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Black History Month: My experience in technology and philanthropy

  • Posted on February 10, 2020
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes

Editor’s note: We’re honored to share the story of senior consultant Nebiat Belayhun. Nebiat’s desire to make an impact with her career is influenced by her experience as a black woman from Ethiopia. Celebrating Black History Month is not limited to looking toward the past – it also means talking about how that history is inspiring change today and in the future.

When I left my native Ethiopia at age 19 to attend college in the U.S., I dedicated myself to improving maternal mortality for HIV positive women in my home country. The poverty in Ethiopia is inescapable and was so real around me. I have witnessed many young women in Ethiopia getting married and pregnant as early as 13 years old. Issues such as general lack of HIV awareness, fear of going to the hospital, decision-making power of husbands and harmful cultural practices restricted these pregnant women from seeking health care in Ethiopia. As a result, I was determined at a very young age to pursue a degree in the highest education and bring the impact home.

I earned my PhD in management, where my research focused on ways technology can be used toward improved treatment of HIV for pregnant women. I met with several policy makers in Ethiopia who were in support of my work and had a similar vision. Through my research, we attempted to understand the effectiveness of mobile technologies (e.g. SMS) in a way that improves the delivery of HIV services and midwives to pregnant women in Ethiopia.

My research findings showed that one of the most beneficial strategies of mobile technologies is increasing the awareness of pregnant women on the issues of HIV and maternal mortality through improved communication and education. It is also crucial to empower midwives by providing them with improved communication, training and support needed to engage HIV-positive mothers with care. In addition, the conclusion of my research suggested that policy makers reinforce health awareness using mobile technologies to address challenges of HIV and maternal mortality in Ethiopia. Beyond the scope of my home country, my research findings could be applied to other developing and underdeveloped nations facing similar challenges and situations.

When I joined Avanade, I was no longer directly connected to technology and philanthropy work. However, that changed when Avanade announced the Tech for Social Good initiative in 2019. This program was spearheaded by our CEO Pamela Maynard and allows Avanade to provide consulting work to nonprofits, so that they can assist the communities they serve. When I first heard of this program, I was thrilled. Currently, I spend a good amount of my time with our Global Nonprofit Advisor to brainstorm how we can use our digital and technological abilities for social impact.

This journey is not without obstacles. The uphill climb for minorities in the technology industry has been well documented. For me, this challenge started when I first moved to the U.S. Ethiopia is one of the two countries in Africa that wasn’t affected by colonialism, so I did not grow up with the perceptions of race that are so common in other parts of the world. The last 20 years in the U.S., I have learned that the industry can leave African immigrants and women of color in technology without role models or good support.

I try to overcome these challenges through my support system, including my workplace at Avanade, where achievements are celebrated, voices are raised, and professional stories are shared. As a mother of a 3-year-old, I want him to be able to counteract any prejudicial messages he receives. I’m building the foundation of an environment where it is normal for him to learn about different cultures and races – and the universal experiences that connect us.

Margaret Buj

Really inspirational, thanks for sharing your story!

February 25, 2020

Jennifer Glover

This a fantastic read! Thank you for sharing your unique perspective!

February 20, 2020

Nebiat Belayhun

Thank you so much everyone for such beautiful and kind comments. 
Nebi

February 17, 2020

Mamadou N

Thank you for increasing the awareness of the plight of our mothers and sisters. As a former resident of Ethiopia, this testimonial resonates with me. Knowledge aided by technology can be a cure to a lot of the ills in this world. Continue your journey and my hope is others will join as well. I know I plan to.

February 15, 2020

Donna Hauck

I never cease to be amazed by the paths people have taken to meet me at this intersection of our lives. Wonderful story Nebi, thank you for sharing it. I expect great things in your path forward from here!

February 14, 2020

Eric Kwashie

Nebi, thank you for sharing this wonderful and inspirational experience. This is very powerful. 

February 13, 2020

T.R. Cohen

Nebi, your story is very inspirational and eye opening. Thank you for sharing it. I'm sure that we will be hearing even more about you in the future as you continue on your incredible journey.

February 13, 2020

Antonella Castaldo

Nebi, you are an inspiration! How wonderful. I am glad you have found an opportunity to pursue your passion through Avanade's Tech for Social Good and a supportive community at Avanade as well.

February 12, 2020

Missy Sherrard

Thank you for sharing your story, making an impact as the focus on the universal experiences that connect us! 

February 12, 2020

Angie Elliot

It’s so inspiring when you hear people’s selfless acts extended to those around, near and far. You truly are a gem for sharing your heart. Thank you for everything you do Nebi, I pray your work brings you much joy, success and fulfillment and your blessings come back tenfold 

February 12, 2020

Dikasse Zalla

This is an AMAZING article! Thank you for sharing this with us. Super proud to have you as my CA!! 

February 12, 2020

Laj Mehta

Thanks for sharing your story Nebi, both in this article, and with others (like the students from the Brooklyn College Workshop!) I deeply connect with your philanthropic drive - what is the purpose of our work if we aren't making a long-term, positive influence on our world? I think it's so important for us to consider how we can give back with all the resources available to us - your story inspires me, and I'm sure it will inspire countless others.

February 11, 2020

Sarika Saxena

This is amazing, Nebi!

February 11, 2020

Peter Jallah

This is great

February 11, 2020

Aman Mekonen

Amazing to see you commitment to making other people’s lives better. It takes a unique leadership to think about people in need back in Ethiopia while building a better future for our kids. God bless your heart and keep working to make the world a better place for all humans. 

February 11, 2020

Alicia Bertolino

So lucky to have such an amazing and impactful mentor like Nebiat!

February 11, 2020

Mahi Zewdu

Inspiring stories is what we have, to hold on to them is not baring fruit and so it needs to be shared. The story of my good friend, Dr Nebiat Belayhun, is an incredible individual in health, technology, philanthropy and social impact. This story shows her tenacity and courage to live towards our full potential. See how you can also deliver change and awareness. 

February 11, 2020

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