AWiB May Form 2022: “Ethnic Politics and Leadership”

’’We need to stop being blind followers and start becoming conscious leaders. We need to evaluate leaders and those who influence us on what their motives are for pushing and shoving some ideas down our throats” Aster Birke, Keynote Speaker

At 8:00 a.m., the doors to the AWiB 2022 May Forum opened. To everyone’s surprise, guests began to pour in shortly after. The excitement and energy of everyone in attendance can be felt in the air. After all, the May Forum was returning for the first time in two years due to COVID.

Kemer Temam, AWiB’s 2021 President, took the stage at 9:12 a.m. to greet guests and introduce the day’s programs. She went on to explain how AWiB has helped many women be true to themselves and become a better version of themselves, emphasizing the importance of becoming a part of the AWiB tribe.

‘I like the event because it’s urgent and latest trending topics ~Ketemaw Alemu~

Kemer thanked AWiB’s partners for the Year First Consult after briefly introducing the year’ theme “TheUtilitarian Way: Reaching Kintusigi” and the theme for the 2022 May Forum “Ethnic Politics and Leadership.” She also congratulated the first graduating cohort of the newly launched MERI program and asked the students to stand up and avail themselves to the audience.

Following the debut of the new AWiB video “10 Years of Excellence,” Kemer Introduced and welcomed the Keynote speaker for the day, Aster Birke Asfaw.

‘I loved the whole program but Aster’s passion is always a highlight’ – Hanna Girma

Aster, who delivered an impassioned speech, began by thanking AWiB for the opportunity and reminiscing about her childhood. She talked about the beauty of oblivion to the things that divided us at the time. She believed that the current ethnic-federalist structure emphasized our community’s division rather than its unity. Another source of Aster’s dissatisfaction was the role of the media in causing schisms in the community.

Aster told the attentively tuned-in audience a story about a German woman during WWII. The woman was expecting her soldier husband to return home for Christmas. Instead, she was visited by wounded American soldiers in need of her assistance as she prepared to slaughter a bird named “Herman” for the holiday fist. German soldiers knocked on her door shortly after, looking for shelter and food for the night. The lady, full of conviction, demanded from the soldiers that if they wanted to be fed and have a place to sleep for the night, they had to put aside their rivalry and get along – break bread with the “Enemy.” Aster stated that this story emphasized one critical point that we all choose to overlook: everything in our lives is a CHOICE. We choose to make peace with our brothers, to go to war, to divide ourselves along ethnic lines, to focus on things that bring us together, and to politicize ethnics.

In conclusion, Aster encouraged participants to become critical thinkers and active supporters rather than blind followers of politicians. She stated that this was the only way to achieve the desired change.

Tea time and a great networking session as one of the objectives of May Forum is just that– AWiB is about connection, connection and connection.

“After a two-year hiatus, the forum is a wonderful opportunity to catch up with AWiBers, discuss possible future plans & have fun” ~ Nebat Abbas ~

  1. Ethnic Politics and leadership Crisis

“We must not be anything other than what we are.”― Maaza Mengiste, Beneath the Lion’s Gaze

 Abigeya Getachew was the moderator of the session with the title “Ethnic Politics and Leadership Crisis”. She started by describing what AWiB does for women to come to Leadership positions. So, does the political system affect women in leadership? Did the political system hold back women to not proceed with leadership? After introducing the title and the objective of the session, the moderator handed over the stage to the speakers.

Dr. Fasil Nahum
Dr. Fasil Nahum has taught law at Addis Ababa University for over a decade, where he served as associate professor and Dean of the Faculty of Law. He is also the Founding President of the Ethiopian Civil Service College. He has followed the constitutional ups and downs of his country at closer range.

Seble Hailu
Seble Hailu is former president of AWiB. Seble is a leadership strategist working as a general manager of Ende communication consultancy and counseling company, past executive director of Reconciliation Commission, and also teaches in different places including Addis Ababa University.

Dr. Sisay Alemahu
Dr. Sisay is assistant professor in Addis Ababa University law school. He is a well-known researcher on different topics: human rights, democratic institutions and other related fields. He is also a guest teacher at different universities all around the world, and worked more than a decade in different international organizations as a law agent.

Dr. Fasil Nahum took the stage and thanked AWiB for the chance he got and also how much he believes in women and their power to change the country for the better. He opened the session by explaining about the constitution and how it all started. Explaining about the constitution we have to know the baseline of it Dr. Fasil believes. His speech was about the constitutional journey of Ethiopia in the last 100 years. What did the past of the constitution look like, what it looks like now and also what it will look like in the future? The solid reason for creating the constitution is the Deployment of Administration. Comparing it to the past rulers of Ethiopia, the difference is the constitution being written and not written. Dr. Fasil mentioned Queen Saba, Queen Zewditu leading the country with unwritten constitution, Haile Selassie I was Emperor of Ethiopia who brought the first written constitution to the country in 1923 having 2 houses as a parliament but the constitution added a flame to being a full absolute monarchy. Mengistu Haile Mariam, a former army officer and politician who was the head of state of Ethiopia revised the constitution in 1976 which was still absolute monarchy, again in 1979 the constitution was revised that aim to change it from absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy which was still a Unitary state, and another revised constitution under EPRDF in 1983 where the 17 ethnic groups participated. The current constitution was revised in 1987. The main aim of the constitution is to create a connection between the government and the people by verifying human rights said Dr. Fasil. He explained in detail about the journey of the constitution through every new system. Dr. Fasil also mentioned that the government is also given a limited power over the people it rules by the constitution. He prefers the word ethno linguistic instead of ethnic. After a brief explanation of the constitution and its journey, the moderator gave the turn to Dr. Sisay.

