UNICEF Appoints Thomas “Tommy T” Gobena as its National Ambassador to Ethiopia

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14 October, 2015, Addis Ababa: Today, UNICEF appointed Thomas Gobena (commonly known as Tommy T) as its National Ambassador to Ethiopia at a signing ceremony held in its premises. The ceremony was attended by Ms. Patrizia DiGiovanni, Officer in Charge, UNICEF Ethiopia, members of the media and UNICEF staff. A U.S. Citizen with Ethiopian descent, Tommy moved to Washington D.C. at the age of sixteen, and is a bassist for Gogol Bordello- a Gypsy punk band – since 2006. Tommy T. has been an advocate for UNICEF’s work since 2014 and is keen on empowering youth. Thus, he has participated in a Public Service Announcement (PSA) on HIV/AIDS awareness entitled “your life; your decision” produced by UNICEF in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health and UNAIDS, which has been appreciated by the public.

Speaking of his new title as an Ambassador, Tommy said, “I hope I will be an Ambassador who will awaken hope, inspire action, and nurture kindness and respect to all. I hope with all my heart that my modest contribution will be inspiring to as many youth as possible because inspiration  fuels hope.” Patrizia DiGiovanni, Officer in Charge, UNICEF Ethiopia on her part said, “Tommy’s ambassadorship has come at a time when UNICEF Ethiopia is seeking to engage with a wide range of the diaspora groups to get their understanding and support for children’s issues in Ethiopia. Reaching out to this group is critical as they can relay information fast to their communities and have also a strong awareness raising capacity.”

Tommy T deliberating a speech at the ambassadorship signing ceremonyTommy has visited several youth and sport for development programmes in Addis, Oromia and SNNP regions and has encouraged young people to peruse their dreams. Recently, he had the opportunity to visit a water well drilling UNICEF-supported programme in Dobi kebele (sub-district), 84 km North from Samara in the Afar Region and interacted with beneficiaries.

Globally, Tommy has participated in the UNICEF-led #IMAGINE project, which aims to draw attention to the challenges children face around the world, by allowing people to record their own version of “Imagine”, John Lennon’s iconic song. In addition, Tommy attended the #Imagine launching event together with world renowned celebrities and UNICEF goodwill ambassadors including Katy Perry, Angélique Kidjo and others while celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC@25). See link: http://bit.ly/1jYtjBf

Currently, Tommy is setting up an entertainment company in Ethiopia and is keen to engage further with the public using music to get positive messaging across to the general population in Ethiopia and abroad.

Tommy is following in the footsteps of Aster Awoke, Abelone Melesse and Hannah Godefa as UNICEF National Ambassadors by demonstrating an outstanding commitment and dedication in promoting the rights of women and children’s issues over time.

Investing in learning from a child’s very earliest days critical to have a good start in life – Hannah Godefa

(L-R) UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake, Hannah Godefa, UNICEF national Ambassador to Ethiopia and Nobel Laureate Economist Professor James Heckman

Early childhood care and education is the first stage of lifelong learning and development. It lays the necessary foundation for building higher-level cognitive and non-cognitive skills and has the potential of breaking down inequity in learning from the beginning by leveraging the tremendous capacity of early brain development and function. Most importantly, it can have a serious impact on the education of adolescent girls later on in life.

That’s why I was honoured to share a panel on the importance of early childhood education and care with UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake and Nobel Laureate Economist Professor James Heckman at the World Education Forum from May 19-22 in Incheon, South Korea. For me, learning started when I was a baby. I know this because I know my parents – and education has always been their number one priority.

Even before I was old enough for kindergarten, my father and I frequently went to the library together to read. My parents were still recent immigrants in Canada, where we live. At the library, there were literacy and support programmes. I remember that I loved the maps and photographs in geography books – especially pop up books with pieces I could touch.

My parents encouraged my interest and they sacrificed a lot so I would have a good education. I have no doubt that these early experiences formed my interest in books and the world and set me on my current path as a student and an advocate for education.

Wash Program, Shebedino Woreda, AwassaI know from my own journey that there is a direct connection between what a child learns early in life and what happens later. As an advocate for adolescent girls, I have travelled a lot. I have met girls my age and younger who are mothers. For very young mothers, it is incredibly important that they have knowledge, resources, programmes and support to help them provide their children with a good start in life. If we support these young mothers, we are also providing their babies with a fair chance to grow into young people and adults who can make the world a better place.

I think it is up to youth advocates like me – advocates who see the benefits of a strong early start in life – to speak about the issue.

Unfortunately, one of the reasons we are discussing this topic today is because not all children have access to early learning and care. Most of the children who go to pre-primary school live in more wealthy countries. In low-income countries, pre-primary enrollment ratios are only 19 per cent.These disparities in early childhood learning between wealthy and poor are not fair.

Over time, they also compound and the children who miss out early face ever greater challenges as they get older. Investing in learning from a child’s very earliest days is one of the best ways we have to make sure that all children – no matter where they live or who their parents are – have a good start in life.

