Please tell us about your part in the Eritrea-Ethiopia peace agreement.
It was a life changing experience. I had the honour to serve as a junior research attorney after the peace agreement was signed, serving on the Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission.
The commission was set up to determine the damages and liabilities incurred during the war, which started in 1998 and ended in 2000. I travelled through all parts of Eritrea and talked to people from every walk of life - from the village to city to the diaspora. Many people were directly affected by the war – they experienced loss or witnessed the destruction. As a person from the diaspora, it was a humbling experience. I learned what true strength and perseverance looked like and how much safety and privilege I had.
I was driven to do what I could to support those who needed it most. I remember listening to so many different people and capturing their stories for our work.
Their humanity and strength were evident. The least I could do was receive it with honour, humility and respect. I’m proud of the work we did, as well as the outcome. I feel very honoured to have played a small part in it.
“People affected by the war taught me what true strength and perseverance look like.”
What advice do you wish someone had given you when you were growing up?
Be kind to yourself and take the time to discover who you are, beyond your diaspora identity. Explore your hopes, passions, questions, dreams and fears.
In my transition from high school to college, I put a lot of pressure on myself. I did not want to fail, so I didn’t give myself any room to explore who I am. Part of the reason was being the firstborn in an immigrant family, but also my own trauma and healing.
I lost my mother during my high school studies and felt like I needed a plan that would serve me and her well. While I’m proud of what I did, I didn't really explore every opportunity. I didn't understand that I needed to. It wasn’t until after graduating school that I finally began to realize that.
Another piece of advice that I wish I’d had was to lead from a place of service and gratitude. Leadership was presented as something you took classes in and learned for business purposes. It wasn't until much later that I learned that leadership is service, and it depends on working from a place of gratitude. Gratitude comes with responsibility and service - that’s something that we, in the diaspora, can do.
“Explore your hopes, passions, questions, dreams and fears.”