Liya Kebede was born on the 1st of March, 1978 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She is a model, maternal health advocate, clothing designer and actress. Liya has used her fame from modeling and acting to make progress and bring about awareness to her cause. AWLO recognizes her as one of our extraordinary voices in our women’s month series. Here is why we think she’s outstanding


Liya Kebede is at the forefront of advancing maternal health care in her country; Ethiopia and also in most African countries. She says her passion began when she became a mother and realized that most women in her country and some underdeveloped parts of Africa die during child birth and this is because they do not have access to basic health care amenities

 “One of the number one killers of women still today is pregnancy and childbirth complications…These are all things that are ninety percent preventable and treatable because really they are dying from things that are very simple, and they are dying because they don’t have access to any kind of basic medical care or trained nurse or caregiver, really…”

In 2005 she was appointed as WHO’s ambassador for maternal newborn and child birth. To further advance her cause, she started the Liya Kebede Foundation now known as the LemLem foundation that same year.


The Lemlem foundation founded by Liya kebede is aimed at creating awareness and helping the fight to combat maternal mortality. Liya sights in an interview how the issue of maternal health isn’t receiving enough attention, hence the need for the foundation;

“We wanted to focus on raising awareness of the issue because it was an issue that had been going on for so long, but not really getting the attention it deserved…”

The foundation works to promote access to health care and economic opportunities and also supports leading organizations working to reduce maternal and new born deaths in Africa. She has been able to through her foundation train midwives and has set goals to still train midwives across several African countries including Ethiopia, Tanzania, Senegal, South Sudan and Uganda.


Liya is not only an advocate and model, but she is also a designer with a clothing company. She has used her company to work in collaboration with her foundation to empower women and African artist. All the products which the company offers are hand-made by African artists. She explains in an interview how she was able to create a solution to help women and artists;

“I was walking around the city in Ethiopia and visited all of these incredible weavers who were really struggling to find work or a market for their goods because of Westernization and fast fashion. I just thought this was a feel-good way of creating a market for them, improving their skill, and bringing a new product to the marketplace for the consumer that has a story and more of a 360 product that is also changing the lives of people…”

She not only uses these means to further her cause but also writes for the Huffington Post and others to bring about more exposure on the need for good maternal health care. She continues fighting this cause hoping that one day, African maternal health care will be up to standard

“My aim, during that time and since then, has been to inspire others to feel as passionate about this cause as I do and to lend their support to reach more mums and save more lives.”

She is one of the 30 Extraordinary Voices featured in the Women’s Month Series by AWLO. Click on your favorite social media button below to share if you have been inspired by Liya Kebede.