinking it is her only way out of a terrible situation. It’s wonderful to see people, men and women, coming together to do something as a result of Alem’s death. I know events are happening in many places and social media is spreading the word and it’s great.

TADIAS: What do you enjoy most about being a writer?

MM: Most of the time, writing is hard work. It requires hours of solitude and many, many weeks and months and years of conceptualizing, writing, then revising again and again. It can often be the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, but it is also the most rewarding. One of the most rewarding aspects of my current life, as a writer with a published book, is the opportunity to meet so many people with incredible life stories. Writing demands that I am alone most of my days, but being able to interact with so many whose lives in some way echo those of my characters, or to connect with people who worked in Ethiopia or are students of Ethiopian history, has been a wonderful experience.

TADIAS: You are the writer for the 10×10 segment on Ethiopia. Can you share with us a bit more about your work on this project?

MM: The 10×10 documentary is a film focused on girls’ education as a means to positively impact a community and a country. The producers and director chose 10 countries and looked at the biggest obstacle to girls’ education in those countries. For Ethiopia, that issue was forced early marriage. I had the opportunity to meet Azmera, a young girl from a village outside of Bahir Dar. She was going to be married at age 12, but reported this to her teachers and the marriage was stopped and she was allowed to continue school. My role in the documentary was to spend time with Azmera and her family, which included her mother and grandmother and her aunts, uncles and cousins, and get to know her and learn more about her life. Then, I would write a script based on my time with Azmera and the director would take that and use it to shoot the documentary.

What I realized through this process was that, contrary to so many stories we hear about cruel parents forcing children into these marriages, Azmera comes from a loving, caring family. They adore her. Her mother was doing her best to make the right decisions for her child. She began to understand the physical and psychological damages inflicted on young girls when they’re married too young, and she was determined that her daughter finish school and improve her life. What was important to me as a woman, as an Ethiopian and as a writer was to convey this mother’s love but also talk about the thousands of young girls who are not as lucky as Azmera. The experience has been life-changing, I’m excited to see the finished film, which will be released sometime in 2013. But most important, I am so grateful for the kindness Azmera and her family extended to me and their willingness to let me into a small part of their lives. We will continue to stay in touch.

TADIAS: Who are your female role models?

MM: My grandmother and my mother. I learned kindness from one and stubbornness from the other, and it’s good to have both in this world, I’ve found.

Tadias: What challenges have you faced as a writer and how did you overcome those hurdles at work or life in general?

MM: Maybe the hardest thing is to maintain the daily discipline of writing, no matter what. It is often a juggling act between work, family and writing. Sometimes one outweighs the other, but the most important thing is that every day, I’ve spent some time focused on my writing.

TADIAS: What are some practical tips you can give for young women who want to follow in your footsteps?

MM: There will be many, many people who will find many, many reasons to discourage you from writing or from the arts. But the best advice I’ve ever received was from one of my aunts, who told me that no one lives with your decisions except you. So no matter what you want to do, do it well. Practice discipline. Be fearless. And be kind to people.

TADIAS: Please tell us more about yourself (where you were born, grew up, school and how you developed your passion for your work?)

MM: I was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia but came to the U.S. when I was a child. I’ve grown up in the States but maintained ties to Ethiopia through family, friends and my work. I got my Masters in Fine Arts at New York University and I teach creative writing there. I developed my passion for my work by reading writers I admire. My passion for reading came much earlier than my passion for writing. I still love to read, I read every day, and that’s continuing to help me become a stronger writer.

TADIAS: Thank you so much and Happy Women’s History month from all of us at Tadias!

Stay tuned for more highlights celebrating Ethiopian women role models and change agents.

Related Women’s History Month Stories:
Interview with Birtukan Midekssa
Interview with Artist Julie Mehretu
Interview With Model Maya Gate Haile
Interview with Nini Legesse
Interview with Sahra Mellesse
Interview with Lydia Gobena
Interview with Grammy-nominated singer Wayna
Interview with Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu
Interview with Journalist Fanna Haile-Selassie
Interview with Dr. Mehret Mandefro

Watch: Maaza reading from “Ten by Ten” (The story of Azmera, a young girl from Bahir Dar)

‘Girl Rising’ Film & Campaign Coming in 2013 (TADIAS)

New Book Highlights Stories of 70 Accomplished Ethiopian Women (TADIAS)

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook

Celebrating Women’s History Month 2012: Interview with Wayna

Woyneab Miraf Wondwossen (Wayna ) - is an Ethiopian-born American singer and songwriter. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine

By Tseday Alehegn

Published: Tuesday, March 20, 2012

New York (TADIAS)- Our next highlight for Women’s History Month series features Grammy-nominated singer and songwriter Wayna. The Ethiopian-born artist moved to the U.S. when she was a toddler and grew up in the suburbs of D.C. After graduating from the University of Maryland where she double majored in English and Speech communication, Wayna worked for three years as a writer at the Clinton White House before launching her music career. Her debut album ‘Moments of Clarity’ was released in 2004. Five years later, she was nominated for Best Urban/Alternative Performance at the 2009 Grammy Awards. Wayna is currently back on tour and gearing up for another album. In honor of Billie Holiday’s birthday Wayna will be performing at the Blue Note in New York on April 6, 2012.

Below is our Q & A with Wayna.

TADIAS: What do you most enjoy about your work?

Wayna: I most enjoy writing and performing when it’s in the zone — and by that I mean the moment when you lose yourself in what you’re doing and something special happens that’s beyond you. It’s like all your daily thought and effort at honing your craft goes out the window, and you really let go in front of a crowd or in a writing session, and something better than you comes out. It’s awesome. I usually don’t sleep after days like those.

TADIAS: Who are your female role models?

Wayna: My late aunt, Yeshie Immebet Emagnu. She was a real pioneer — one of the first women to graduate from Addis Ababa University and one of the first Ethiopian graduate students to come to the States on a scholarship at a time when very few women, Black people and/or immigrants were earning advanced degrees. They urged her to study Education, because that was one of the few programs acceptable for women at the time, but her interest was in Political Science. So without her funder knowing, she enrolled in both programs and completed two masters in the amount of time allotted for one. At the end of her studies, she had to fight for them to honor the second degree. I admire that self-determination, and all while being very young and very far away from your family and all that’s familiar. I hope she passed a little bit of that down to me.

