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Celebrating a Young Girl on International Women's Day

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Today, being the International Women's Day, in Canada and abroad, I am inspired by the words of Margaret Mead, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that has ever has."

In reflection of today and everyday, there are many people, here at home and abroad, that are making a huge positive impact to the betterment of society. They are the dreamers and the doers. We see them building institutions while having a vision to be solvers of long held society shortcomings. I have witnessed their efforts, especially and more so in the continent of Africa.

I would like to highlight a young woman that has inspired me this year.

Her name is Abai Schulze and she may not be a brand name yet, but she is a promising entrepreneur that is helping us change our perception of Africa and how the renaissance of Africa is not just a lofty dream but a reality. Her determination is having an impact in her native Ethiopia. This is why I am fascinated by her biography and I have become her fan.

By the time, Abai moved to North America at the age of 11 from an orphanage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the now 25 year old had spent almost all her life in an orphanage. The native of Wolo, Ethiopia, she had no documented family member to claim her when she finally was adopted by a Texan family.

Upon completing her schooling at the George Washington Economics Department, on the encouragement of her adoptive family, she always returned to her native Ethiopia to volunteer and emulate internship programs that allowed her to be exposed to Ethiopia's promise and shortcomings. Her time with the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and the Non-governmental Ashoka -- helped and further exposed her to the idea of social entrepreneurship.

By the time she decided to move to Ethiopia permanently, she understood the best way to help change the image of Ethiopia and have an impact in its transformation would be via social entrepreneurship. She was fascinated by the quality of Ethiopian leather and wanted to market it to an exclusive international market and also took to heart the employment opportunities it would give to Ethiopians. Naming her company ZAAF, an Amharic word that means tree, she decided to focus on the creation of high quality leather handbags and accessories that are locally designed and made.

While marketing her products to a high end fashion audience in New York recently, she reflected how "it's such an honor and a joy to showcase the best of Ethiopia in one of the top fashion events in the world and that "Ethiopia's diverse population, resources, and deep heritage all contribute to a great product that is getting a lot of attention. I know Ethiopia has a bright future, and it is a privilege to be just a small part of that." Indeed.

That is why I am celebrating her efforts today.