Ethiopian Child Advocate Shiferaw Woldmichael Visits Gustavus

Posted on October 23rd, 2015 by

Shiferaw Woldmichael and Marcia Bunge.

Gustavus Adolphus College recently welcomed Shiferaw Woldmichael, founder and director of the Child Development Training and Research Center (CDTRC) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to campus for a 10-day visit.

After growing up in poverty in Ethiopia and completing his undergraduate work at Haile Selassie University in Addis Ababa, Woldmichael studied at Columbia Law School, graduating in 1975. He ran a successful law firm, taught law at Haile Selassie University, and served as the Attorney General of Ethiopia before transitioning to child advocacy at the age of 57.

“My country gave me the highest position I could aspire to,” he said. “So I’ve given the balance of my life to working for children.”

Woldmichael founded the CDTRC to help train leaders in religious communities, schools, and secular and faith-based child-focused agencies. The organization strives to create a new generation who will be equipped to help create a healthy, wealthy, and peaceful Ethiopia. To that end, the CDTRC raises awareness about the importance of early childhood development, does training in child development and child protection, publishes research findings, and hosts camps for youth aged 11-13 every summer.

Woldmichael points to several key factors that contributed to his decision create the CDTRC. “Africa is a very rich continent when it comes to natural resources; Africa has everything it needs for its people to lead healthy, wealthy lives,” he said. However, many Africans are economically disadvantaged. This contrast between resources and poverty, coupled with the fact that nearly 50 percent of Africa’s population is under 15 years of age, resulted in his desire to work with children. “If there is to be change in Africa, this huge young population has to be encouraged, inspired, and challenged to say no to the prevailing sad realities of the continent,” he said.

Marcia Bunge, the Drell and Adeline Bernhardson Distinguished Professor of Religion at Gustavus, focuses much of her scholarship and writing on how religion affects children. Bunge and Woldmichael knew each other by reputation before meeting in England at a Viva Network conference several years ago. Since then the two have collaborated on several books and have bonded over their passion for child development.

“Shiferaw has the biggest heart I know,” Bunge said.

During his time at Gustavus, Woldmichael spoke in Christ Chapel, went to African studies and interfaith religion classes, met with the Pan-African Student Organization, and visited with President Rebecca Bergman. He also connected with ELCA pastors through the College’s Pastor-2-Pastor program and met with Ethiopian students at Luther Seminary in St. Paul.

His visit was made possible by the endowment for the Bernhardson Chair in Lutheran Studies. The first endowed chair in Lutheran Studies at Gustavus (and the first at any college related to the Lutheran church), the chair was established in 1996 by Drell and Adeline Bernhardson.

Woldmichael enjoyed his time with the Gustavus community. “The people have good ears, good hearts, and a welcoming spirit,” he said.

cdtrcThe Child Development Training and Research Center (CDTRC) is a child-focused nongovernmental organization (NGO) rooted in Ethiopia, and is on a mission to transform and equip the hearts and minds of people working for and with children. In doing so, the organization strives for the fulfillment of its vision—a new generation of Ethiopians who are exemplary citizens and become the source of transformation for Ethiopia and beyond.


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin



  1. Abiy Mesfin Tadesse says:

    Dear Sirs,
    You deserve my sincere appreciation for your proper recognition of such a devoted intellectual to his profession, country and beyond. He taught me law in Addis Ababa University, in 1988. He is an Ethiopian and African pride, indeed.

  2. Joseph Mayala Mitinje says:

    Glory be to God!
    Indeed Gashe Shiferaw is a Child Champion.

  3. Misikir says:

    Gash Shiferaw is my hero. I thank God for him! Long live!

  4. Dereje Mergia says:

    Deserves acknowledgment as a hero for advocating for the little ones who can not speak for themselves.
    Blessings and long life to those who live for others.
    Dereje mergia

  5. Sami Tura says:

    I was 23 when I met him. We sat and he asked me a question I will never ever forget, ”Sami do you have a consuming passion to change your land?” and I said filled my eyes with tears, ”Yes Gash Shiferaw!” then he said, ”If you want that change to happen come and join me, work on the next generation of Africa!” Weldemichel is one of the iconic and heroic leader God has given to Africa. A man who is deeply convinced to his inner most that change is unthinkable without working on the little ones. Since then I gave my whole life to train those people working with young people! Thank you for the post!

    Give me a child I will give you a nation! sami tura

  6. Eyerusalem - Jerry says:

    A true child advocate. We are blessed to have him amongst us.

  7. Fasil says:

    Mr. Shiferaw is a true man of God. His heart goes with what God’s heart goes – children. He deserves all respect for his good start. Just a center is not at all enough for millions of children in Ethiopia. Similar such centers and personalities need to start in all regions of the country.

    God will never forget your labor of love to such little ones. Be bless all your life!!!