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From L-R: Mary Jane Wagle,  Alfa Demmellash, Hirut Befecadu, Julie-Mehretu

Peacemaker, entrepreneur, artist: These are some faces of modern Ethiopian women. Mary Jane Wagle wants to print them indelibly in the minds of young women in the country she’s come to love.

After running Planned Parenthood here in Los Angeles, and helping to raise money locally to build affordable housing, Wagle found herself longing for a challenge in a new land. That lead her to Addis Ababa, where she’s been helping to gather and tell the stories of women. Disturbed that local girls listed western celebrities like Oprah and Beyonce as their heroes, she wanted to help people see the role models who are closer to home.

The resulting website is Ethiopian Women Unleashed, and a book is to follow. Young women there in particular are not familiar with local heroes, stories of strong women doing important work, in part, Wagle says, because they’re not conditioned to discuss their achievements.

Here’s what Mary Jane told us about it when she dropped by KCRW during her summer break:

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3 Comments »

  • Amelia Saltsman said:

    Mary-Jane Wagle is an inspiring woman in her own right, and I count myself fortunate to know her. Her current choice of project makes complete sense, since she looks at life through a lens of finding inspiration from others.

  • Laurie Buetow said:

    maybe my letters are planning to Steve C!

  • Kharga B Lama said:

    Yes, most of our young people always forget our local heroes, while they look up to the western celebrities. They tend to forget their roots and the limit of their achievements.

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