TADIAS: What challenges have you faced as a female artist? How did you cope?

Wayna: Sometimes, people will welcome your opinions about vocals or what you’re going to wear, but not about which drum sound you want in the song or how you want the video edited. Because I’m executive producing my albums, I have to be involved in all kinds of decisions, and it was striking to me in the beginning how frequently people thought they could talk me out of my opinions or how often they assumed the good choices were someone else’s — something I don’t see a lot of male artists or producers encountering. In fact, it seems like women at every level of success in the industry still experience this, no matter how accomplished. So I had to learn very early on to trust my instincts and to not look for validation for everything. I more than welcome input, and I take advice that feels right, but at the end of the day, its my call, and I am comfortable with that and with accepting whatever comes as a result.

TADIAS: What are some practical tips you can give for young females who want to follow in your footsteps?

My best advice for young women pursuing music is to really find themselves personally and creatively and to figure out what absolutely unique thing it is they have to give, whether it’s the story they’re telling or something about their voice or their background or the way they play. Above all, it should be unique and honest. That takes experimentation and trying things out of the comfort zone, and not protecting our ego. You can’t grow and inspire anybody if you’re not willing to be vulnerable. So everyday try to give yourself the gift of imperfection and to dig a little deeper into who you are. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it, because at the end of the day, none of this is really even about how well we do what we do, it’s about who we’re become along the way.

TADIAS: Please tell us briefly about yourself (where you were born, grew up, school and how you developed your passion for your work?)

Wayna: I was born in Addis Ababa, I immigrated with my mom to the U.S. when I was a toddler and grew up in the suburbs of D.C. I graduated from University of Maryland and worked for 3 years as a writer in the Clinton White House. I stayed there because I felt like I owed it to my family, who made a lot of sacrifices to raise me in the States and give me the best opportunity at a stable life and “a real job.” But one thing I was always clear on, from as early as I can remember, was that I wanted to sing. It took a while before I was willing to risk disappointing my family to make music my main goal, but once I did, I found that it came as no surprise to anyone and that everybody was really excited and pulling for me.

TADIAS: Is there anything else you would like to share with Tadias readers that we have not asked you about?

Wayna: My third album is the culmination of a tremendous amount of musical and self-exploration, coming off the biggest highs and challenges of my career and the birth of my daughter. I was determined to make something honest and unique, so I got out of my element and went to Toronto, where a friend had encouraged me to come and jam with some musicians. These guys were from all over the world and understood every genre of music from habesha to arabic to reggae to rock. A year later, we’re putting the finishing touches on the LP, ‘Freak Show,’ a blend of african and reggae-infused soul mixed with alternative rock. I am going to be offering some of these songs for free soon and playing them live at the Blue Note Friday April 6th at 12:30am, so please join us if you’re in NYC and/or follow me on Twitter @waynamusic or find me on Facebook, so you can hear and have the new material. I hope you love it as much as I do.

TADIAS: Thank you so much and Happy Women’s History month from all of us at Tadias!

Wayna: Thank you Tadias, for all your support over the years.

Video: In honor of Billie Holiday’s birthday Wayna performed in NYC on April, 6, 2012

Related Women’s History Month Stories:

Interview with Birtukan Midekssa
Interview with Artist Julie Mehretu
Interview With Model Maya Gate Haile
Interview with Nini Legesse
Interview with Sahra Mellesse
Interview with Lydia Gobena
Interview with Maaza Mengiste
Interview with Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu
Interview with Journalist Fanna Haile-Selassie
Interview with Dr. Mehret Mandefro
New Book Highlights Stories of 70 Accomplished Ethiopian Women (TADIAS)

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook

Celebrating Women’s History Month 2012: Tadias Interview with Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu

Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu is the Founder & Managing Director of SoleRebels — a fair trade certified green footwear company based in Ethiopia. (Photo: Courtesy of SoleRebels)

Tadias Magazine
By Tseday Alehegn

Published: Monday, March 19, 2012

New York (TADIAS)- Our third highlight for Women’s History Month series is Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, Founder & Managing Director of SoleRebels, the internationally recognized green footwear company based in Addis Ababa. Bethlehem was born, raised and educated in Ethiopia. Since she launched her company in 2005, allowing for the creation of hundreds of local jobs, she has garnered international recognition. Last year she was named one of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders. And most recently Forbes Magazine declared her one of Africa’s Most Successful Women. She is currently an NYC Venture Fellow, a program established by Mayor Michael Bloomberg two years ago that is designed to connect promising entrepreneurs from around the world with mentors and investors from leading companies in New York City.

Below is our Q&A with Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu.

TADIAS: What do you most enjoy about your work?

Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu: I really love sharing Ethiopia’s artisan heritages with the world and combining our cultural products with modern design sensibilities. For example, our sandals and shoes are lined with fabric produced from organic cotton, which we hand-spin and loom. So working in this manner not only preserves local assets, but also provides our customers with stylish and comfortable footwear. And we are constantly taking our idea further and pushing the boundaries.

TADIAS: Who are your female role models?

BTA: My mother is my role model. A simple hardworking woman who taught me the value of hard, honest work, encouraged me to get a good education and supported my desire to dream! I am also surrounded by strong, talented creative women in my company, who put in a full day of honest work in order to both elevate this company and provide for their families. Their work ethic inspires me daily.

TADIAS: What challenges have you faced as an entrepreneur and business executive?

BTA: Any entrepreneur building something from scratch is bound to face obstacles and a myriad of challenges. Its been interesting because my experience in running my company has been a very positive one. I don’t feel limitations because of my gender nor allowed myself to be limited by others’ perceptions of my gender. However, I am well aware that there have been many times when people attempted to limit me because of my gender. My belief has been in never allowing those limitations to take hold. It always carried me through and let me transcend those obstacles placed in front of me. Such experiences have made me aware of the challenges faced by women, and has made me passionate about ensuring that women around me are given all the tools they need to not simply cope with these challenges, but to flourish in spite of them. At the end of the day, the best weapon for success is performance.

