Obituary: Abebech Gobena (1938-2021),unprecedented Humanitarian

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On Sunday, July 4th, 2021, Abebech Gobena, a humanitarian and a fierce woman, passed away at the age of 83. 

Abebech Gobena was born in 1938 in a small rural village in Showa province called Shebel. After her father’s death during the second Ethio-Italian war, she was raised by her grandparents until the age of nine. When she was 10, she was married without her consent, forcing her to run away to the capital, Addis Abeba. There, she managed to get basic education and later worked as a quality controller at the coffee and grain company.

After her pilgrim journey to Gishen Mariam in 1973, she faced the horrific scene of famine and children starving to death. The unbearable experience of pain led her to take measures inactive ways where she decided to rescue 21 of the children from the area back to the capital where she resided for more than a decade. 

Many thought she was mad, but what is greatness without a little streak of madness. Despite her lower financial status, the absurdity of the length she would go to be a voice for the underdog and rather a hero persona to the many kids she raised and the 450,000 families she sheltered. 

Given her low financial status, she had to support the children she brought, she went as further as possible to make ends meet, to the point where she had to sell her own jewelry to support her new family. Gradually she got help in establishing her orphanage, in 1986, her orphanage was registered by the government, known as The Abebech Gobena Orphanage and School.

It has 200 residents and 482 non-residential pupils. With support from the government and other organizations, over 1800 benefit from child-sponsorship schemes. Over 2,000 malnourished children and mothers receive food.

She had received great awards and accolades from various national and international organizations as well as an honorary doctorate in humanity from Jimma University.

She was a passionate woman, who had been through the many sides of life setbacks. A woman who had not been cynical by the unfortunate events her sight viewed. It fuels her humanity, mapped out her life journey, pursued a passion project, and looked after children without a guardian. 

Her burial took place on 6 Julyat Holy Trinty Cathedral with government officials and mourners. Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church Abune Matias, President of Oromia Regional State Shimelis Abdisa, Deputy Mayor of Addis Abeba, and other public figures also attended the funeral.