“Empowered Women Empower Women” is the motto under which the current PROJECT-E fundraising campaign is running. In the past, we have sometimes introduced you to female employees and students of the PROJECT-E Hospitality Institute (PEHI), sharing what being a woman means to them, what inspires them as women and what makes them strong. Now, in the light of the campaign, we would like to go beyond the PEHI and look at Ethiopia as a whole.
Be it in the field of science or the world of sports, many Ethiopian female role models have risen to defy odds and go beyond societal expectations. These are some of the many inspiring Ethiopian women who have allowed themselves to dream big; who have dared to venture into the unexplored and shown that women can achieve great things.
Over the next few days, we would like to take you back through the last hundred years and get to know ten Ethiopian women who, through their work, became the most inspiring examples of modern African women.
Introducing Abebech Gobena
Abebech Gobena is an Ethiopian humanitarian as well as the founder and manager of AGOHELMA, one of the oldest orphanages in Ethiopia. She is often referred to as the Mother Teresa of Africa. Gobena was born in a small rural village called Shebel in 1938. Her father was killed during the second Italo-Ethiopian war, so she was raised by her grandparents until the age of nine. When she was 10, she was married off without her consent, but she managed to run away to the Ethiopian capital. Once in Addis Abeba, she got a basic education, and later worked as a quality controller at a coffee and grain company.
She then went to Gishen Mariam for pilgrimage in 1973. At the time, the area was severely stricken by famine. In a food centre, Gobena saw a child next to her dead mother. She distributed everything she had to other victims, and brought the child and another orphan back to her home in Addis Ababa. In one year, she looked after 21 children in her home. Today, AGOHELMA provides institutional care for 150 orphans. It also runs various services in addition to the orphanage itself, such as supplying those in need with formal and informal education; HIV/AIDS prevention activities; habitat improvement; infrastructure development and empowerment of women. Since its establishment, over 12,000 children have been supported by the association, with over 1.5 million people having benefited directly or indirectly from the services AGOHELMA provides. Abebech Gobena has received international recognition and various awards for her work in Ethiopia.
First female President: Sahle-Work Zewde
Sahle-Work Zewde is an Ethiopian politician who is the current President of Ethiopia and the first woman to ever take up the position. Born in Addis Ababa in 1950, Zewde studied natural science at the University of Montpellier. Her political career started when she became ambassador of Ethiopia (the second woman in Ethiopia’s history to have taken up the position), as which she served from 1989 to 2006, with accreditation to different countries. She subsequently held other high-level positions and then began to work in important functions within the United Nations, collaborating closely with Ban Ki-Moon and Antonio Guterres, among others. Sahle-Work Zewde was appointed President of Ethiopia and thereby the first woman to serve in the role in 2018. She is expected to serve two six-year terms. Although her role is largely ceremonial (with most executive power lying with the Prime Minister), her election made her Ethiopia’s first female head of state since Empress Zewditu. As of 2019, she is Africa’s only serving female head of state.
To be continued…
These are two initial examples of inspiring Ethiopian women who have distinguished themselves through inspiring deeds over the past 100 years. Stay tuned and join us in getting to know more personalities who have successfully demonstrated the strength of women in Ethiopia.