The Nia Foundation organized a memorial event for Zemi Yenus at the Friendship Park, Tana Center, on June 6th, 2021, from 4:30 – 6:30 pm. The Foundation is appreciative of the Ministry of Health for having made this event possible.
The attendants included H.E Wzo Adanech Abebe, Deputy Mayor of Addis Ababa, H.E Lia Tadesse, Minister of Health, H.E Dr Engr Getahun, Minister of Education, H.E Wzo. Hiwot Tadesse, State Ministry of Women, Children and Youth, Ato Assalefew representing the Minister of Labor and Social Affairs, and along with religious leaders, families, and friends of Zemi.
The event, which started with a welcoming note by Wzo. Sara Hassen (Nia Foundation Board member) started with Zemi’s life journey and personality. Sara went on to beautifully explain how, the meaning of Zemi’s full name Zemzem, defined her personality, to “gather all” and provide haven.
The Keynote speaker, Dr. Lia Tadesse, expressed her heartfelt sorrow of the passing away of Zemi, and appreciated her work and dedication, on behalf of the Ministry. Dr Lia explained that although ensuring the availability of services such as education, health care etc. is the responsibility of the government, the government alone cannot reach to all communities, and thus, it is with partnerships with private sectors and the civil society, that the government can ensure the availability of services. Dr Lia explained that although Zemi’s legacy is primarily associated with her work on autism, the Minister credited Zemi for her contributions in social movement and addressing the socio-economic wellbeing of young girls and women; some of which includes: “Sinq Bet”, “ስንቅ ቤት” project protecting migrant young girls in Addis Ababa, a social movement which started as a radio program “Yagebagnal” – it concerns me, “ያገባኛል ይመለከተኛል”; and “… instead let us sell our talents”- particularly geared towards adolescent girls exposed to transactional sex. Dr. Lia expressed her appreciation for Zemi as the first one to have started providing services for children and persons with Autism. Dr Lia, further, explained that the Center of Excellence for Autism and Related Disorder that is currently under construction through Zemi’z dedicated effort, will be used for expansion of services for persons living with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), for conducting various research on special needs, and for training purposes. In conclusion, Dr Lia expressed that the Ministry of Health, along with other stakeholders will assist in ensuring the continuity of the current center, and the completion of the Center of Excellence. The Minister also called for all Ethiopians to help to make this a reality.
H.E. Dr. Engr Getahun, Minister of Education, expressed the important work Zemi Yenus has done in educating children with special needs. Further, the Minister expressed that Zemi’s work represented the government’s work and thus her passing away will leave his ministry and other stakeholders a lot of work. He expressed that although the Ministry of Education provides services for millions of students, he recognized that one of the gaps in the education sector is appropriate services for children with special needs. Thus, he pointed out that Zemi, although an individual, is like representing his ministry and others, when she provided these critical services for many. Dr. Engr Getahun, affirmed that the Ministry of Education will be committed to work with Nia Foundation, to ensure the continuity of the service, in coordination with MoH and other ministries.
Both State Ministers Wr Hiwot and Ato Assalefew also reiterated their heartfelt condolences and appreciated the work of Zemi. They reaffirmed their Ministry’s commitment to ensure continuity of the services at the Nia Foundation.
H.E. Wzo. Adanech, Deputy Mayor of Addis Ababa, expressed her heartfelt sorrow on the passing away of Zemi. Her excellency reiterated that Zemi’s work and legacy will continue after her passing away. She explained that Zemi has taught us that with commitment, perseverance, and love, anything is possible. She further expressed her personal knowledge of Zemi, during their time as members of the board of Addis Ababa Women’s Association, for the last 2 years. She expressed that she had observed Zemi’s strength during their service as board members. The Deputy Mayor particularly appreciated that Zemi never came late to meetings, was always prepared with additional references, and made significant contributions during meetings. Wzo. Adanech expressed that the City Administration will work with other stakeholders to ensure continuity of services and the realization of the Center of Excellence. The Deputy Mayor requested that a plan be presented to her as to how her office can assist in this important work.
As a tribute to Zemi’s holistic and well-lived life, Wzo. Meaza Birru, Executive Director of Sheger FM 102, gave a moving speech expressing Zemi in her own eyes. Wzo Saba Gebremedhin, Executive Director of Network of Ethiopian Women Association (NEWA), expressed her profound condolences on behalf of all women organizations in Ethiopia and civic society organizations. Wzo. Saba reiterated the commitment of her organization and broader civil society network in Ethiopia to support the cause and ensure continuity of Zemi’s legacy.
Ustaz Abubaker and Megabi Addis, representing the Muslim and Christian communities respectively reiterated their personal knowledge of Zemi, and both had similar explanations for of her character – particularly her work for the vulnerable, her dedication to unity and services for all regardless of religious, ethnic, or other differences. They both emphasized that Zemi’s work is reflective of how our Creator would have wanted each of us to live our lives.
