Investing in Young Female Leaders – MERI

Seble Hailu

I recently attended a Christmas program in which we were asked to reflect on the history and meaning of Christmas. Some focused on the fact that we should not celebrate it because Jesus and his 12 disciples never celebrated Jesus’ birthday. Others said Christmas is more about business, celebrated for commercial reasons with buying and selling, especially in developed nations. Others consider it a season to get together and socialize with family members. Still, others focused on why Jesus was born as a Savior.  

My reflections revolved around what king Herod did and his leadership style. As soon as king Herod heard about the prophecy being fulfilled that Jesus was born to be the King of Israel and the Savior of the world, Herod made sure to kill all children below age two so that they would not have a chance to be a threat to his throne and kingdom. Herod’s sustainable leadership strategy was to kill the young generation who would threaten his status quo, ensuring his rulership, as if he would live forever on his throne.

Leadership that revolves around self-interest kills the vision of the young generation and misses the point that we need to intentionally prepare the youth to assume responsibility to lead the world better. Visionary leadership requires creating an ecosystem of peace and development whereby our children, youth, and young adults use their potential to transform our world. Preparing the generation to assume leadership positions ensures that the world will be in safe hands rather than killing possible “threats.”

On Saturday, I was invited to attend the celebration of a three-year program called MERI, which aimed to train and mentor young female university students, building their soft leadership skills and preparing them to change their lives and positively influence their world. The weekly training focused on knowing self and others, managing relationships, and living purposefully; the art of letting go and preparing them for the world of work. It required purposeful investment in the youth, enabling them to build confidence in who they are as they craft their way up.  

Unlike Herod, visionary leaders designed a 12 weeks intensive program, selected female students committed to working on themselves. Then, qualified trainers were recruited to train the students. The process was complemented by matching the trainees with model mentors who exhibited lived and proven leadership and were willing to take the selected 300 girls on life modeling exemplary leadership.

I felt very proud to see a young generation who take their life seriously and prepare themselves for a lifestyle that builds our Country. I firmly believe that peacebuilding requires focusing on investing, managing self, the discipline to use time and resources effectively, and working on relationships. The twelve weeks of intensive training and two hours meeting with mentors have started bearing fruits for them, as they witnessed in this Meri Medrek 2022 program.    

One of the African Union’s visions for 2063 is An Africa, whose development is people-driven, relying on the potential of African people, especially its women and youth, and caring for children. However, this vision cannot be realized without working on it NOW. AWiB, in collaboration with Eauyrian Solutions and other partners, raised the fund to invest in our continent’s future.Though this was a noble task bearing fruit, the enormity of the work and the dwindled fund did not match compromising continuity. 

The older generation sometimes complains about the younger generation for their misbehavior, addiction to substances, and nowadays, phones, and dropping out of school. Yet, some of did little except pay for them to get a good education. As a country and the African continent, we need to redirect our attention to investment in the younger generation, which is not limited to sending them to expensive schools.  

We are doing a favor to ourselves when we invest in children and youth. Countries’ substantial economic, social, and political costs result from adverse outcomes such as early school dropout, poor labor market entry, risky sexual behaviors, substance abuse, and crime and violence. 

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