7 Ethiopian Women to Watch


This is a guest blog by Elias Wondimu

Ethiopia has a rich tradition of independent, intelligent women. From the Queen of Sheba to wedding gown designer Amsale Aberra, these women have helped shaped the cultural and historical trajectory of Ethiopia and beyond. The seven women on this list are members of an extraordinary generation of diasporan Ethiopians who are flourishing throughout the world, in large part thanks to the sacrifices and dedication of their parents. Many of them left Ethiopia during the political upheaval of the mid 1970’s. They have since found their places on North American soil, even while remaining connected to their Ethiopian roots.

All seven women, and many of their equally successful peers, can be found in Tsehai Publishers’ new book, “Flowers of Today, Seeds of Tomorrow.” A complete project description and book preview is at: http://kck.st/RK9aNc



1. Sossina M. Haile. A graduate of MIT, Dr. Haile spends her days teaching and researching at CalTech, where she is Professor of Materials Science and of Chemical Engineering. She received attention, both from the scientific community and from media sources such as Newsweek, in 2007 after she discovered a way to create a new type of solid-acid fuel cell. Dr. Haile’s focus on creating new solar-derived forms of fuel stems from her philosophical approach to science: “As you add to the body of knowledge, what can you do with it that is truly useful and exciting, that can actually change people’s lives?”


2. Mimi Alemayehou. In 2010, US president Barack Obama appointed Mimi Alemayehou Executive Vice President of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). Before that, Mimi was the first African-born person to ever serve as US Executive Director for the African Development Bank. Mimi put herself through college working 40 hours per week as a hotel clerk and diligently pursuing opportunities such as US Senate internships. Her career in politics stems directly from personal experience: “For Ethiopians of my generation who lived through the early years when there was so much political turmoil . . . it seemed like politics controlled our destiny so much,” she explains.


3. Fanna Haile Selassie. Fanna Haile Selassie is a broadcast journalist for ABC-affiliated WSIL-TV, a station serving southern Illinois, western Kentucky, and southeast Missouri. The daughter of Ethiopian immigrants who came to the United States to attend university and were unable to return due to the Red Terror, Fanna began her journalism career in college. She rose quickly through the ranks of local television stations in Minnesota before landing regional work. She focuses on political stories and hosts a short weekly segment on political issues. “I actually find new role models almost on a weekly basis in my career. I have told many stories about strong women breaking barriers,” she says of her work.


4. Weyni Mengesha. An award-winning theater director and dramaturge, Weyni founded both the Sound the Horn Leadership Program and the annual Selam Youth Festival in order to bring together artists of Canadian, Ethiopian, and Eritrean origin. She also co-directs The A.M.Y Project, an annual theater training program for young women. Weyni rose to prominence in the theater world when she directed Trey Anthony’s Da Kink in My Hair, which ran at the Toronto Fringe Festival and Toronto’s Princess of Wales Theater, Canada’s most prestigious venue. Among her numerous other credits, she directed Hosanna at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in 2011. Weyni’s productions continue to earn her accolades and awards from theater critics in Toronto and beyond.


5. Meklit Hadero. Singer and songwriter Meklit Hadero combines jazz, soul, hip-hop, art rock, and folk traditions of America and East Africa to create her own unique sound. Her 2010 Album, “On A Day Like This,” attracted attention from music lovers and NPR, PBS, and National Geographic. She studied political science at Yale, and served as an artist in residence at New York University, the DeYoung Museum, and the Red Poppy Art House in San Francisco. Meklit is the founder of Arba Minch Collective, a group of diasporan artists who perform in Ethiopia in collaboration with local artists. Meklit became a TED Global Fellow in 2009 and a TED Senior Fellow in 2012.


6. Mehret Mandefro. Dr. Mandefro earned her M.D. at Harvard Medical School, where she began studying HIV and AIDS, not just on a medical level, but also in social and psychological terms, examining how the disease affects communities and individuals. Her work in communities led Mehret to co-found Truth Aids, an organization that uses ethnographic research to produce multimedia content to spur social change. Through documentaries and narrative films, Mehret explores the issues she examines in research and field work. A former White House Fellow, she continues to serve as an advisor for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Mehret is an instructor at George Washington University’s School of Public Health.


7. Alfa Demmellash. Alfa Demmellash is the founder of Rising Tide Capital, a nonprofit organization devoted to helping entrepreneurs find their footing. Based in Jersey City, New Jersey, the organization offers courses in starting and running a small business, and helps participants in the program secure funding for their business ventures. Demellash was inspired to help entrepreneurs by her mother, who attempted to obtain small business loans when Alfa was an adolescent, but gave up after becoming frustrated with the endless red tape and bureaucratic complexity of the process. For her efforts with Rising Tide, Demmellash was selected for CNN’s “Hero” series and received recognition from President Obama.


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  • amare

    To whom it may concer,i take my hat off for you the publisher this amazing and inspirational topics about these amazing women and to them for such marvelous achievement.shine on sisters,I’m so proud.Thank you!!!

  • Gebreye

    Way to go! Well done our fruities—we can be what we want to be if we only try hard to overcome challenges and use our intellect & hard work to achieve our goal and accept failure (if it occurs) and work harder next time.