TADIAS: What are some practical tips you can give for young Ethiopian women who want to follow in your footsteps?

BTA: First and foremost, I would say get a good education. That’s critical. And never be afraid of hard work. Believe me there is no such thing as “overnight success.” So get ready for reality. And never ever be afraid to dream big.

TADIAS: Please tell us briefly about yourself (where you were born, grew up, school and how you developed your passion for your work?)

BTA: I was born and raised in the Zenabwork/Total area of Addis Abeba, which is one of the most impoverished and marginalized communities in Ethiopia. When I was growing up, Ethiopia had plenty of charity “brands” but not enough grassroots effort for development. I was fresh out of college in 2005 when I embarked to shift the discourse on development from one of dependecy only on foreign aid and NGOs to maximizing local talent and resources. Our vision was to provide solid community-based jobs while creating a world class brand, which we have done.

TADIAS: Is there anything else you would like to share with Tadias readers that we have not asked you about?

BTA: We are aiming to open at least fifteen stores outside of Ethiopia by 2015. we have already implemented franchise agreements in Taiwan and are currently finalizing retail proposals in China, US, UK, Australia, Italy, Canada, Spain and Japan. We have many more exciting initiatives in the pipeline so stay tuned!

TADIAS: Thank you so much, Bethlehem, and Happy Women’s History month from all of us at Tadias!

Stay tuned for more highlights celebrating Ethiopian women role models and change agents.

Watch: Bethlehem Tells SoleRebels’ History (2011 Africa Awards for Entrepreneurship)

Interview with Birtukan Midekssa
Interview with Artist Julie Mehretu
Interview With Model Maya Gate Haile
Interview with Nini Legesse
Interview with Sahra Mellesse
Interview with Lydia Gobena
Interview with Maaza Mengiste
Interview with Grammy-nominated singer Wayna
Interview with Journalist Fanna Haile-Selassie
Interview with Dr. Mehret Mandefro
New Book Highlights Stories of 70 Accomplished Ethiopian Women

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook

Tadias Interview with Fanna Haile-Selassie

Fanna Haile-Selassie is a correspondent for ABC-affiliated WSIL-TV's News 3 - a television station that covers parts of Illinois, Missouri, and Tennessee. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tseday Alehegn

Published: Monday, March 12, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – Our second interview for the Women’s History Month series features broadcast journalist Fanna Haile-Selassie, a political reporter for the ABC-affiliated WSIL-TV – a television station that covers Southern Illinois, Southeastern Missouri, and parts of West Tennessee.

Fanna joined WSIL-TV’s News 3 team in August of last year. She was previously in Rochester, Minnesota, where she worked as the political, crime, and courts reporter for a local TV station for more than three years. Fanna has been honored for her work by the Minnesota Associated Press and the Minnesota Society of Professional journalists. She is a graduate of University of Missouri’s School of Journalism.

Below is our Q&A with Fanna Haile-Selassie:

TADIAS: What do you most enjoy about your work?

Fanna Haile-Selassie: I love that I am always learning something new at my job. Each day means a new story, whether I am heading to the state Capitol or into a medical clinic to learn about the latest scientific breakthroughs; my job is always exciting.

TADIAS: Who are your female role models?

FH: I admire all women who have the gumption and perseverance to reach their goals. Christiane Amanpour has always been a long-standing favorite of mine, but I actually find new role models almost on a weekly basis in my career. I have told many stories about strong women breaking barriers in their industry, or making a difference in their community while battling cancer, or even giving up everything to provide for their families. I find renewed strength in myself every time I get to meet one of these women and tell their story.

TADIAS: What challenges have you faced as a female reporter?

FH: The stereotype of broadcast journalism being dominated by men is quickly changing. More women are graduating from journalism schools than ever before. My journalism graduating class had more females. Currently, my newsroom has only one male reporter. As my industry recognizes more women in the field, the challenges have also reduced professionally.

TADIAS: What are some practical tips you can give for young women who want to follow in your footsteps?

FH: I would classify journalism almost like a calling. Reporters do not make a lot of money on average, they work long hours, sometimes get a bad reputation from the public, and have to report on some pretty terrible things. So before I recommend anyone to become a journalist, I would have them make sure this is truly what they wanted to do. The true satisfaction I get from my job is knowing that I am making a difference in this world by informing the public. People who are not in this career for the right reasons don’t know that satisfaction, and they rarely stay in this career.

TADIAS: Please tell us briefly about yourself (where you were born, grew up, school and how you developed your passion for your work?)

FH: I was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota. My parents always encouraged me to strive to be the best, and I believe my pursuit of success led me to be a bit of a control freak. I always need to know what is going on around me at all times, and I never like being “out of the loop”. I figured out in high school that journalism would allow me to investigate all the things that made me so curious. I chose to go to the Missouri School of Journalism, one of the best broadcast journalism schools in the country. There, I discovered my passion for political reporting while working at a radio station in the state Capitol. Since graduating, I have worked as a general assignment reporter, but am the “go-to” person for all the political stories.

TADIAS: Thank you so much and Happy Women’s History month from all of us at Tadias!

Stay tuned for more highlights celebrating Ethiopian women role models and change agents.

Video: Collection of Recent News Reporting by broadcast journalist Fanna Haile-Selassie

Interview with Birtukan Midekssa
Interview with Artist Julie Mehretu
Interview With Model Maya Gate Haile
Interview with Nini Legesse
Interview with Sahra Mellesse
Interview with Lydia Gobena
Interview with Maaza Mengiste
Interview with Grammy-nominated Singer Wayna
Interview with Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu
Interview with Dr. Mehret Mandefro
New Book Highlights Stories of 70 Accomplished Ethiopian Women (TADIAS)

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Celebrating Women’s History Month 2012: Tadias Q&A with Dr. Mehret Mandefro

Physician Mehret Mandefro is co-founder of Truth Aid, an organization that produces multimedia content about social issues affecting vulnerable populations around the world. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tseday Alehegn

Published: Thursday, March 8, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – In celebration of Women’s History Month, Tadias is interviewing extraordinary Ethiopian women who are blazing trails in various fields including science, art, philanthropy, and business. We launch our series with a Q&A with Dr. Mehret Mandefro, physician, film producer, anthropologist and social change activist. She is a former White House Fellow, Fulbright Scholar, and currently teaches at the Department of Health Policy at George Washington School of Public Health & Health Services.

