The TRUE AFRICA 100 is our list of innovators, opinion-formers, game-changers, pioneers, dreamers and mavericks who we feel are shaping the Africa of today.
Liya Kebede is an Ethiopian model who has appeared on three covers of US Vogue. She is also a WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health and founder of the Liya Kebede Foundation, whose mission is to reduce maternal, newborn and child mortality in Ethiopia and in the rest of the world.
She’s also behind the Lemlem brand which she set up to help preserve the art of traditional weaving and support artisans in Ethiopia. In 2009, Kebede starred in the film-adaption of the bestselling autobiography Desert Flower by former supermodel Waris Dirie. She is now devoting more time to writing.
You were educated in Ethiopia and even began your modelling career there. How is your outlook different?
Ethiopia has a diverse mix of cultures and a very deep and rich history. Growing up there gave me an open perspective and shaped my curiosity about the world. Today, I still love to learn and explore new places and now I’m enjoying to see how my children experience them too.
Why did you decide to become an advocate for maternal health?
I began working as a maternal health advocate ten years ago. I had recently become a mom and I knew that millions of women in Africa and around the world did not have the maternity care I did and that many were dying needlessly from preventable complications. I had to get involved. Moms are the key to lifting families out of poverty and I believe it is the greatest challenge of our time to make sure each mother has access to good care.
Who’s your African of the year?
There are many leaders I look up to from my parents’ generation and mine but I think what we need now are strong young advocates to come forward with new ideas to transform Africa.
Find out more about the Liya Kebede Foundation
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