The Board of Directors appreciate the commitment of the City Administration of Addis Ababa, the Federal Ministries of Health, Education, Labor and Social Affairs, and the Ministry of Women, Children and Youth. The BoD is very touched by the outpour of grief and support from all members of the community in Ethiopia and abroad. The staff and BoD of the Nia Foundation look forward to working with government partners, volunteers, the private sector, and civil society organizations in ensuring the continuity of services at the Joy Center and realizing the establishment of the Center of Excellence for Autism in Ethiopia – A vision of Zemi Yenus to see a society whereby ALL PEOPLE enjoy quality of life to the best of their potential despite their different abilities.
Please refer to the following links to watch the full program:
It is with great sadness that we announce the sudden death of Zemi Yenus, the founder and Executive Director of Nia Foundation. The Board of Directors offer their most profound condolences to her family, friends, the autism society of Ethiopia, and the entire Nia Foundation Staff and Partners.
Zemi's work included the establishment of the Joy Center for children with Autism which not only train children with autism with both basic and advanced life skills, but also assists mothers of children with autism that need financial support by creating an income generating activity that is sensitive to their needs and schedule. Joy Center also provides a nutritionally balanced meal, particularly focused on gluten-free diet appropriate for autistic children, for all its students including cooking sessions as part of their independent skills training. Zemi also served children with autism that do not attend the school by visiting families in their homes and providing training and most importantly by encouraging and counselling parents. Zemi is also instrumental in creating a vibrant parent support group,
Zemi's work was not only focused on autism but also included other vulnerable groups in society such as women forced into becoming sex workers, street boys, women returning from migration, sexually abused women etc. by providing practical skills and instilling confidence in themselves; so that they can reintegrate and become productive members of society.
Zemi was an active board member of the Red Cross, member of the national mental health advisory committee, a Rotarian, a member of Women for Life – an organization dedicated to ensuring that “no woman should die while giving birth”, to name a few.
Zemi is also highly credited for creating a social movement "yagebagnal" - I Care! - which has been successful in instilling in each of us to become responsible and caring members of society - a society that can think outside of its little box, a society that can transcend divisions based on ethnicity, religion, ability level and other artificial barriers, and instead focus on humanity.
While we mourn the passing of a great woman who has left behind a powerful legacy of humility, hard work and dedication for the most vulnerable, we remain united in the continuity of the service and in ensuring her dreams are achieved.
We appreciate the outpour of grief on social and traditional media outlets. Zemi was indeed a unique woman. There will be a memorial service to celebrate Zemi’s life and achievements and share her vision and continue her legacy. The BoD will announce the date of the service.
As time passes by, a New Year emerges accompanied by a new and vibrant inspiration for Nia Foundation to warmly welcome April to commemorate World Autism Awareness Day and the whole month. It is a rejuvenating month for Nia Foundation to renew its covenant to keep on upholding the fundamental rights and freedom of people with autism. It is also a time to reaffirm its commitment to promote the full participation of all people with autism, on this World Autism Awareness Month.
It’s obvious that as a pioneer in the autism sector, Nia Foundation has vigorously been holding a number of campaigns on autism awareness creation in a way that addressed the need to protect the fundamental rights and freedom of people with autism in Ethiopia. And of course, it has made a very huge difference in lives of many and contributed to the diminishing maltreatments, isolation and wrong perception against autism and people in the spectrum lingered in the country as well.
Nia Foundation has eagerly longed ahead of time for this big world event to celebrate it with assortment of programs. This year’s WAAD is somehow more special than that of the previous one because it’s happening on the eve of the commencement of THE NEW CENTER OF EXCELLENCE FOR AUTISM complex construction, which is due to kick off end of April, 2019 this year.
During this very occasion, we tend to proclaim the news about the commencement of the new center of excellence construction to our esteemed audiences and report our achievements we’ve attained so far; since the time the center was established.
A mass walk, music and games and all sorts of fun are among the activities including fund & friend raising for the big project as well. We will also be having ‘Paint-Luck’ meaning every one or every family is supposed to come with a gallon of their favorite color oil paint and a brush. We will share different colors from each other. While we are supporting and celebrating our children with Autism in Ethiopia, we will as well express our love, unity, and feelings through Art, paintings and colors on the project site metal sheet fence.
Different awareness creation events and campaigns will follow during the month. Most importantly, the official construction commencement is yet to be accompanied by leaders and figures of this great nation and of course prominent government seniors from different respective sectors are expected to be part of the inaugural ceremony set to be held on the last week of April. That will mark the end of the Awareness Raising Month.
