Semhar is the Founder and CEO of the Diaspora African Women’s Network (DAWN), an advisory firm supporting African diaspora professional women and partners committed to diaspora engagement and gender equity. With nearly twenty-five years of public policy and advocacy experience, Semhar Araia is a recognized thought leader, public speaker and practitioner on diaspora engagement, African affairs, women’s leadership and international development.
She has advised multiple public and private entities, including governments, international organizations and over 100 African, Asian, European and Arab diasporas. Her insights have helped drive transformational change through economic growth, philanthropy, civic engagement, community organizing, cultural heritage and storytelling. Previously, Semhar built and led Meta’s Diaspora Public Policy team for Africa, Middle East and Turkey, guiding the company on its global policy priorities for diaspora engagement. Prior to that, she led diaspora partnerships at UNICEF USA, and public policy at Oxfam International, Nelson Mandela’s organization, The Elders, and the US House of Representatives.
A lawyer by training, Semhar began her career as an attorney for the implementation of the 2000 Eritrea-Ethiopia peace agreement. Semhar has delivered remarks and testified before the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the United Nations International Organization for Migration, the Commission on the Status of Women, and the International Conference of Eritrean Studies, among others.
Her leadership includes recognition from President Barack Obama as a White House Champion of Change, The Root’s Top 100, and named among the Top 100 Most Influential People of African Descent. Semhar is most recently profiled as one of the five individuals in the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture’s Next-Generation Voices exhibit. Semhar was a Council on Foreign Relations Term Member and sat on USAID’s Advisory Committee on Foreign Voluntary Aid (ACFVA). She has been featured in the Financial Times, BBC, Al Jazeera, The Guardian, Ventures Africa and other media outlets. Semhar was born in New York City to Eritrean immigrant parents and resides in Washington, D.C.