Martha Kumsa arrived in Canada as a refugee in 1991, escaping a life of terror and uncertainty in Ethiopia. As a broadcaster and print journalist, she continued to write voluminously during the 10 years she spent in jail as a prisoner of conscience in Addis Ababa. Martha came to Canada as a single mother with three children; her husband had disappeared in Ethiopia and Martha had no news about his survival for thirteen years. In 1996 he joined the family in Canada.
Toronto Star News ArticleAlthough experienced in her field, Martha could not find comparable employment in Canada. In 1992, she came to Skills for Change and completed a course in Life Skills and Job Search. The agency gave her insight into the Canadian workplace and wider community that as a result, she made the decision to return to school full-time to study Social Work and is currently finishing her Ph.D. at the University of Toronto. After many years of coping with financial difficulties and juggling the demands of family, school and a job, Martha was recently hired by the Wilfrid Laurier University in a tenure track teaching position.
Martha has published a number of learned articles as well as essays and poetry. She has presented papers at conferences in Toronto, the U.S., the United Kingdom, Germany and Sweden and participates in panel discussions on issues related to human rights and freedom of expression.
Martha is an active member of PEN International, PEN Canada, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, the Oromo-Canadian Womens Organization and is a founding member of Ormo Global Communities Network. She also actively volunteers for Amnesty International.
In 1996, Martha received the Helman/Hammet Award for Free Expression from Human Rights Watch in New York and, in the same year also received the Dr. Wilson Head Memorial Award for Outstanding Work in Anti-Racism, Peace and Human Rights from Atkinson College, York University.