Liya Kebede: A Supermodel’s Campaign Against Maternal Mortality
Reports: Ifeteleola Hephzibah
One of Africa’s most treasured assets, Kebede’s remarkably successful career as a model is found in both what she’s been able to achieve for herself, and what she continues to do for the millions of households she affects positively through her humanitarian work. A successful woman with an incredible curriculum vitae to her credit, Kebede was ranked the eleventh highest paid top model in the world in
2007, out of a list of fifteen compiled by Forbes. She has appeared on the cover of several international magazine such as US Vogue magazine, Paris Vogue, Vanity Fair, i-D, and Spanish Vogue among others. Plus, she’s featured in campaigns for Lacoste, Victoria’s Secret, Tommy Hilfiger, Dolce &Gabbana, Louis Vuitton, and Yves Saint-Laurent among a long list of clients.
Kebede’s success as a model led to the birth of her fashion line Lemlem (an Ethiopian Amharic word for blossom) in 2008. The idea behind Lemlem was quiet simple: create employment for hundreds of Ethiopian artisans who were masters of traditional weaving. That singular effort to create far more practicable opportunities for persons back home in Ethiopia paid off. Over the past five years, Lemlem has grown from just being a pilot project into a gold mine. It can be seen in shops like J. Crew, Barney’s and also on some leading online platforms.
She’s also a mother who believes every woman has the right to be a mother. It sounds like a simple notion, and you may wonder why that would even be a question. Well, it’s an issue when every minute, one woman dies of pregnancy and childbirth related complications, and 90% of those deaths are preventable. 99% of maternal deaths occur in the developing world. These are the figures behind the reason for the Liya Kebede Foundation. The foundation “is committed to ensuring that every woman, no matter where she lives, has access to life-saving care. They work to educate policy makers and support programs that save lives in partnership with governments, non-governmental organizations, corporations and affected communities. Saving mothers’ lives requires the strategic coordination and deployment of resources, skilled doctors and midwives, ambulances, roads, clean sheets and basic medical tools,
just to name a few.” She was made the World Health Organization’s Ambassador for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health. Her role as a WHO’s ambassador has sent her to countries where the fight against the maternal mortality rages on. She’s also worked with other aid agencies including the African-leaders-funded HIV Free Generation project, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Center for Global Development.