Mehret is also the co-founder of Truth Aid, an organization that produces visual ethnographies of health and social issues. Their current film project entitled Oblivion is based on a true story about a legal precedent-setting case that outlawed abduction for marriage in Ethiopia.

Below is our Q&A with Dr. Mehret Mandefro:

TADIAS: What do you most enjoy about your work?

Mehret Mandefro: I love teaching and working with students. I find the next generation to be very inspiring. I also like having the time to think, write, and create new forms of knowledge that will challenge audiences to think different about health and human rights.

TADIAS: Who are your female role models?

Mehret: My mother, Tsedale K. Mandefro, Abebech Gobena, Sister Zebider, Meaza Ashenafi.

Tadias: What challenges have you faced as a leader and how did you overcome those hurdles at work or life in general?

Mehret: In some work environments where I have been the youngest and happen to be the only woman sometimes it was a challenge to have my voice heard. So I went to great lengths to be very clear about what I thought. Learning to express your opinions in forums that are not necessarily friendly is an important skill for women to develop.

TADIAS: What are some practical tips you can give for young women who want to follow in your footsteps?

Mehret: You have to believe in your vision above all and be willing to put in hard work to execute. You also have to surround yourself with a support network that can nurture your growth. That’s very important.

TADIAS: Please tell us more about yourself (where you were born, grew up, school and how you developed your passion for your work?)

Mehret: I was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and I grew up in Alexandria, VA. I attended Harvard for college and medical school. I also received a Masters in Public Health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. My passion for public health and medicine emerged out of a study abroad trip I took to Kenya as a junior in college.

TADIAS: What would like to share on Women’s History Month with Tadias readers that we have not asked you about?

Mehret: Dream big. Work hard. But most of all never be afraid to do something different.

Thank you Dr. Mehret and best wishes with your endeavors.

Stay tuned for highlights celebrating Ethiopian women role models and change agents.

Interview with Birtukan Midekssa
Interview with Artist Julie Mehretu
Interview With Model Maya Gate Haile
Interview with Nini Legesse
Interview with Sahra Mellesse
Interview with Lydia Gobena
Interview with Maaza Mengiste
Interview with Grammy-nominated Singer Wayna
Interview with Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu
Interview with Journalist Fanna Haile-Selassie
New Book Highlights Stories of 70 Accomplished Ethiopian Women (TADIAS)

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook

African American Women in the Obama Administration: Yeshimebet Abebe

Ethiopian American Yeshimebet Abebe serves as the Advisor to the Secretary of Agriculture for Special Project at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. (Photo: The White House Blog)

Black History Month | By Christopher R. Upperman

Each year America recognizes the month of February as National African American History Month. We reflect and celebrate the heritage and legacy of African Americans and many of their achievements. The theme for this year’s African American History Month is focusing on, “Black Women in American Culture and History.” In his 2012 proclamation, President Obama says, “During National African American History Month, we pay tribute to the contributions of past generations and reaffirm our commitment to keeping the American dream alive for the next generation.”

Yeshimebet Abebe serves as the Advisor to the Secretary of Agriculture for Special Projects, where her portfolio includes USDA’s Strike Force Initiative. She recently served as the Acting Chief of Staff for Research, Education and Economics (REE) where her responsibilities included the managing of the daily priorities of the four agencies that comprise REE, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Economic Research Service (ERS), and National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS).

Yeshi also served as the Special Assistant to the Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development and the Special Assistant to the Administrator for Rural Utilities Service. Prior to arriving at USDA, Yeshi practiced law in both the private and non-profit sectors, worked in the office of Congressman Bruce Braley and worked on the Obama campaign.

An Iowa native, Yeshi has a Bachelor of Science in Urban and Regional Studies from Cornell University, a Juris Doctor from the University of Miami School of Law, and a Master’s of Arts in International Law and the Settlement of Disputes from the University for Peace in Costa Rica.

Click here to read a Q & A with Yeshimebet Abebe.

White House Highlights Diaspora Trailblazers from East Africa

President Obama has highlighted fourteen community leaders in American Diaspora with roots in the Horn of Africa. The White House says these leaders are helping to build stronger neighborhoods in communities across the country, and are working to mobilize networks across borders to address global challenges. In the next few weeks Tadias Magazine will feature series of interviews about their work. (Photos: White House)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Monday, February 6, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – Each week, as part of President Obama’s Winning the Future initiative, the White House recognizes champions from various sectors — ranging from educators to entrepreneurs and community leaders — and honors them for the work they are doing to serve and strengthen their communities.

Last week the White House recognized 14 “Champions of Change” who are leaders in American Diaspora communities with roots in the Horn of Africa. In the next few weeks Tadias Magazine will feature an interview series with several of the champions.

We start with Ethiopian-born Solome Lemma, a philanthropist, activist, and organizer. She is currently a grantmaking program advisor at The Global Fund for Children (GFC). Solome is a graduate of Stanford and Harvard Universities.

TADIAS: Solome, please tell our readers about yourself, where you grew up, your passions and top priorities?

Solome Lemma: I was born in Ethiopia and migrated to the US when I was 11. I lived in Marietta, GA for a year and spent the rest of my childhood in Los Angeles, California, until I went off to college. Since then I have lived in New York, DC, Boston, and Ethiopia and traveled to many countries in Africa. My passion is in seeing an Africa that is in charge of its own development and progress. An Africa that tells its own story, drives its own change, and sets its own agenda.

TADIAS: Through your non-profit work with the Global Fund for Children you have worked with grassroots organizations in over 25 countries in Africa. Can you share some of the highlights of that experience?

SL: Wow, so many incredible memories and highlights. I loved organizing a knowledge exchange conference in Senegal for grantee partners in English and French-speaking parts of West Africa. We held the exchange in Toubab Dialow, right on the beach and it was incredible to see people forge connections and lasting relationships despite the linguistic divides. After the conference, I had an opportunity to visit and stay with the great writer Ayi Kwei Armah. I will never forget him cooking dinner. We had a great conversation about Africa, literature, and following one’s authentic purpose. Throughout that Senegal trip, I remember saying to myself I can’t believe this is my life over and over again.