World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD) was unanimously designated by the United Nations General Assembly in 2008 to highlight the need to enshrine the fundamental rights and freedom of people with autism and help them improve their lives so that they can lead full and meaningful life. This Year’s World Autism Awareness Month is set to be celebrated by Nia Foundation for the 17th times with a theme “Tegebi Melash Le Autism” and by The United Nations for the 11th times with a theme “Assistive Technologies, Active Participation”. This inculcates the importance of leveraging the use of assistive technologies for persons with autism as a tool in removing the barriers to their full social, economic and political participation in society, and in promoting equality, equity and inclusion.
Contrary to the overall system for persons with autism in our country, in developed countries, having fulfilled the fundamental rights and freedom of persons with autism, they have exceeded in terms of modernizing holistic rehabilitation and educational scenarios with the aid of contemporary technologies. Hence, most importantly the government and all concerned bodies must work together to fill this gap in our context. And this is what Nia Foundation has been working to catch up and move forward along with the rest of the world with regard to modernizing the system and creating a very conducive environment for these blameless persons with autism in our country, Ethiopia.
Individuals with Autism have extreme difficulties in social and communication skills and self-expressions as well. On top of that, they have also difficulty in making sense of the world in the way most people do.
It is conspicuously notable that persons with autism in our country have always been tormented, enchained and kept out of public sight because they are perceived to be possessed by an evil spirit. Though Nia Foundation has fulfilled a number of remarkable accomplishments in terms of addressing the problem by creating a profound awareness about it across the country, it still believes that there is much to be done to address the humanly needs of persons with Autism and related disorders while keeping up with the rest of the world in its advancement of responding to such needs and fill the gap.
Nia aspires to work more not only on the protection of the rights of every person with autism in every corner of the country and on provision of holistic rehabilitation services to all citizens of the country at its disposal but also on the implementation of UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda adopted in 2015 by world leaders. Therefore, in order for Ethiopia to become one of the abiding world countries to this agenda, Nia Foundation is embarking on the construction of State-of-the-art Center of Excellence that can directly or indirectly contribute to the attainment of many of the SDGs including but not limited to Goals 1, 3, 4, 7, 8, 10, 13, 16, and 17 at country level.
The center is designed to be modern in terms of its infrastructure and possess State-of-the-art facilities that will tend to meet the demand of assistive technologies for active participation of persons with autism and will potentially provide them with a variety of essential therapeutic services in a way that can maximize the untapped potentials of the children enrolled into it. It will also have a capacity to serve as a center for study and research to generate local knowledge along with medical care and international conference facilities. The center will prioritize the utilization of indigenous knowledge that can be structured, developed and could also be shared to both the local and international communities.
In order to realize its mission, Nia Foundation has been striving to obtain funds by putting different fundraising modalities in place. “A Day’s Earning for Nia” is one of the strategies hugely deployed to raise funds from every possible donor; from employees, government officials, merchants, maids, shoe shiners, even students. Nia is asking for everyone to donate a single day’s earning/pocket money out of a year to the good cause.
For anyone willing to contribute his/her single day’s earning out of a year, we advise to do so by depositing in their convenient bank as Nia Foundation has accounts in all operational Banks of the country with its name that are believed to be accessible to everyone.
As an asset for Ethiopia, we call upon all concerned to show up and do their part in terms of volunteering and actively involving for the realization of the center of excellence.
The Board of Directors, Management & Staff of the Nia Foundation, Parents, and precious children with Autism at the Joy Center would like to extend our wholehearted gratitude and acknowledge the philanthropic and benevolent individuals, partners, donors and all stakeholders including the media who believed in our work for years and its importance for the benefit of the underserved segments of the community who are in the Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Let Us All Join Hands To Realize The Joy Center Of Excellence For Autism!
So far we have come a long way to the preparatory tasks of realizing the planned Center of Excellence for Autism. From the beginning a number of collaborators are voluntarily engaging in the project and we hope many more are to follow their footsteps.
With an aim of completing the first phase of the project, we are now hugely embarking on mobilizing resources and raising funds calling upon everyone. To do so, we have multiple strategies underway. Among the different ways of raising funds, the three major strategies are the ‘GOODWILL SHARES’, ‘SPONSORSHIP’ and ‘A DAY’S EARNING FOR NIA!’
A DAY’S EARNING FOR NIA modality is meant to mobilize funds from the majority of communities. We urge everyone; be it a student, an employee, company owner, a house maid, a shoe shine, … everyone, to donate just a day’s earning of theirs per year.
In order to make this mobilization of donation, we have official bank accounts of the organization in all of the operating banks in Ethiopia.
His Excellency, Aboy Sibhat Nega has come and paid a brief visit to the Joy center for Autism on Monday July 17, 2017. The Executive Director of the center, Mrs. Zemi Yenus extended a very warm welcome to him and the kids presented a welcoming flower upon his arrival.
He was deeply moved by what he had seen at the center and witnessed that all the holistic services given at center has always given a sigh of relief for the parents because it is the right place for keeping their kids while they are on their business; staying productive.
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