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Behind The Beauty of Africa’s Unstoppable Supermodel Liya Kebede

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By Meresia Aloo

Ms Liya Kebede, is an unstoppable Ethiopian-born supermodel, international clothing designer, and top-notch actor who began her career at the mere age of 16 and became a mother at the age of 22. 

Ever since her first discovery by a french film director in her hometown, Addis Ababa, Kebede has had a Whirlwind career which, through the engines of inter-sectional and gender-lens, has helped her reshape and rebuild a more equitable and just world.

Over the past years, her brand has ruled the airwaves internationally and has become a force to reckon with. At the age of 27, she began championing the rights of maternal healthcare and was appointed WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Maternal, Newborn, and Child health. As a goodwill ambassador, Liya was delegated with highlighting the problems and solutions to maternal health.

According to WHO Director-General Lee Jong-Wook, the appointment of Ms Liya Kebede resulted from her flexibility in using her global success and visibility to help bridge the gap of maternal health. Her passion in it was beyond what she could give while on stage, and therefore decided to dedicate herself to championing the solutions to maternal health.

 “Liya is a perfect ambassador for this issue – not only is she a young woman and a working parent – but she is also an Ethiopian who has risen to the top of her industry. She has experienced first-hand a huge gap between two very different worlds and passionately wants to use her global success and visibility to help bridge this gap,” ………. WHO Director-General Lee Jong-Wook.

  After teaming up with WHO, Liya got motivated to start her foundation, took the challenge to herself, and founded the Liya Kebede Foundation, whose mission was to reduce maternal, newborn, and child mortality in her home country Ethiopia, and around the world. 

The foundation funded advocacy and awareness-raising projects and provided direct support to low-cost technologies, community-based education, training, and medical programs. In one of the health care centres, hospital deliveries rose by an incredibly significant percentage of over 50% in a year.

“It’s not just about building the hospital. You have to train people to work there and educate women on prenatal and maternal health. Many expecting mothers don’t see doctors—if they do at all, they are ready to deliver.”, she told Forbes during an interview.

Her home country and East Africa have celebrated her immensely due to her humanitarian acts that have seen her travel back and forth, intending to give back to society.

Her foundation has donated medical equipment to the Durame Hospital in Ethiopia and has partnered with other organizations, including the Hawassa Safe Mothering Center and the Ethiopian North American Health Professionals Association.

Just as important, nearly 12,000 women have benefited from the Liya Kebede’s Foundation over the past five years.

In 2009, she worked with Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as part of their living-proof project. She also served as a high-level adviser at the Center for Global Development’s 2009 report: start with a girl; A new agenda by the Global Health meant to shed light on the realities of girls’ health and well-being in developing countries.

The agenda bridged the linkages between the health of girls and the prospects for their families and even implemented specific actions that aimed to improve health prospects for millions.

Her self-funded brand “lemlem” meant to bloom in Amharic, featured hand-spun, woven, and uniquely embroidered women’s and Children’s clothing. 

It was founded with the motive of helping preserve the art of traditional weaving in Ethiopia and to offer work opportunities to local artisans as a way of giving back.

 Up to date, the line has sold Ethiopian wears to at least 150 retailers in the world. Through partnerships, the lemlem has created a wider networking environment for traditional weavers in Ethiopia, thus opening up more employment opportunities and a wider market.

Through the brand, African weavers and artisans in Ethiopia have showcased their talent and utilized their skill in coming up with new designs that have attracted the global market and international partnerships.  

 Her major contributions in the modeling Career have seen her do more than just lending her face to the world. She has worked with international brands such as Gucci, Vogue, and The Daily Beast. She is also part of the Champions for an HIV-Free Generation, an organization of African leaders led by the former President of Botswana HE. Festus Mogae.

In an interview with CNN at the Smart Cookie Magazine awards, an annual ceremony usually dedicated to mothers making a difference in the world, Tom Ford, Gucci’s creative director described her as one of the breath-taking beautiful women in the world who has had a great personality, spirit, and soul and is committed to bringing solutions to societal problems.

To date, Liya Kebede Foundation has raised public awareness in the United States of America and Europe and has reached out to Major Print, Web, and television outlets to speak more about her campaigns.

Through the numerous engagements, the foundation has also secured new supporters from across the fashion, design, and entertainment industry, as well as African businesses and across diaspora communities.

Just as Kebede, Africa’s homegrown millionaires, should also take up development matters into their hands and join her in the philanthropic space. As Africa’s economy continues to expand: however lower pace as compared to previous years, acts of philanthropy from female millionaires could go a long way. Kebede: Africa’s pride has set the pace:Will you?

We are in a moment where, no matter what, resources are at hand, be it in dollars,

time volunteering whether small or big, we all have a role to play in supporting each

Other and contribute positively at this very pivotal point in the history of Africa. Just

As Kebede and other female philanthropies have done. It is time that African females also stand up, defy the traditional belief that only Black men and whites can only ones who can perform acts of philanthropy.

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