Meseret Haileyesus - The Change Maker, Interview with Loline Mag


She won her way through all the hardship, becoming the archetype of a strong, daring, innovative, persistent, and sharing woman.

Meseret Haileyesus is a multi-award-winning social entrepreneur, economic justice and health equity advocate, thought leader, and changemaker. Over her career, Haileyesus has received several prestigious awards. She was named a top 10 L’Oréal Paris National Woman’s Worth Awardee and Forty under 40 award recipient in 2021 by Ottawa Business Journal. She was also in the Top 3 recipients of the National RPA Award from Honorable Nina Tangri, Member of Parliament from Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade/ Economic Development in 2021. In addition, she was a recipient of Women of Inspiration 2021 (Social Impact and Authentic Leader Award) and named one of the 100 Most Accomplished Black Canadian Women in 2019 and Top 100 Women to Watch in Canada 2020.

She won her way through all the hardship, becoming the archetype of a strong, daring, innovative, persistent, and sharing woman.

Loline had such a moving discussion with Meseret Haileyesus. We proved to her sharing nature as she didn’t hold back anything she believed would encourage others. This piece would be just a highlight considering her journey. Enjoy and be inspired.

Where the journey began

Meseret was born and raised in Hararge, Eastern Ethiopia. She had siblings and a mother who was a teacher by profession. Her mother is her role model, consistently pushing her to improve herself and go further. After finishing high school, she studied Midwifery. She was assigned to work in one of the remotest areas with no water, electricity, or transportation. She even had to drink from the well and work in candlelight, but she chose to stay.

After about a year, she came back to Hawassa and joined the school of economics. Then she proceeded with a degree in Nursing at Addis Ababa University. She also did her Management and completed her Master’s degree in Public Health. She took short courses and actively participated in various clubs. The ambitious Meseret never idled from developing herself.

Meseret did her studies while holding multiple jobs. UNICEF, UNDP, and Forum for Street Children were among the many not-for-profit organizations she worked with. One of her most significant projects was the one she did at Amref International in fighting Workplace HIV/AIDS in partnership with ILO (International Labour Organization). It realized the establishment of an HIV/AIDS testing and treatment center amidst 400 industrial plants in the Akaki Kality area. She remembers it as one of her achievements and proudest moments.

Her wide range of experience came from her tirelessness in taking on various responsibilities. She worked in Urban Health Extension programs teaching reproductive health to the youth and ensuring urban hygiene. She also engaged with Jhpiego in working for children and women's health., she was involved with Initiative Africa and Ethiopian Economic Association to advocate for women’s political participation.

She is actively involved in many societal empowerment endeavors. She took part in team works at the AU.

Getting into Canada

She went to Canada with her family on a work trip and settled in Edmonton. In just two months, surprisingly, she landed her first job. People wondered how it happened. She had, however, been preparing for so long and figured out the system before she came. From being active on LinkedIn to talking to Canadian authorities in person, she leveraged her connections. Meseret believes in connection and networking. She takes massive action to achieve whatever she sets her mind on.

Her work in Canada began as a Harm Reduction and HIV/AIDS prevention Research coordinator at an HIV/AIDS fighting network organization. After about a year of staying in Edmonton, she opened her first business. Meseret was always on the move, and she got probing about her interests: green energy, sustainable production, climate justice, and equity. She learned Cosmetics and Aromatherapy. In three and a half years, she launched her first cosmetic company. It was an all-natural, built-from-scratch brand getting partnerships with various non-profits.

Then came an opportunity for her to engage in a global health program by Alberta University. The program was implemented in Ethiopia and planned to assist front-line health workers and medical college teachers. As was her passion, she became one of the founders of the Women Economic Development Initiative based in Edmonton. She mentored youth to partake in the startup ecosystem and fight off economic injustice. The route she chose to take taught her, she said, to consider business together with social impact.

The transition

It has not always been a smooth transition for Meseret. As a Black, Mother and immigrant woman, she faced multi-systemic barriers. Her success might look effortless, but the problem was profound. She had to feel the pain of injustice every day. Deteriorating health and struggles in her personal life added to her challenges. A transitionary period came along where she lost so much of what she had built and moved on. She was honest about being deeply hurt in the process.

