Liya Kebede

NET WORTH: $18 million, estimated


FUNDING AREAS: Maternity Health, Global Development

OVERVIEW: Last decade, Liya Kebede founded The Liya Kebede Foundation, a nonprofit that supports safe motherhood initiatives in Africa. Kebede also moves philanthropy through the Kebede Family Foundation, a low-profile vehicle which she steers with her husband, Kassy, a hedge funder. 

BACKGROUND: Born in Ethiopia, Liya Kebede enjoyed early success as a model in Paris and has since gone on to international fame. She's been featured in major magazines, including the cover of Vogue, as well as runway shows and print campaigns for leading designers. Kebede also founded Lemlem, a hand-crafted clothing brand, as a way to inspire economic independence in her native country. In 2007, she was ranked by Forbes as the eleventh-highest-paid model in the world.


MATERNITY HEALTH: Supermodel Liya Kebede founded the Liya Kebede Foundation (LKF) in 2005, which coincided with her appointment as a Goodwill Ambassador for Maternal & Child Health for the World Health Organization. She held this role through 2011. The mission of LKF is to "improve the lives of women in Africa by addressing one of their top health concerns – better access to life-saving maternity care." The foundation invests in health worker training and maternal health advocacy activities. Between 2011 and 2015, LKF focused on creating impact for mothers in Ethiopia. The foundation has supported Ethiopian North American Health Professionals Association, among others.

LKF's signature campaign is Stand Up for African Mothers. The foundation partners with Amref Health Africa, a health development organization, and aims to address the shortage of skilled health workers who can care for mothers and newborns across Africa. The effort's goal is to train 15,000 midwives to reduce the high rate of maternal mortality across seven countries in Africa, including Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda. 

LKF also works with the International Leadership Academy of Ethiopia on a "peer-to-peer maternal health awareness campaign that engages girls from high schools across Ethiopia in sharing information about safe maternity care."

KEBEDE FAMILY FOUNDATION: Kebede also moves some of her philanthropy through the Kebede Family Foundation. Her husband, Kassy, founder of Panton Capital Group, serves as president of the foundation, while Kebede serves as chair. The foundation has given under $100,000 annually of late and has supported places like Center for Global Development, Lung Transplant Project Foundation, Medshare International, World Orphans Foundation, and Institute of Semitic Studies.

LOOKING FORWARD: Only in her late 30s, Kebede already has made a name as an activist and maternal health advocate. Expect her focus on maternity health to continue, and possibly ramp up in the coming years.


The Kebede Family Foundation does not provide a clear avenue of contact but below is an address:

The Kebede Family Foundation, Inc.
1261 Madison Ave.
New York, NY 10128 


Liya Kebede Foundation

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