Champion of Change: Abaynesh Asrat

Abaynesh Asrat, philanthropist and advocate for human rights, is the founder of Nation to Nation Networking in New York (NNN) - an organization that creates and implements results-oriented projects aimed at promoting community development and empowerment in keeping with cultural traditions. She earned her master's degree in Social Science from East Michigan University and worked as a clinician and administrator at the Center for Comprehensive Health of the New York Medical College. She then developed a program that trained medical students to see beyond the stethoscope and observe social and economic issues that affect their patients.

With the aid of a multidisciplinary staff, Abaynesh implemented programs for families to end the cycle of violence by providing peaceful living awareness and conflict-prevention training. Her contributions led to an infant and toddler rehabilitation school within a hospital setting, where early development challenges and parental behavior were observed and corrected with psychiatric treatment on site to prevent at-risk children from entering institutions.  

Abaynesh’s talent for thinking outside the box led to the launch of NNN in 2004. Her mission was to provide health, education and economic development programs for children and their families in Ethiopia by supporting access to food, annual eye examinations, financial support for uniforms and education for girls with the emphasis on creating a context in which early marriage for adolescent girls can be replaced by other social alternatives.

When she is not galvanizing the African diaspora in the United States in fundraising campaigns, she is mobilizing young Africans to innovate and break their cycle of dependency on foreign countries. NNN workshops on harnessing solar energy, for cooking, water pasteurization and other practical uses inspire young Ethiopians to use science and technology to change their fate and dramatically improve the lives of their nation’s rural population.

Born in Ethiopia to a family that emphasized physical, emotional, and spiritual health as well as the well-being of one’s community, Abaynesh has carried these values with her throughout her life and career. She uses her background in public administration and community development combined with her understanding of cultures to create a better world for all people.  “If we have understanding, we can build peace.”

Abaynesh is one of the many inspiring people selected as part of our Champions of Change campaign, which honors individuals who have made a difference in the lives of women and girls in the Metro New York area or globally.

Mikki Brammer