July 6, 2021

'Edaye', a mother of the despairing, departs

City: Addis AbabaObituary

A prominent Ethiopian philanthropist, Abebech Gobena, died on Sunday, July 2021 at the age of 85 in the capital Addis Ababa.

Avatar: Solomon Yimer
By Solomon Yimer

Solomon is a content editor at Addis Zeybe. He has worked in print and web journalism for six years.

'Edaye', a mother of the despairing, departs

A prominent Ethiopian philanthropist, Abebech Gobena, died on Sunday, July 2021 at the age of 85 in the capital Addis Ababa, after battling Coronavirus for weeks.

Abebech, also known as Edaye, was born in North Shoa Gerar Jarso Woreda Torben Ashe Kebele in the Village Called Shebel Abo during the Italian invasion in 1928. She was forced to get married early at the age of 11 as per the local community’s tradition, however, she escaped and moved to Addis Ababa refusing the marriage.

After she came to Addis Ababa, she had been working from the daily laborer to private investment production head level, without despising any type of job. She decided to open her orphanage while she was on a pilgrimage to the north part of Ethiopia. Abebech, a devout Christian, encountered two children who lost their parents due to drought in the country in 1980. This triggered her to found her NGO Abebech Gobena Child Care and Development Association.

Elizabeth Belay,34, is one of the beneficiaries raised in Abebech Gobena Children's Home, which is the oldest orphanage center in Ethiopia. She also attended her school from grades 1 to 8 grades at the center. After completing her education, Elizabeth was hired in the school as a record officer.

“She was the most loving, giving, and kindhearted mother, grandmother, sister, and friend, not only for us but also for the nearby community and all witnessed this,” said Elizabeth. “ She will be missed by everyone and kept in the hearts of many”  

Abebech Gobena has no biological child but she has a family of about 450,000 people. Since the establishment of her NGO, over 12,000 needy children have been supported by the association and over 1.5 million people across the country have benefited from her humanitarian works. 

“Edaye is not only just a selfless person but also a hard-working and dedicated mother who always instilled the same values in her children,”  Selam Yosef who was raised in the orphanage center and now works in the Association. “ Now everyone feels empty, she was a mother of all, and was a ray of inspiration for us.” 

Abebech was attending Coronavirus treatment for weeks in intensive care at St. Paulo Hospital in Addis Ababa, on Sunday while he passed away. 

Her death was shocking for many and individuals and government officials are sending condolences messages. 

"I am deeply saddened by the passing of Abebech Gobena who has been Ethiopia’s icon of compassion. My heartfelt condolences to her family, friends, and the many whose lives she impacted," said Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in a message written on his official Facebook Page.

Through different poverty reduction programs, Edaye had cared for hundreds of thousands of children, and as a result, she had received great awards and accolades from various national and international organizations as well as an honorary doctorate degree in humanity from Jimma University.

Abebech didn't believe that real change could happen through direct support but in bringing capacity and potential together to deal with problems, many witnessed. 

A huge march band led Abebech’s coffin through the city to Meskel Square and then to the Holy Trinity where, and  thousands turn out for an event in Meskel Square, to bid farewell to Abebech Gobena,

With the presence of many government officials, religious leaders, artists, Abebech Gobena has laid to rest in a funeral ceremony held at Holy Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa on July 6, 2021.