Our women who made it globally

12 Mar 2017


Ethiopian women are becoming part of internationally famous women across the world be it in athletics, business, entrepreneurship or entertainment. From our super fast record breaking machine athletes like the Diababa sisters to our internationally recognized entrepreneurs, who put their name on Forbes magazine, like Bethelehem Telahun to superstars who make it to Hollywood like Ruth Negga Ethiopian women prove exemplary that there is no limit for success.

Yet there are many more outshining women who create impact inside and outside of their country.

Bethlehem Tilahun is the pioneering and enterprising creator of the Sole Rebels,  Africa's fastest growing footwear company. She has received a slew of honors and accolades for her business acumen. The honor is also ascribable to shifting the discourse on African way from poverty alleviation by external actors. Her way highlights the entrepreneurial spirit, social capitol, and vast economic potential of the continent, and Ethiopia in particular.

Betelehem founded sole Rebels to provide ecologically and economically sustainable jobs for her local community. The company began out of a workshop on a plot of land owned by her grandmother around Zenebework area here in Addis.

Sole Rebels has since flourished, growing to over one hundred employees, with distribution to over thirty countries worldwide, selling to market kingmakers Whole Foods, Urban Outfitters and Amazon. Franchised and company-owned stores are slated to open in Austria, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the UK. She wanted to create well-paid jobs which could create sustained prosperity by utilizing the artisan talents and natural resources of Ethiopia, first and foremost. The selection of footwear as the ideal product for the company came later. She found herself particularly inspired by the Seleate or Barabasso, the traditional recycled tire sole shoe crafted in Ethiopia. Footwear became the locus around which she chose to build the company.

With  every business venture, Bethlehem seeks to challenge the traditional narrative about Africa and in particular, Ethiopia, "countering  that Africa and Africans don't know how to create their way to prosperity.” She believes Ethiopians must wrest control of their own narrative from the "people and elites with a vested interest in positioning Ethiopia as 'needing help' and specifically needing the 'help' they happen to be offering," as she explained in an interview with The Next Woman.

The global success of companies like Sole Rebels helps to dispel these old narratives and allows for Ethiopians to shape their own international image. In 2011 she was chosen by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader.

In 2012 she was included on Forbes '100 Most Powerful' and profiled as a “Woman to Watch.” In 2012 she was named by Business Insider as one of "Africa's Top 5 Female Entrepreneurs."In 2012 she was chosen as NYC Venture Fellow by Mayor Bloomberg. In 2012 she was chosen as one of Arise Magazine's "100 Dynamic Women," who are shaping modern Africa. In 2013  she was listed as #62 in Fast Company's "100 Most Creative People in Business 2013."In 2013 she was a Counselor at that year's One Young World Summit. In 2013 she was listed as one of Madame Figaro's "15 Most Powerful African Women."In 2013 Bethlehem was chosen to join the advisory board of the Green Industry Platform, convened by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and the UN Environment Programme. In 2013 she was also chosen by readers of The Guardian as one of "Africa's Top Women Achievers."In 2014 she was named as one of CNN's "12 Female Entrepreneurs Who Changed the Way We Do Business."

After more than a decade of building Sole Rebels into a global footwear and leather goods brand that combines traditional Ethiopian craftsmanship and materials with fresh new designs while also paying top dollar throughout the supply chain, Bethelehem has launched an equally ambitious coffee venture called Garden of coffee recently.

The first branded roastery cafe in the Bole area of Addis Ababa, occupying approximately 10,000 square feet, became a server of  something of an immerse shrine to Ethiopian coffee culture and craft. She described the facility as far more than merely a new retail store front. Her company’s goal is to completely redefine the seed-to-cup coffee journey by promoting what she calls “Origin Trade.”

At the launching event Bethlehem said that the Addis Roastery Café, customers have the ability to choose coffees roasted to order on site and on demand by skilled workers using the traditional Ethiopian pan-roasting method. Consumers choose between three bag sizes, for which roasters in the shop adjust their pan sizes 250-gram, 500 gram and 1-kilo-capacity  to suit each individual's order. A wide selection of green coffees from a range of prominent Ethiopian coffee regions is available, and customers can try sample roasts before specifying one of the six predefined roast levels.

“We believe that our business model and our methodologies are the ultimate interplay between tradition and technology,” she said. “We deploy technology to allow our artisan roasters to hand roast while precisely measuring heat, barometric pressure, humidity, allowing them to adjust for natural acidity and specific characteristics of the beans. We meticulously monitor the temperature of the roasting beans and the ambient environment to ensure consistency in every coffee we deliver.”

Each packaged bag from Garden of Coffee, meanwhile, includes a map showing where the coffee was grown, processing method, coffee varietal, roast level, roast date, the name of the coffee roaster, and, for to-order roasts, the name of the recipient.

