Fathers, Brothers, Husbands, Cousins, Friends and Relatives in many ways … those who care for the women in their lives and support their dreams, those who encourage and nurture girls and women to  discover their potential to become who they want to become, those AWiB calls MENELEK’ish men, these are the men I am going to talk about.

My childhood, very quiet and at the same time chaotic given the fact that I grew up in a family of nine; i.e. our parents and my siblings plus four-six extended family members at times. Moreover, our neighborhood consisted of eleven households with an average family number of five per household. You can only imagine these days because such social set up is no more there or it’s fading away. Thus, I grew up observing many kinds of fathers in that one compound. The drunk, the lazy bum, the abuser, the arrogant, the careless, and on the other side, the generous, the quite, the discipliner, the hard working, the very poor and guess what?? the Menelikish men, like my dear father.

In our household, it was normal to see my father cook, clean and take care of us when we were kids giving my mother the chance to go to study after work. I think he is the only man at 72 years of age still washes dishes, prepares breakfast and when necessary “ABSIT METAL” really!

Among the many lessons from my father, to mention a few:

Be assertive:      my father lived his life doing what he believes is right and never been bothered about what people say. Even when the social system strongly disproved of men helping at home, he was just carrying out his responsibilities with ease while my mother goes to school after work. I never heard him complain.

Be attentive:      as kids, he always encouraged us to pay attention to time and what we do with it. To make sure we follow through, he prepared a 12-hour time chart where we have to fill with planned activities during the day including school time. To your surprise, we sometime end up using 13 hrs of the 12 hrs given … means we cheated filling the form. Huh, that’s when we were caught and disciplined.

Be Faithful and Give 100%:          having been a very hard working person, my father served for many years and by no means had he missed a day without a very convincing reason nor had he stopped giving his time and his knowledge to a good cause. Retired at 60, the last 12 years he served his community at various levels and he makes us wonder if anyone really appreciates him for what he does. Nevertheless, he gives, gives and gives … none stop and no complaints.

Be purposeful:  one good example, he wrote me a letter while I was away. It said my dear daughter, “I hope you make good use of the money you are earning. Don’t worry about saving when there is something purposeful you can do with it”. Who in their right mind says that to a 23 year old girl unless they know they instilled a good understanding of money and its use right? Sharing remained my rule to live by.

So, the person I am now is more shaped by the love and attention I was given by him and the courage he showed living by his own rules while I was a child and even after I grew up.

Some of the lessons from my dear friends:

By the way, my male friends outnumber my female friends and I have friends that are my father’s age whom I met through my professional networks and grew to admire their quality of life and commitment to what they believe in. Those friends, mentored me professionally, protected me from abuse at work place mainly due to my age and gender, and gave me a space to explore my true self, practice and learn in my own way, and grow in the professional world.

One was my immediate boss, Aba Tesfaye, who never doubted my capacity as a young girl and gave me the opportunity to prove myself. His insistent follow up and encouragement contributed to my attitude towards men colleagues. My first project wouldn’t have been successful without his support. I owe it to him that I had no fear of facing unnecessary confrontations from my male colleagues during my early professional life.

One more to share is my dearest friend Jemal, who at a very critical point in my life, said to me, “Friend, you are like a Gem in garbage, dust off and find your true worth”. If you have been or felt out of place or thought that was the worst place to be, if you are in a situation or time where you think you are not worth anything and bored to …, its friends like Jemal you need. His kind words at a time when I was not ready to recognize my potential blinded by extreme negativity towards my situation, had tremendous impact on my life. I am eternally grateful that he saw my real potential because no other book I read, or people I met made me feel like I am worth something at that time. I was a lost soul for lack of other word. However, his words stuck with me for life. I was at that time convinced that I was there because I deserved it, because I didn’t do my homework, because I was the prodigal daughter, and because I needed to pay for my recklessness.  This friend came to my rescue by just throwing the kindest words I ever heard. It was a moment of truth ever since, I started thinking of way out rather than wasting my time with self pity and sitting there lamenting over my past mistakes and losing hope that there was no way I am going to make it to a better place.  I owe it to him big time. And after all, this is a male friend.

Last but not least, my dear husband, father of my children and my best friend Dagi. A free spirited, supportive and a true ally for the past nine years, bless his heart. Many are surprised at how he manages my friendship with my male friends. I hope I am not the only woman in Addis that goes for morning coffee with bunch of men almost every morning with whom I share my views and opinions, on current affairs, politics, business, etc. Such a platform to brainstorm amazing ideas on social issues as well. Many find it strange though. In addition, my Menelik man is not afraid of seeing me widening my horizon, expanding my network and engaging in what I love, of course challenging me to rise even more. He is a big supporter of AWiB too.

In conclusion, there are men out there who are not afraid of letting women shine, who are courageous enough to be supportive and caring enough despite their upbringing in a society that undermines women. There are men like Menelik who let Taitu rule a kingdom and lead the war for freedom.  Men who are not shy to lead by example and leave a legacy.  As the saying goes, “Behind every successful woman, there is a Menelikish Man”. It could be a father, a brother, a spouse, a friend …

Thanks for reading and I would love to hear your comments on this one till we meet next time with another piece.