Alemi Daba was born in Ethiopia in an Oromo tribal village, where girls ordinarily did not go to school. Her contact with American missionaries enabled her to get an education. Because Alemi was Christian, she was tortured and imprisoned under the communist government, which executed her husband and other members of her family. Alemi escaped with her two daughters and arrived in San Diego in 1988 as refugees. Alemi put her energies toward learning a new language and culture. She began to assist other refugees and emerged as a leader of what became a refugee community of many thousands.
She has served as a "peacemaker" between members of refugee communities whose countries have been at war. As Director of Women and Children for the Alliance for African Assistance, Alemi helped refugees from around the world resettle in San Diego. Alemi spearheaded several new programs with the Alliance to improve access to healthcare and to provide specialized services for senior citizens. she also has been a spokeswoman for Refugee Women Hand-in-Hand.