As an Ambassador for Goodwill’s Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health division, Liya Kebede knows a thing or two about motherhood. In addition to having kids of her own, Liya serves as an advocate for thousands of mothers needing guidance in the way of child nourishment and development. The Ethiopian designer and model recently talked with Elizabeth Street about her experiences as a parent and her passion for helping less fortunate moms around the world.

Motherhood and its career affects.


“Being a mother puts things in perspective and informs everything that I do. It makes everything hit much closer to home. Being born and raised in Ethiopia, I have helplessly witnessed the devastation a family goes through when a mother dies, many times. Living in the Unites States now I see and understand that we can prevent the deaths of those mothers.”

Issues moms face in developing countries.

“Giving birth is one of the most joyous gifts to a mother. But sadly in developing countries, giving birth can mean death. Pregnancy and childbirth is one of the main reasons that mothers die in developing countries; they die from preventable or treatable conditions because they do not have any access to basic medical care. Most women around the world do not deliver in clinics or hospitals; this is due to the lack of access, the lack of education among the communities, and the lack of policy makers and international donors that focus on maternal health. The statistics show a devastating need for well-equipped and well-staffed hospitals in developing countries. ”

Hence the Liya Kebede Foundation.

“The Liya Kebede Foundation is committed to ensuring that every woman, no matter where she lives, has access to life-saving care. Saving mothers’ lives requires the strategic coordination and deployment of resources, skilled doctors and midwives, ambulances, roads, clean sheets and basic medical tools, just to name a few. This year we have successfully equipped a maternity center in the Hawassa region in Ethiopia and have helped train the staff so that the women in the community can have access to quality care. The center started as a pilot program and aims to be an example for other similar maternity centers across the country.”

What can other moms do to help?

“Getting the word out is essential, and donating to the Liya Kebede Foundation is a great way to make your voice heard as well. Even as little as $1 provides a woman with a dose of medicine that can stop a hemorrhage, which is the leading cause of death for mothers.”

Liya and her husband Kassy Kebede have two children, Suhul and Raee, together.




Sarie is a writer and editor for BCK's Los Angeles division. She also shares stories on Medium that are meant to encourage thought and discussion. You can catch her outside enjoying nature and classical literature. Pop culture is pretty fun, too!

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