She moved to Ottawa, the capital city of Canada, and began to relive some of her earliest struggles. As she rose in leadership, she started to feel the systematic barriers harder. As she pushed for equity, the challenges pushed back. Through her day-to-day leadership, she noticed that people living in poverty, violence, mental health, and addiction are neglected by the system to access economic resources. She believed economic opportunity is the only way to fight systemic racism. This motivated her to establish the Canadian Center for Women’s Empowerment (CCFWE). The only Canadian Organization addressing Economic Justice through policy, research, and advocacy. CCFWE is addressing the issue of economic injustice by working with financial institutions, women’s community organizations, utilities, essential service providers, telecommunications companies, industry regulators, local and national government, the family justice system, consumer lawyers, researchers, and academics that support women to make a successful transition to economic independence


CCWFE is her voice for economic justice for women who went through economic violence and oppression. She understood economic security is key to enabling individuals. One means to achieve this is entrepreneurship. However, she acknowledges how this step could be intimidating. People who have lived through traumatic experiences often have it harder. Meseret hinted to us about a new program on which she collaborated with Shopify and Amazon to address the issue.

The center has accomplished so much regarding the financial equity of the disadvantaged. About twenty-three thousand women have benefited from the initiative. Newzealand, the USA, Israel, the UK, Australia, and other countries have followed suit. Various national and international media have featured her works while also being recognized by 31 major city mayors in Canada. Her impact has gone as far as leading the inclusion of economic violence and economic justice into the Canadian federal strategy. The center has made multiple policy recommendations challenging the system for change and is recognized at the Parlament of Canada. 

Meseret, a mother herself, stretched into maternal and children's health. She launched Maternity today to ensure quality health care for mothers and children. Maternity today supports health professionals and resources health facilities in Africa and South America.

Going digital

The unrelenting Meseret has formed partnerships to introduce digital health to Ethiopia. She joined some of her friends to start the “Tenawo” platform two years ago. It was developed under KMS ET Trading and is the first of its kind. It is a multi-user system that locates prescription medicine and medical equipment, provides ambulance service, and works as an agency for medical tourism. She alluded to the launch of additional digitized products into the market.

Where does all this energy come from?

“I am a mother; I care about my daughter’s future and the next generation.”

Meseret does everything from the heart. She puts in all the work she can and perseveres till she gets results. Her mentality is that she is capable of bringing change. She is confident in her ability to achieve what she sets her mind on. She admits to living in an environment telling her why she can’t, but she has always chosen to think otherwise.

Besides looking up to her mom, stories of women who went through so much and succeeded inspire her. It has helped her build resilience and keep moving. After doing so much in so many areas, you will be surprised to learn that Meseret thinks she has a lot to do yet.

To those wondering where to begin

“Know your purpose. What do you want in life?”

Meseret strongly believes it all begins in our minds. Setting one’s attitude right is the necessary leap to an accomplished life. She said thoughts make one win or lose. As a person of tremendous success, she advised knowing one’s self and worth. She touched on how society has burdened us with artificial metrics to our value. Situations are temporary, she asserts. As long as we live, we have hope for change.

She has practiced affirming to herself that she is capable. Her seriousness on the matter goes as far as who she lets into her life. She is conscious of the people around her. She also looks out if they are continuously criticizing or encouraging her. She advises people to focus on what they want to do and invest in that. Her rules to getting started are educating oneself, creating connections, and being consistent.

Balancing between motherhood and work

“I just never waste any time.”

She credits her time management skills for this. She is intentional about where and how she spends her day, avoiding unnecessary engagements. ”I don’t go out for tea with people whose value systems quarrel with mine,” she outlined. Her strictness applies to social media as well; as she is selective about whom she connects with online.

Delegating others, she stated, has also lightened the frustration. Recognizing their hard work and letting them entertain creative freedom, she rolls as a team.

The vision

The systematic change Meseret is pushing for might take longer to take root. Nevertheless, she is determined to scale her work and build up her leadership for societal change. She is eying more ways to support youth entrepreneurship. The determined change-maker says there is so much she has yet to accomplish.

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