Many of the individuals gathered at the World Education Forum for important discussions about investment in education and the Sustainable Development Goals. I came to the Forum to ask all to start early – to start investing and prioritizing learning for all children from the very earliest days of their lives. I can tell you from my personal experience: Those very first learning experiences make all the difference – they can change a girl’s life.

UNICEF Ethiopia Appoints young rap star Abelone Melese as its New National Ambassador

Abelone Melese and Patrizia DiGiovanni, Acting Representative for UNICEF Ethiopia hold a UNICEF T-shirt to officiate Abelone's new title.
Abelone Melese and Patrizia DiGiovanni, Acting Representative for UNICEF Ethiopia hold a UNICEF T-shirt to officiate Abelone’s new title. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Sewunet

20 November 2014, Addis Ababa: Today, UNICEF Ethiopia appointed young rap star Abelone Melese, a citizen of Norway with Ethiopian origin, as its new National Ambassador at a signing ceremony held in its premises. The event was attended by Patrizia DiGiovanni, Acting UNICEF Representative to Ethiopia, Mrs. Tove Stub, Minister Counsellor/Deputy Head of Mission, Royal Norwegian Embassy, members of the media and UNICEF staff.

Abelone, after visiting Ethiopia several times, was driven by compassion and the zest to help mothers and children by using her music to convey positive messages. She participated in a project called 10,000 happy birthdays which was a fundraising activity to help mothers in Malawi and Ethiopia. At a fundraising concert organized for this project, Abelone performed a rap song in Amharic and English on the situation of African mothers-a song she composed especially for this concert and which has left a big impression and fans.

Abelone Melese interviewed by the media on her new role as the newest UNICEF National Ambassador to Ethiopia.
Abelone Melese interviewed by the media on her new role as the newest UNICEF National Ambassador to Ethiopia.

Speaking of her new title as a UNICEF National Ambassador Abelone said, “I have always wanted to help children and young people who do not have the opportunities to reach their highest potential. Since I couldn’t do it financially, I am happy that I can use my talent to convey those messages”. She further said, “Working with UNICEF as a National Ambassador will allow me to help defend the rights of children, including the right to education, health, nutrition, water, and sanitation, protection and participation and ensure compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, because that’s what UNICEF is about.”

Patrizia DiGiovanni, Acting UNICEF Representative underlined, “Abelone is a role model for her peers and especially girls. Her candid personality coupled with her strong presence in the public domain sends powerful messages that reach the hearts and minds of children and youth all over the world. We are confident that she will make a positive contribution especially in the area of child rights, maternal health and girl’s empowerment during her ambassadorship.”

Abelone is following in the footsteps of Aster Awoke and Hannah Godefa as UNICEF National Ambassador by demonstrating an outstanding commitment and dedication by promoting the rights of children’s issues over time.

Abelone, as the new National Ambassador to Ethiopia, will sign a two year agreement with UNICEF starting 20 November which is Universal Children’s Day and the 25th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of a Children. (CRC)

In addition, she will perform on 21 November at the Music Concert organized jointly by UNICEF and Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs (MoWCYA) to celebrate International Day of the Girl Child (IDG) at Alliance Ethio-Francaise in the evening at 20:00.

Here is Abelone’s reflection after the ceremony

See the pictures from the ceremony here 

And her PSA with Hannah Godefa here

Commiting to Children is Commiting to The Future – Angélique Kidjo

While visiting UNICEF Ethiopia in November, Angélique Kidjo UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador,  asked the public to join her and UNICEF and commit to ensure that children have adequate food, shelter and clean water; every boy and girl has access to education and primary health care and  protect children from all forms of abuse, neglect and exploitation.

She said: Committing to children, is committing to the Future!

The story of a girl activist – Ethiopia

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When I was seven years old, I visited my parents’ rural hometown of Axum, and was staying with my grandmother. There was a young girl around my age there, and I became very good friends with her. Before I left, I wanted to keep in touch with her as a pen pal, but my parents explained to me that she did not have the pencils or materials to do so.

I knew in that moment that advocating for girls like me to have equal opportunities in education would be an important part of my life. I created a resource mobilisation project called Pencil Mountain that has delivered over half a million school resources to Ethiopian children.

Girls living in rural areas of Ethiopia are treated as an asset. A family values a girl for her ability to work. Girls do not have equal access to education with boys. There is a great disparity in literacy and if a parent has an opportunity to choose between sending a boy or girl to school, it is almost always the boy that is chosen.

The most difficult challenge I’ve faced is promoting this idea to rural communities where it a conflict of interest for community leaders. Tradition dictates that young girls at my age should be married, or stay home and support the family. It is not always easy to break through this mentality. However, the leadership in Ethiopia, and several NGOs have committed themselves to changing this longstanding mindset.

Biggest challenge: It’s been hard to balance my school and my advocacy work. I have learned to put my own education first, so that I can create a bigger impact later on. I strongly believe that every action for change, no matter how small, counts.

Proudest moment: I met Canada’s prime minister, Stephen Harper and the Ethiopian prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn. They are in a great position to implement change in educational rights.

My greatest achievement was being named Unicef goodwill ambassador for Ethiopia, because I have had an opportunity to bring a girl’s voice to an international level and raise awareness about education issues. Read Full story on The Guardian

Read more about Hannah Godefa