Sierra Leone was such a beautiful surprise. Before I traveled there, all I knew about the country was the long conflict . Once I got there, I found the most breathtaking, stunning place I have ever visited. Rolling hills, lush green trees, gorgeous white sand and Turuquoise water. River number two is a must visit. And While I am on that, Zanzibar still has a piece of my heart.

The most inspiring part of that work was meeting the incredible grassroots leaders who are the backbone of change in their communities. I have met the most driven, resourceful, creative, and impactful organizations in Africa. During my last visit in Mombasa, Kenya, I met with two brothers who were forced into the streets at the ages of 4 and 7. They lived on and off the streets into their teenage years. Today, they run am organization that works with children who live on the streets called Total War Against AIDS Foundation (TWAAYF). These two young men have turned their misfortunes into an incredible organization that uses the creative arts, music, education, and love to prevent other children from experiencing their fate.

Visiting the Joy Center in Ethiopia is always a great source of inspiration. The Joy Center is the first and only school for children with autism. I have visited the organization every two years since 2006 and it’s incredible for me to see the change in the students overtime. One particular young lady couldn’t move, speak, or eat on her own when I visited the first time. When I returned two years later, she was playing basketball and communicating with her teachers. Another two years later, she was talking to me. It’s a place where love and care make miracles.

TADIAS: Describe the project you are currently working on to focus on members of the Diaspora as agents of change.

SL: I am working to establish an organization that will promote philanthropy among the African Diaspora Community. We are the most educated immigrant group in America. The global African Diaspora sends $40 billion in remittances each year. Imagine how much change we can advance if we consolidate our resources to engage in collective philanthropy, supporting the work of African social change organizations. It’s time for us to step outside of the shadows of development and philanthropic organizations and take our rightful place as resources, sources, and agents of change.
Watch: Champions of Change in American Diaspora Communities Honored at the White House

Yared Tekabe Uses Molecular Imaging for Early Detection of Heart Disease

Dr. Yared Tekabe runs studies in cardiovascular disease detection and prevention at Columbia University. (Photo: Tekabe at his office at William Black building in upper Manhattan - Courtesy photograph)

Tadias Magazine

By Tseday Alehegn

Published: Wednesday, January 25, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – In Spring 2009, we featured Dr. Yared Tekabe’s groundbreaking work on non-invasive atherosclerosis detection and molecular imaging, which was published in the American Heart Association´s journal, Circulation. As in most chronic heart disease conditions, the plaque that accumulates in blood vessels is usually not detected until it leads to serious, and often fatal, blockages of blood supply such as during an episode of heart attack or stroke. Having received a $1.6 million grant from the National Institute of Health Tekabe’s research focused on the use of novel molecular imaging techniques to identify sites of inflammation that can help us with early detection of atherosclerosis.

In 2010, his work was highlighted in Osborn & Jaffer’s review entitled “The Year in Molecular Imaging,” noting that Tekabe and colleagues had developed a tracer that imaged RAGE — a receptor for advanced glycation end products, which is implicated in a host of inflammation-related diseases including artherosclerosis, cancer, diabetes and alzheimer’s. Tekabe’s group, along with his colleague Dr. Ann Marie Schmidt, holds a patent for this RAGE-directed imaging technology.

Tekabe’s lab also used similar imaging technology to detect RAGE in mouse models who had artifically-induced ischemia (restriction of blood supply) in their left anterior descending coronary artery, which is the main supplier of blood to the left ventricle. When blood supply is restored (reperfusion), the sudden change may also cause further inflammation and tissue damage from impact. By being able to trace RAGE and pathways of inflammation using molecular imaging techniques, Tekabe has demonstrated that the highest RAGE expressing cells were the injured heart muscle cells undergoing programmed cell death.

Tekabe’s research in myocardial ischemic/reperfusion injury showed that RAGE could be traced in areas of inflammation in a non-invasive manner in live mouse subjects. The findings were presented at the 2011 World Molecular Imaging Congress scientific session, and was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology in January 2012. An editorial entitled ‘Visualizing the RAGE: Molecular Imaging After MI Provides Insight Into a Complex Receptor” accompanied Tekabe’s article, and emphasized that Tekabe’s research “continues to provide a solid foundation and proof of concept” that non-invasive imaging of RAGE following induced myocardial ischemia “is feasible” in live subjects.

Tekabe’s findings also have important implications for future antibody therapy formulations that can be used to treat RAGE-related chronic conditions. Tekabe hopes to translate his studies on mouse models to larger mammals and eventually to humans. Molecular imaging studies such as the one Tekabe has undertaken are critical in prevention of chronic cardiac conditions and could potentially decrease the number of sudden deaths from heart attack as it may allow physicians to make early and life-saving diagnoses.

When asked if there was anything else that he’d like to share with our readers, Dr. Tekabe replied, “Oh yes, since childhood, apart from my research, I’ve always wanted to involve myself in an Ethiopian movie, acting as the main character. Like in a love story. I hope to do this someday.”

Yared Tekabe’s Groundbreaking Research in Heart Disease (TADIAS – March 17th, 2009)

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Forbes: Africa’s Most Successful Women – Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu

Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu (left), pictured at the 2011 Africa Awards for Entrepreneurship ceremony held in Nairobi, Kenya on December 8th, 2011. (Courtesy photo)

Forbes Magazine
By Mfonobong Nsehe

January 5, 2012

Every now and then, I profile outstanding African women who’re making giant strides in business, politics, technology, entrepreneurship and leadership on the continent and elsewhere around the world. This week, I profile the spectacular Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, an Ethiopian entrepreneur and the founder of SoleRebels, a thriving eco-sensitive footwear brand that pundits hail as Africa’s answer to brands such as Nike, Reebok and Adidas.