All these elements, Bethlehem said, are designed to promote a more exciting, hands-on and authentic Ethiopian coffee experience that she believes will resonate with consumers across the globe.

“Garden of Coffee is about allowing coffee lovers to live coffee,” she said.“In Ethiopia, we don’t just grow coffee. We live coffee each and every day. It’s embedded in the DNA of our daily life. Coffee personifies Ethiopia and we in turn personify it. We want to showcase and share that magic with people everywhere on the planet.”

Ganzabe Dibaba is among Ethiopian golden athletes. She is the sister of three-times Olympic champion Tirunesh Diababa and Olympic silver medalist Ejegayehu Dibaba.

She first joined the  Ethiopian athletics squad after winning the 5,000 m at the Ethiopian Athletics Championships, she was included in the Ethiopian squad for the 2009 IAAF world athletics championships.  In Berlin   she replaced Tirunesh on Ethiopia's 5,000m team, who withdrew due to injury. Genzebe ran an excellent heat, finishing fourth and qualifying for the final where, in her first major senior championship race, she finished in eighth position. She also won the 5000m gold at the 2009 African junior athletics championships.

She is the current world record holder for the 1500 m (both indoor and outdoor), the indoor 2000m, the indoor 3000m, the indoor 5,000 m, the indoor mile, and the indoor two mile.

With numbers of  records, Genzebe is now one of only three athletes in history to break three world records in three different events within 15 days, joining Jesse Owens, who set three world records and tied another within 1 hour, and Usain Bolt. She stands alone as the only one to do this feat in three different cities and meets, and in all individual events under federation of athletics.

On 17 July 2015 in Monaco, Genzebe broke the 1500m world record, which had previously been considered near-unbreakable, in a time of 3:50:07.

She was named the female IAAF World Athlete of the Year for 2015.

In February 2016, Genzebe competed in Stockholm’s Globen Galan meeting. She ran the indoor mile in 4 minutes and 13.31 seconds, breaking Doina Melinte's 26-year-old world record of 4:17.14 which had been set in 1990.

Receiving her world Athlete of the year on last year Genzebe said that  “It feels so good to be the World Athlete of the Year.

“After being a finalist and narrowly missing out on this award one year ago, I am very proud to be recognized by the fans and experts of our sport. I had a great season and truly enjoyed competing around the world, from Monaco where I managed to establish a world record, to Beijing where I finally captured my first world outdoor title. I would like to pay tribute to Dafne Schippers and Anita Wlodarczyk who have been incredible all year round. Maybe your time will come next year! Thank you to all the people who voted for me and supported me. My family, my sisters, my coaches, my partners, my agents and all the people from Ethiopia! My focus in 2016 will be the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Portland and as preparation for that I will try to break the world indoor mile record in Stockholm on 17 February. ”

Ruth Negga is another outstanding Oscar nominee Ethiopian-Irish actress the media is talking about lately for her portrayal of Mildred Loving in the movie Loving (2016).

Ruth was born in 1982 in Addis Ababa Ethiopia, to an Irish mother, Norra, and an Ethiopian father, Dr. Negga. Her parents met while her mother was working as a nurse in Ethiopia. Ruth Negga lived in the country until she was four. She is an only child, but has a large family on her mother's side. Her father died in a car accident when she was seven. Raised in Limerick Ireland, she has lived in London since 2006.

Ruth studied at the Samuel Beckett Centre at Trinity College, Dublin graduating  with a BA in Acting Studies.

She made her screen debut in the Irish film Capital Letters (2004), playing the lead role of Taiwo. She went on to play the lead role of Mary in Isolation the following year. Prior to this she had been working mostly in theatre.

Ruth's theatre work includes roles in Duck, Titus Andronicus and Lay Me Down Softly. As of 2007 she began working with the Irish theatrical group Pan Pan Theatre. In 2010, she played Ophelia in the National Theatre's production.Ruth Negga has also provided voice acting in the video game Dark Souls II playing Shanalotte, otherwise known as "the Emerald Herald"

On her interview with Vogue Magazine Ruth said that “ I become very territoral about my identity because its been hijacked by so many people with thier own projections. I am always careful to say I am Irish Ethiopian because I feel Ethiopian and I look Ethiopian and I am Ethiopian. But there are 81 languages in Ethiopia and I dont know any of them.

Growing up in both Engalnd and Ireland she admints “I didn't have that many balck people in my life so I had to sort of search them”  and regarding the balck experience she identifies with writings of Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou and James baldwin.

Ruth was Nominated for an Academy Award For Best Actress, Golden Globe Award For Best In A Motion Picture Drama, Independent Sprit Award For Best Female Lead and Critics Choice Movie Award For Best Actress as well as the BAFTA Rising Star Award.




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