Every minute, a woman dies in childbirth or due to pregnancy complications. The fashion model’s organization provides health care resources in her native Ethiopia to help lessen this statistic. Kebede was named a 2010 Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.
"In today’s world, celebrity advocates are not rare," fashion designer Tom Ford wrote of 32-year-old Kebede in a 2010 Time magazine article. "What is rare is to encounter one whose devotion and drive come from a genuine desire to better our world." Along with leading a foundation dedicated to improving the lives of women and children around the world, Kebede's clothing line provides employment for practitioners of a centuries-old tradition that was facing extinction. "I visited an area of these incredible weavers that we’ve always had in Ethiopia who make incredible work but don’t really have the space to sell their clothes anymore," Kebede says in the video below. "It’s one thing to donate money. It’s a whole other thing to give an opportunity for someone to make his own money." And that's how Lemlem--which means "to bloom" in Amharic--was founded five years ago.
A version of this article appears in the July/August 2012 issue of Fast Company.