Bethlehem is relentlessly pursuing her dream of building an international footwear brand right from the heart of Ethiopia. And she’s making significant progress. SoleRebels has opened up a retail outlet in Taiwan and has franchise proposals for Canada, Italy, Australia, Israel, Spain, Japan and the United States among other countries. In a recent interview with Tadias Magazine, Bethlehem estimated that revenues from Sole Rebels retail operations will hit the $10 million mark by 2016. Considering the exceptional success she’s achieved in less than 8 years, she’ll probably exceed her estimations.

Read the full article at

Sole Rebels Honored with the 2011 Africa Awards for Entrepreneurship

Bethlehem and soleRebels' Director of Retail Operations with winners' plaque at the 2011 Africa Awards for Entrepreneurship ceremony held in Nairobi, Kenya on December 8th, 2011. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
News Update

Monday, December 12, 2011

New York (TADIAS) – Sole Rebels, the world’s first fair-trade certified green footwear company based in Ethiopia, has been recognized with the 2011 Africa Awards for Entrepreneurship at a ceremony held in Nairobi, Kenya on December 8th.

Sole Rebels is one of six finalists that were recognized as Africa Awards Winners and each granted a prize of US $50,000. The grand prize of US $100,000 went to the Harare based SECURICO, which provides guarding services and electronic security solutions, and is the first security company in Zimbabwe to be ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation) certified. SECURICO has more than 3,400 employees, 900 of which are women, making it the largest employer of women in the private sector. The award for Outstanding Women Entrepreneur was granted to Victoria Seeds, an agribusiness based in Kampala, Uganda.

Click here to view photos

Below is a video played by Sole Rebels at the Award:

Obama Honors Physicist Solomon Bililign With Presidential Award

President Obama has named Ethiopian American Physicist Solomon Bililign as one of the nation's "Outstanding Science, Math, and Engineering Mentors." He will receive his award at a White House ceremony later this year. (Photo credit: Courtesy photo of Solomon Bililign and official White House photo by Pete Souza)

Tadias Magazine

By Tadias Staff

Published: Thursday, November 17, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC (TADIAS) – When Physicist Solomon Bililign was a young teacher imprisoned in Ethiopia during the “Red Terror” era, he never imagined that he would one day receive a Presidential Award in the United States.

Now a professor at North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University, Dr. Bililign is one of nine individuals whom President Obama this week named recipients of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring. The honorees will receive their awards at a White House ceremony later this year. The award recognizes the role that mentoring plays in the academic and personal development of students studying science and engineering. According to the White House, candidates are nominated by colleagues, administrators, and students at their home institutions.

“Through their commitment to education and innovation, these individuals are playing a crucial role in the development of our 21st century workforce,” President Obama said. “Our nation owes them a debt of gratitude for helping ensure that America remains the global leader in science and engineering for years to come.”

“I am humbled by the honor,” Dr. Bililign said in an interview with Tadias Magazine following the announcement. “I am just one of thousands of mentors who happened to be nominated.” He added: I am sure there a lot more deserving mentors. The recognition would motivate me to do more.”

Dr. Bililign said that success in science, engineering or math is not as glamorous as success in performing arts or sports in the U.S., but the economic competitiveness of the nation, depends on a solid foundation in the sciences. “Young people need to be encouraged, pushed, persuaded to do it,” he said. “Not for the money or fame but for the love of discovery and innovation. I believe every one has a gift, and a mentor’s role is to identify the gift and nurture it.”

Dr. Bililign was born in Dessie, Ethiopia. He left the country in 1987 to pursue a PhD in Physics at the University of Iowa. “Both my parents were teachers,” he said. “They are actually the first graduates of the Debre Berhan Teachers Training program then run by the US Point Four program.” He continued: “Their first assignment was in Mekele, Northern Ethiopia where they started school under a tree by collecting shepherds from the field… that modest start grew into a big elementary school where my father served as a Principal for over 10 years and my mother taught home economics, until they transferred to Dessie. I did all my school grades one through eleven at Atse Yohannes Elementary and Secondary School.”

Dr. Bililign said he followed in his parents footsteps to be trained as a high school teacher and joined the Prince Bede Mariam Laboratory School in grade eleven. “ I graduated as a physics teacher from Addis Ababa University (AAU), but ended up as a graduate assistant at AAU and taught there as a lecturer for several years,” he said.

But Dr. Bililign’s life-journey has not always been easy. He was imprisoned and tortured during the “Red Terror” era. His father died in a car accident on his way to visit his son in prison.

“While no one had to go through [what I went through], I think I have turned that negative and hard experience to my advantage, where I spent most of my time teaching young prisoners during the day and prison guards during the night, trying to give hope in a seemingly hopeless situation, and keeping myself busy and overcoming negative feelings and bitterness,” he said. “The experience also gave me time to reflect on my life and see the bigger picture in life.”

And what is his advise to a new generation of aspiring scientists? “For the young people who are intimidated by the hard work needed in science, math and engineering, I say nothing in life is easy, it is all about deciding to do it with passion. Every thing will give up its secrets if you love it enough,” he said.

We congratulate Professor Solomon Bililign on his accomplishments.

Update: Dr. Bililign Visits White House, Receives Award (Monday, Dec. 12, 2011)

President Barack Obama greets Dr. Solomon Bililign (left) and other recipients of the 2010 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring in the Oval Office, Dec. 12, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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National Law Journal Names Gejaa Gobena To Minority 40 Under 40 List

Gejaa Gobena (right), a lawyer for the U.S. Justice Department, has been named by the National Law Journal as one of the 40 minority lawyers under 40 and profiled in a special report. (Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi / NLJ)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Monday, November 14, 2011

New York (TADIAS) – Ethiopian American attorney Gejaa Gobena was recently chosen by the National Law Journal as one of 40 distinguished minority lawyers, all under the age of 40, who have been honored for their accomplishments within the legal profession.

“The lawyers profiled were all born in the 1970s, a decade when law schools and law firms were just beginning to welcome minorities in significant numbers,” the publication said. “The thriving careers of these lawyers — at law firms and in government, academia and public interest — attest to the greater opportunities available to them, as well as to their talents.” NLJ added: “But progress has been mixed. As Paulette Brown notes in her commentary, the economic crisis of 2008 took a great toll on diversity. And ethnically diverse lawyers still comprise only about 6 percent of equity partners.”

