*Ayoo Africa 2020 Top Ten D.C. Honorary Awardee
“My parents instilled in me a sense of not just activism, but ownership in my own life and also a sense of obligation to help others who are in need.” – Semhar Araia
Born to parents from Eritrea who made the United States of America home, Semhar was named after a province on the coast of Eritrea. She was born into an atmosphere of activism and championing for those without a voice.
Advocate. Community Builder. Humanitarian
A trained lawyer, practitioner, and thought leader, Ms. Araia serves as Head of Diaspora Public Policy at Facebook Africa. She has provided technical expertise, capacity building and research support to governments, organizations and over 85 African, Asian, European and Arab diaspora. She began as an attorney for the implementation of the 2000 Eritrea-Ethiopia peace agreement and later served as a policy advisor at Oxfam International, The Elders and the US House of Representatives.
She is a passionate advocate for Africans in the Diaspora. Previously, Ms. Araia served as the lead for Diaspora Partnerships at UNICEF USA and as a diaspora technical advisor to USAID, the African Union, the United Nations. Ms. Araia is also the founder of the Diaspora African Women’s Network (DAWN), a global network supporting African diaspora women focused on African affairs. She has been recognized for her work by former United States President Barack Obama as a White House Champion of Change and is profiled in the new Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture’s Next-Generation Voices exhibit. Her work has been featured in the Financial Times, BBC, NPR, Al Jazeera, The Guardian, The Root, OkayAfrica, Africa54, AfroElle, and Ventures Africa.
Ms. Araia received her juris doctor from Marquette University Law School and her bachelor’s degree in International Studies and Economics from the University of Saint Thomas in Saint Paul, Minnesota. She was born in New York City to Eritrean immigrant parents and resides in New York City.