Most Women who have encountered difficulties in their lives tend to have incredible inner strength because they turn difficulties to ‘delicacies’.  At the end of those difficulties, they become better and more resourceful persons. In the words of Helen Keller, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved”. Discover the idea that you are meant to learn when you go through moments of difficulties, and you’ll see that it isn’t as fierce as it appears. There’s no energy that can mimic what’s released when a positive, high-stepping woman enters room. A positive attitude is the diesel required as a driving force to bring that conception to reality. The above traits are the possessions of Semhar Araia.

Her Story

Semhar Araia is the daughter of Eritrean immigrants. Her parents came to the United States in the late 1960s in search of education and work. She was raised to be proud of her heritage and developed an early and loving relationship with her homeland. She studied everything there is study about her history, culture, language and more importantly Eritrea’s thirty (30) year struggle for independence from Ethiopia. There were so many instances where she tried to share her root countries story with as many people as possible owing to her special love for her country even as an American as well.

In the ideology of majority of people when Horn of Africa is mentioned, they tend to think of disgusting negative images of suffering, famine and war. Maybe even pirates or Black Hawk Down. They miss the brighter moments of opportunity, breakthrough, and perseverance. The Horn of Africa is a beautifully proud, complex, and rich region. But it has had little success in showcasing its strengths against these negative stereotypes.

Being a member of the Horn of Africa Diaspora, as an Eritrean-American, and as the founder of the Diaspora African Women’s Network (DAWN), she expressed her humility as she was selected and honored as a White House ‘Champion of Change’. In her appreciation speech, she was proud to share her story by throwing a little highlight into the community that she cared so much about. Also, she stated “I am even more proud to share this moment with my fellow Horn of Africa Diaspora colleagues, who I know also share the same passion for this region as I do”

Semhar Araia is the daughter of Eritrean immigrants. Her parents came to the United States in the late 1960s in search of education and work. She was raised to be proud of her heritage and developed an early and loving relationship with her homeland. She studied everything there is study about her history, culture, language and more importantly Eritrea’s thirty (30) year struggle for independence from Ethiopia. There were so many instances where she tried to share her root countries story with as many people as possible owing to her special love for her country even as an American as well.Most importantly, in trying to know the extent of her love for Eritrea, she relocated to the place where she worked for two (2) years. It was in this quest of hers that she realized that she was much Eritrea as was American and that she possesses traits from both continents. In her words while emphasizing on the war of independence fought by Eritrea, “I would go to demonstrations and would be the only child there”. She also reiterated that she couldn’t have picked one over the other as she professed her love for both.

She came back to the United States (USA) more poised to put the things she learnt from her home country (Eritrea) to practice and look for African or African-American women with the same mindset as hers. In a space of few weeks, she met women whose identities, beliefs, and professions were same as hers who was also rooted in Africa and America. They immediately got acquainted as she expressed how great the feeling was. She had somehow tapped into an untapped resource, where she found out a part of America and Africa’s diverse social fabric that she dreamt about as a little girl.

Few months later, she decided to invite the women of like-minds to dinner, so they could begin meeting regularly. This initiative led to the formation of Diaspora African Women’s Network (DAWN), a volunteer-run organization whose mission is to support women and girls of the African Diaspora focused on African affairs. According to her their goal is to connect, empower and elevate the role and contributions of African Diaspora women in African affairs while celebrating our rich diversity and excellence. DAWN provides Africa-related networking, leadership, mentorship, and professional development opportunities for our members as well as host regular private events and community service projects.

Members of DAWN are inspiring, phenomenal, passionate next generation leaders of African origin. DAWN currently has up to one hundred and eighty (180) members who are Americans and Africans, originating from both continents by way of citizenship, birth, or culture. Diaspora African Women’s Network represents 28 African countries, the United States, the Caribbean, South America, Europe and Middle East. Each woman is a proven Diaspora community leader with professional focus on African affairs. Some are into professions that are often underrepresented in the Diaspora communities, such as public policy, international development, journalism, communications, government, and nonprofit management.

Semhar Araia, while addressing the second generation immigrants (Africans) in the United States insisted that, “We are a gift and an asset to both cultures, to both countries.”There are so many examples of women who celebrate both, who don’t incite one against the other, who don’t need to be more African than American or more American than Africa. I think there’s a way to be both and to celebrate that.”

Her priority was to show that Africa’s greatest strength was its people and communities everywhere. Living in the Diaspora is about owning and sharing your heritage, embracing your multiculturalism and building bridges between your communities and homelands. She wants to prove that the Horn of Africa is full of great minds and promising leaders. Semhar Araia stated, “It is not a place of misfortune nor misery, and most pertinent of all, to show that an under aged girl in Middle America, whose parents are African immigrants from Eritrea that she can do whatever she sets her mind to because she can and because she matters”

Recognition
• The Root’s Top 100, 2009
• Foreign Policy’s Top 100 Foreign Policy Women on Twitter, 2012
• African Union Diaspora Awardee, 2012
• White House Champion of Change, 2012
• Applause Africa Leadership Award, 2014
• Term Member, Council on Foreign Relations, 2014
• African Union Diaspora Technical Expert, 2016
• Member, USAID Advisory Committee for Foreign Voluntary Aid, 2016

Compiled By: E. Charles.

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