Adey Abate with a patient at CURE Ethiopia
As CURE celebrates International Women’s Day, we are proud to highlight one of our remarkable co-workers, Adey Abate.
CURE Ethiopia Executive Director Adey Abate has been at the helm of CURE Ethiopia since its inception. The Ethiopian native spent a significant portion of her professional career in the United States but returned to Ethiopia to oversee CURE’s seventh hospital (its fifth on the continent of Africa). Over the past 11 years, Adey has watched CURE Ethiopia evolve from a modest building on the outskirts of Addis Ababa to a state-of-the-art complex that serves as both a training facility and the primary pediatric orthopedic hospital in all of Ethiopia.
Adey grew up in Addis Ababa but moved to the United States in her teens. There, she obtained her bachelor’s in finance and her master’s in applied economics. While still in college, she was recruited to work with the Boeing Commercial Airplane Program as a cost management analyst in Seattle, Washington. Later, she moved to Arlington, Virginia to work with Boeing’s Defense sector as a subcontractor manager where she managed several subcontractors, including Booz Allen Hamilton, working on the Integrated Missile Defense Program that Boeing had won from the federal government. While working with Booz Allen Hamilton, she was so impressed by the way they ran their business that she joined their organization as a senior consultant.
At Booz Allen Hamilton, a management and information technology firm, Adey held what she describes as a “fast-paced” and “extremely stressful” position. “I loved it,” she admits. Despite having a passion for her work, Adey felt like something was missing from her professional life. When a friend forwarded her a job posting for the executive director position at CURE Ethiopia, Adey was intrigued.
Though Adey grew up in what she describes as a “Christian household,” she explains that often, in Ethiopia, Christians barely delve deeper than the surface of their held faith.
“Christianity is the oldest religion in Ethiopia, but while many profess Christianity, the faith here in Ethiopia doesn’t often investigate what it means to have a relationship with Jesus Christ. I grew up “Christian” but didn’t necessarily have that important engagement with Jesus Christ.”
Later in life, Adey and her close family members began to examine what it meant to follow Christ. Adey was convicted by the idea that Christianity should permeate all aspects of her life, from family to church to the workplace. Though she loved her job, she didn’t feel like it was giving her an opportunity to grow in her faith. When considering her profession, she asked herself, “Is any of this making any difference (for the kingdom of God)?” She feared it was not. So, she began to pray that God would provide her with an employment opportunity that would nurture her faith and use her skills for God’s glory. When she encountered the job posting for the executive director position at CURE, it seemed like a possible answer to prayer. Not only would she be working for a faith-based organization, but she would be returning to Addis Ababa, where she still had family.
Adey had never worked in healthcare and had no experience managing a hospital. Would the skills she’d obtained and honed throughout her years of contract management and cost analysis work transfer to a hospital management position? The leadership at CURE International believed they would. In fact, they were so impressed with Adey’s experience and leadership qualities, they offered her the job almost immediately. Adey packed and moved back to her homeland, arriving amidst hospital construction. She immediately began working with the architect and managing the various building contractors. It turned out that transitioning from military defense management to hospital management was a piece of cake. She’s served at CURE Ethiopia ever since.
“What we do here makes a difference,” Adey says. She relays the story of a patient who came in completely unable to walk. “He moved around on all fours, crawling,” she says. His mother, determined he get an education, carried him to school every day. “I looked at the size of this boy, and then I looked at his mother … ”
Adey witnessed Andualem’s physical transformation. She watched him endure surgery, stand up, and eventually walk out of the hospital on two straight feet. Andualem recently came back to CURE to attend the hospital’s tenth-anniversary celebration. Now a bright, energetic fifteen-year-old, Andualem ranks at the top of his class. Because of their experience at CURE, he and his mother have grown in their faith, too.
“He (Andualem) struck me because he was so smart. Who knows how the world will now be a better place because he was cured?” says Adey.
Overseeing the operations of a major hospital is an enormous task, and in a poor country with significant gender inequality, that task is even more challenging if you’re a woman. Though Adey has some gender discrimination over the past eleven years, she doesn’t dwell on it. Her focus is on her faith; it’s what drives her and fulfills her.
“If someone doesn’t want to work with me because I’m a woman, they usually just move on,” she says. But these experiences, she insists, have been few and far between. ” Further considering the way gender inequality affects the country’s female population, Adey notes, “Although the incidence rate on some of the conditions the hospital treats tends to occur more often in boys than girls, we do seem to treat more boys than girls (overall),” she says, with concern in her voice.
Though CURE makes a concerted effort to recruit all children who need our medical care, regardless of gender, race, or religion, Ethiopia remains a country that values males more than females. It makes sense that parents would seek out medical help for their sons more often than for their daughters.
Significant inequality between men and women persists in Ethiopia; women have fewer educational and employment opportunities, and often have limited access to healthcare. Strides have been made—in 2018 Ethiopia elected its first female president, Sahle-Work Zewde—but gender inequality stems from cultural and social norms, and its stronghold is difficult to penetrate. Culture changes slowly, so when patients see that a woman is successfully running CURE Ethiopia, it matters. It shows our female patients and their families that women are capable, smart, and valuable.
Though Adey clearly worked hard to become the professional leader she is today, she says her late father gave her the encouragement and confidence she needed to pursue her goals.
“I credit my late father for making me the woman I am and for the confidence he built in me. He always encouraged me to be a good human being, and he instilled Christian values in me–to be compassionate, honest, fair and ethical–he never treated me less or different because of my gender, and thus, gender was never an issue for succeeding or not.”
Adey’s days are busy. As executive director, she oversees hospital resources, personnel, and hospital strategic initiatives, and she is always on the lookout for in-country funding. She also ensures that the hospital operates within the regulations of Ethiopia while keeping in line with CURE’s mission.
“Working here, it was an answer to prayer. CURE provides an environment where I can grow spiritually. God is now the center of my whole life: personal and professional. My previous jobs played a role in getting me where I am, and now … now I feel complete.”