  • jkl
  • http://no yoda

    i am prod of Ethiopia girls

  • Michael

    Flowers of today, seeds of tomorrow nice saying which always said by long serving father of kids Ababa Tesfaye, i am really happy to see the new seeds in such modern and competative world but my question is what is the benefit of Ethiopia from the 7 iron girls beyond changing the name of Ethiopia? Am just saying
    Nice article

  • Yoseph

    Nice, amazing that is all I can say amazing. But thought, why are all of these inspirational ladies located in US(abroad) I think that should change.

  • Beshah

    Well done for our beautiful women! More, much more than this i guess if they spend sometime back home and multiply their skill and knowledge with their fellow Ethiopians! Please encourage them to do so!

  • Assefa Abraha

    I am proud of Woini and her contemporaries. Bless you all and may you continue to bloom and flourish

  • http://www.perspectives-anotherwaytoview.blogspot.com Carolyn Moon

    Thanks so much for sharing this, Minna. Women of the diaspora continue to soar and I’m sure they haven’t forgotten their homeland.

  • BRE

    Be diverse please. There are more women than have done more than those motioned above.

  • Kalkidan Tedla

    Of course there are women all over the world accomplishing amazing things, this story is just highlighting these seven women that had common roots, it by no means discredits anyone else or undermines diversity. In my opinion , the point of this article is to celebrate women and how far we have come as a gender, the fact that you point out the lack of diversity takes the focus away from their success and points it to race. Thankfully, if we were to include women of every background that had accomplished great things the list would be never ending.

  • estibel

    heartfully I proud! and I hpoe my daugther will be the 8th.

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  • http://www.AddisClub.com Dawit

    Way to go. well done ladies! proud of ya. Keep up the great work.

  • zeray

    i can guse the future of Ethiopia

  • http://www.husanthompson.com Husan Thompson

    I wanted everyone to know that we recently included this story in the news section of our feature USTREAM show called BrainPower Hour. Check us out at: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/brainpower-hour

  • http://destatadewos@ymail.com tadewos

    ok thanks for these golden chance then i will ask some question that is i want to meet with you on my email adders b\c of it is one ways for experience sharing due to that reason piles meet with me, i hope positive response you ok my beset thanks gen ok see you and i wish the best for you as well as for your every thing also long live !!!!!!!!!!

  • Mimi

    I am speechless, thanks for giving next generation ( our Children) motivation and hope. I am proud of all of you..

  • Solomon

    So proud of these courageous women who, I am sure, worked their tails off to get where they are. They are true representatives of the many women who are equally hard working and have not been recognized; yet.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003407033675 Auth

    I thought of you guys while reidang a book for a children’s lit. book club that I am a part of. The book is called Water Hole Waiting. The authors spent some time in Ethiopia. The illustrations are fabulous! Maybe you could check it out at your local book store or library.While on our family mission trip to El Salvador, we met a couple that adopted a little girl. They got her when she was 9 months old, and she is now 7. They LOVE her!!! I was reminded of you guys while there, and I’ll continue to pray for you!

  • Hirut

    Tebareku. Endi anjeten kibe atetut. Especially in this day and ages of cruelty towards Ethiopian women, your achievement is an inspiration.

    There is a huge vaccum regarding Ethiopian women and their success. both at home and abroad. Their potential is untapped and in many cases opportunities are restricted or wasted due to social barriers such as relationships and motherhood.

    Sucessful women such as mentioned here and many more should remember to fight and raise awareness for the rights of great many voiceless Ethiopian women.

    So many young Ethiopian girls today are subjected to unbelievable level of abuse in the Middle East as they go there in desperation to change their lives and that of their families-often the horror that comes out of their il-informed journeys is filling the statestics of migrant and welfare groups rapidly.

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  • Nega

    Congrats coolies! No more words except to say Proud of You!


  • Tesfaye Biftu

    Accomplishments of these amazing Ethiopians women span across a broad range of disciplines: Science and technology, business, media, the arts and medicine. Congratulations for being the role models for the next generation of Ethiopian women (for that matter for men as well)!

    Tesfaye Biftu

  • Melat Tekletsadik

    Great job! Stories of Ethiopian sucessful women have to be told and documented. These women are inspirations for women and girls in all walks of life. Excellent! keep up the good work.

  • tsiyon

    when u come ur country and work for our country dat’s the question of ethiopia.

    • MsAfropolitan

      Thank you!

  • berihu

    i am proud of those 7 especially Weyni Mengesha!

  • http://www.Semalignpaulos.org.et Semalign Paulos

    God Bless Ethiopia and Continue Blessing America,for the USA is where Ethiopians show their potentia.

  • http://shemalehugecock.tumblr.com/ http://shemalehugecock.tumblr.com

    Some posts cause you to smile, other posts make you feel sad, this
    particular one made me think, which is better than any other

  • facebook_eskubabe.tariku

    i’m proud all of you ladis,

  • roman hirpo

    Well done ladies. Hope you produce more heroes

  • Tigabu Atalo

    I know they have made lots of sacrifices but it is for the better.Proud of them all.