About Gejaa Gobena:
By Mike Scarcella

When it comes to health care fraud enforcement, the U.S. Justice Department’s Gejaa Gobena has seen both sides. A former associate at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, where he had a white-collar defense practice focusing on False Claims Act matters, the 36-year-old Gobena is now a leading trial attorney working on criminal health care enforcement actions in Detroit. Gobena, a lawyer in the Criminal Division’s fraud section since September 2009, works on the department’s Medicare Fraud Strike Force in Detroit, a targeted operation that has netted charges against 84 people for alleged schemes that bilked the government out of $85 million.

DOJ put together investigation and prosecution teams to focus on cities where statistics showed a spike in fraud. “I’m motivated by the fact health care fraud is a major problem out there,” Gobena said. The victims, he said, are not just the federal government. “There’s a human element to the story,” said Gobena, addressing elderly patients who get caught up in scams. In a recent case that Gobena prosecuted, a Detroit-area clinic owner was sentenced this month to 10 years in prison for his role in a $9.1 million scheme.

Gobena is a 1998 graduate of Columbia Law School. His expertise in the criminal arena is complemented by his work in DOJ’s Civil Division for nearly seven years. Gobena on Oct. 19 was named one of several recipients of the Attorney General’s Award for Fraud Prevention for his work on the team that recovered more than $680 million from pharmaceutical manufacturers that included Abbott Laboratories. That investigation revealed the companies had falsely inflated drug prices.

Gobena describes himself as a mentor to younger lawyers, helping them prepare for grand juries and discussing trial strategy. “In the near term, I can’t see myself doing anything other than public service,” he said.

Click here to read the rest of the list at National Law Journal.

Watch: Victory Dinner for NYC Marathon Champions

Firehiwot Dado and Buzunesh Deba, the top-two finishers at the 2011 New York City Marathon, share a toast with friends and fans at the Queen of Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant.

Tadias Magazine
Events News

Updated: Thursday, November 10, 2011

New York (TADIAS) – Firehiwot Dado and Buzunesh Deba were greeted like homecoming queens with cheers and applause as they arrived for dinner at the Queen of Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant in Manhattan on Sunday evening, following their stunning victory at the 2011 ING New York City Marathon.

Firehiwot Dado, 27, won her debut NYC Marathon in 2:23:15, followed by her childhood friend, New Yorker Buzunesh Deba, four seconds later. It was one of the closest women’s finish in the race history.

“This is my first time coming to New York,” Firehiwot said. “It’s one of the top five [international] competitions. That I won prepares me and gives me hope for the next Olympics.” She added: “My goal is to win gold at the Olympics.”

The New York media had shown up at the midtown eatery after learning that the local hero would be dining there. Buzunesh Deba was visibly emotional as fans, friends, and strangers waited for a chance to hug and kiss her.

Buzunesh, 24, who led Firehiwot until the two overtook Mary Keitany of Kenya, said running in her Bronx neighborhood had inspired her to pick up the pace and added that she was pleased with the result because “my friend won.”

“We lived in the same town, and ran on the same team,” Buzunesh told Tadias earlier in the day.

“I want to thank the people of New York and the people of my country and everyone that supported us,” Buzunesh said. “Frehiwot and I showed good competition and with God’s grace we were victorious.”

Watch: Homecoming Reception For New York Marathon Winners at Queen of Sheba Restaurant

Watch: Firehiwot Dado & Buzunesh Deba take the top-two spots at 2011 NYC Marathon

Watch: Geoffrey Mutai Wins 2011 Men’s NYC Marathon – From Universal Sports

Photo credit: Firehiwot Dado and Buzunesh Deba, 1-2 in New York. (Getty Images)

Buzunesh Deba Eyes NYC Marathon

Buzunesh Deba training at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx on Monday, October 24, 2011. (Photo by Jason Jett for Tadias Magazine).

Tadias Magazine
By Jason Jett

Updated: Thursday, October 27, 2011

New York (TADIAS) – Buzunesh Deba “is not in the local race, she is in the big race this time,” her husband-coach Worku Beyi emphasized last week in reference to the Ethiopian-born runner’s bid to become the first New Yorker to win the New York City Marathon since 1976 — before the race left Central Park to touch all five boroughs and become the world’s largest marathon.

On November 6 she will pursue the $130,000 overall top prize that goes to the first man and woman finishing the 26.2-mile race through Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Manhattan.

Deba has the runner’s resume to be considered among the top five in the elite women’s field at the 2011 New York City Marathon.

Last June she won the Rock n’ Roll San Diego Marathon in 2:23:31, blazing the first half of the downward course in 1:09:53. Three months earlier she won the Honda Los Angeles Marathon. Last year she was victorious at the Twin Cities and Grandma’s marathons in Minnesota.

Deba was among the top-10 finishers both times she competed over the marathon distance in New York City, finishing 10th, in 2:29:55, last year and seventh two years ago in 2:35:54.

The New York City Marathon is a demanding 26 miles, 385 feet (42.195 kilometers), with five climbs onto bridges, that runners seeking fast times typically avoid in favor of running over relatively flat courses in Berlin or Chicago.

Beyi insists if the weather is pleasant, Deba has a good chance of beating the New York City Marathon course record of 2:22:31.

“In San Diego she ran the first 5K in 16:0-something,” he said. “Her 10k time was 32 minutes, she was on world-record pace. Then until 23 miles, she was on sub-2:20 pace.”

The husband-coach told Tadias that he first met Deba when she was age 13, and a year later attended one of her races, positioning himself along a clearing about 400 feet from the finish line.

“Buzunesh was second, a good distance behind the leader, when she came by,” said Beyi. “I shouted ‘go, go, go’ the next thing I knew she began to run faster. She passed the other girl and won the race.”

“When I congratulated her after the race I asked her how did she manage to pass the other girl so quickly?” he continued. “She said, ‘You gave me power. You are my power.’”

His wife’s pre-New York marathon workout routines peaked this fall to 130 miles a week, covered in two-a-day training sessions. Recently, Deba has slowed to about 90 miles a week with robust-morning and easy-evening sessions.

“Nutrition is very important for running a marathon,” Beyi said. “Marathon training is very hard, you have to eat properly. Up to one month before the marathon we ate a lot of meat and injera, but injera makes you heavy. Now we eat mostly vegetables, with a little chicken and some lamb soup.”

Deba gives a lot of credit for her success to Beyi — both his training and cooking.

Beyi, a world-class athlete, competes less now because of a medical condition and instead focuses on coaching Deba. Quite a cook also, friends say, Beyi said he prepares their meals so Deba can stay off her feet after training.

For Deba, the ascension was gradual. She arrived in New York on an athlete’s visa in 2007, and her early performance was hampered by chronic ankle problems.

With uneven success, she competed across the country at various races. It was not until September 2009 that Deba ran her first race over a 26.2-mile course — The Quad Cities (Iowa) Marathon — and won.

She found her winning stride, and with coaching from Beyi and altitude training in New Mexico, victories followed at the 2009 and 2010 California International Marathon as well as in Minnesota, Los Angeles and San Diego.

Buzunesh Deba trains under the watchful eye of husband-coach Worku Beyi as members of the Manhattan College Jaspers track and field team look on at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx on Monday, October 24, 2011. (Photo by Jason Jett for Tadias Magazine).

Buzunesh Deba, far right, holds trophy after winning the 2010 Chris Thater Memorial 5K in Binghamton, New York. (Photo by Jason Jett)

Now Deba is on the brink of a life-changing achievement. If she wins the New York City Marathon next week, it would mark the first time a female runner has left her homeland as an adult and rose to world-class status on the North American road-racing circuit. Only Khalid Khannouchi, who was born in Morocco and lived first in Brooklyn and then in Ossining, NY, has done that to date, winning the 1999 Chicago Marathon in a world-record time of 2:05:42 that since has been broken. Meb Keflezighi, winner of the 2009 New York City Marathon, was born in Eritrea but as a child moved with his family to the United States and grew up in San Diego.

In recent days, Deba has been besieged with media requests – which included interviews with The New York Times and The New York Daily News.

With a victory in New York, Deba would take a big step from her colleagues who survive by the same pattern she had followed in the U.S. until this year — racing here and there, virtually anywhere, to secure enough funds to support themselves and send home to family in Ethiopia.

More than dozen Ethiopian runners living in New York and Washington, D.C., are pursuing with season-highlight anticipation that New York City Marathon race-within-a-race from which Deba is attempting to move on. For them there is still gleam in the prospect of being the first city resident or New York Road Runners member to finish, and the money that comes with the distinction.

Pride unites the network of Ethiopian runners who live in and around New York, training in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, Rockefeller State Park in Tarrytown and in Manhattan’s Central Park.

The pride is both for their homeland and in their resettlement in a country that offers greater opportunities — if they can find them amid all the competition from other Ethiopian nationals not to mention Kenyans, and East Europeans on the running circuit.

Friendships survive the race competitions, in which one runner’s success often means another’s failure in monetary terms ranging from several hundred to thousands of dollars.

Schadenfreude is a reality after each race, with everyone getting to share in it at some point as they hope for better for themselves in their next competition.

That is the manner in which relations within the network are affected by the hands of fate. One’s success is shared; one’s failure means there is opportunity for some other runner to move up.

The New York City Marathon brings local media attention to the running community each year. The scrutiny has not always been embraced by its members.

Nearly three years ago Village Voice reporter Graham Rayman extensively interviewed Ethiopian and Kenyan runners living in the Bronx for a post-New York City Marathon story. Rayman and photographer Jesse Reed spent days into weeks interviewing and photographing the runners in their homes as well as at training grounds in Van Cortlandt and Rockefeller State parks.

The result was a front-page story with a full-page picture of Ethiopian runner Abiyot Endale, who has photogenic looks to match his athletic prowess. However, photoshopped onto the bib of Endale’s running shirt was the headline: Will Run For Food.

The Ethiopian running community in New York was outraged.

Kassahun Kabiso, a Bronx runner who was featured in the report, said Rayman had befriended the runners and they had accepted him and his photographer into their homes and apartments. “He was our friend,” Kabiso said. “Maybe his editors changed the story.”

Rayman did not respond to a request for comment sent to his email account at the Village Voice.

The article, published December 17, 2008, is still viewable online along with additional comments but sans the cover photograph shown below.

The Ethiopian running community in New York is still stinging from the article, and wants the world to know that while their lifestyle is not luxurious neither is it impoverished.

“That was a bad article,” Beyi said, shaking his head, after leading Deba through a training session last week.

Endale and Derese Deniboba, who live at a Perry Avenue address in the Bronx that for the past six years has been home for Ethiopian runners, note that while they may live four people to an apartment the conditions are clean and well-maintained, if not spartan.

Deniboba recently recalled a conversation he had last summer with his absentee landlord.

“He called me over and said, ‘You know, you are not like the tenants I used to have. You guys are quiet, and never cause any trouble. Where are you from?’”

“I told him Ethiopia,” said Deniboba. “Then he asked, ‘What you do?’”

“I told him we are runners,” added Deniboba. “Then he said, ‘You guys are disciplined, you are in good shape. None of you are fat. I think I will take up running, too.’”

Will Run For Glory

Deba is running the New York City Marathon for the glory and the money.

Her six-figure annual earnings and a $40,000 Mizuno sponsorship, along with a 2011 Honda Insight hybrid car that was part of her prize for winning in Los Angeles, has her and Beyi preparing to buy a house in their adopted city — as she pursues United States citizenship.

Should Deba not win the New York race, but finish second, she would earn $65,000; plus bonus. A third-place finish would net her $40,000, fourth $25,000, fifth $15,000, and so on, plus bonuses.

November 6 likely will be a big payday for all the hard work and discipline Deba has put in every day the past few months, including rainy days on which Beyi suggested she rest but she insisted on going out and running in the rain for hours.

“I will do my best,” Deba said this week with a confident smile, which may have been a bit of humility coming from a runner who, when asked by a reporter after winning the 2009 California International Marathon at what point did she know she had won the race, replied: “At the start line.”

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Buzunesh Deba: New York’s Hope at ING NYC Marathon




















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