Dr. Sisay thanked AWiB for the invitation to explain this idea. He mentioned that at the time of the student’s movement in early 70s, known for land to the tiller “መሬት ላራሹ” movement, Waleelgn Mekonnen, one of the famous leaders of the time, wrote an article “On the question of Nationality”. This document is believed to start the situation of the Nationality Crisis. Dr. Sisay shared his own story that is connected to ethnicity and as he was a 14 year old boy who was raised in a small town in West Harerge in 1984 E.C. This was a time of upheaval and change that afforded the young man a significant political exposure. Western Hararge is 99% Muslim and Oromifa speakers. But the administrators of the city were only Amharic speakers and managed the community in Amharic language which was foreign to the overwhelming majority of the residents. He was the only Amharic and Oromifa speaker that joined the elementary school that gave him a comparative advantage because the course was being given in Amharic. For those who didn’t manage to speak the Amharic language, their fate was sealed…not much future. So, he believes, as a witness of this travesty, imposing a language other than their own is proven to be futile and breeds contempt.

Dr. Sisay mentioned that he agrees with Dr. Fasil of using the word ethno linguistic instead of ethnic. He mentioned that the constitution starts by saying Nation, nationalities and peoples instead of just by saying we the people of Ethiopia. He in short explained the constitution and what he believes to be the good and bad side of it. One example he mentioned is the case of the constitution giving the right to secession to ethnic governments. He recalled what former P.M of Ethiopia Meles Zenawi on one interview said when asked why give this chance to the local governments and he answered “Closing the door and window will cause more damage than opening it.” And another question has been raised: can one person claim for a group. Ethnic Politics gave the chance to create at least one liberator group for every ethnic group. Dr. Sisay also covered the many pros and cons of Ethnic politics.

The last speaker, Seble Hailu, thanking AWIB for the platform started her speech, “everything rises and falls with Leadership.” She explained how the political system has a long hand in leadership. Many find “Democratic leadership in Ethiopia in a limbo; is it really a democratic system or a dictatorial and autocratic. Seble underlined that the so called ethnicity is taken to serve our political means and abused, even though the reality affects all of us because we all live inside it. Majority rule and minority right is a serious case when it comes to ethnicity and leadership, Seble explained in detail the effect of lack of leadership in ethnic government.

Questions from the audience:

  1. The politicization of ethnicity as a weapon for “divide and rule”, how to end this strife that never helps the people (from any ethnic group) but the ruling party?2.
  2. The constitution begins by saying nations, nationalities and people of Ethiopia instead of “We the people”. Doesn’t this undermine our other differences such as gender?
  3. Why are we still focusing on war? How are we ever going to stop talking about war?
  4. What is the difference between Genres and why is it used to describe ethnic politics?
  5. How is it to go through different government systems?
  6. When is the right time to edit and revise the constitution?
  7. Do you believe that for the biased ethnic politics not only the constitution but also the curriculum has a hand in contributing to the mess?
  8. As previously asked, the constitution started by the nation, nationalities and people of Ethiopia, do we really have a place as an individual in the constitution?
  9. The leadership is still tied to one ethnic group even if they address themselves as the Federal Government. What is the impact of this unending cycle on other ethnic groups or the focus on ethnicity rather than citizens?

“Listening to professionals opinion on Ethnic Politics, it has always been a sensitive issue in the society which makes it almost impossible to talk about it, but I believe it should be addressed” ~ Feven Teshome~

  1. Developing and Practicing Critical Thinking

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”—Aristotle

The second parallel session which satisfies the objective of AWiB May Forum as professional development day was delivered by Eskinder Kassa, the founder, CEO and Executive Couch of LITHWS (Let Individual Transformation for a Higher World Solution) a training and coaching firm. The moderator of this session was Nebat Abbas, an HR specialist.

Eskinder Kassa kicked off the training by appreciating AWiB for creating such a platform and an opportunity. He further continued by introducing the session and asked to share “Why we are here, on earth?” to the person sitting next to us. This question brought confusion to everyone. Some answered to survive, others viewed it from a spiritual point of view and believed to be a gift to this world and yet some explained metaphorically that this world is like a human body and we are parts of it so for the body to function we must each play our role. In the end we agreed that we all have purpose. But then he gave us the homework of discovering “Why are we not fulfilling our desires? Why we are not going for our purposes?”

Eskinder emphasized that it is difficult to change the world but the one thing we can guarantee is to change on ourselves. That is being the change we want to see in this world. He quoted Michelangelo “I saw an angle in the marble & carved until I set him free.” which was elaborated by the activity he gave us subsequently. Before we talk about critical thinking, we have to know our own paradigm which is shaped by the many experiences we have during our formative years.

The audience listed down top 10 values they embody and exchanged them with other participants. The participants then identified which ones they observed in their role models and those who they consider successful.

At the end Eskinder told us that all the qualities we see on our paper are the qualities that are within ourselves but that might be hidden by the different life encounters that have become perceptions and eventually believes. He further explained on The Science of Thinking which mentions that 10% of the thing that happens to us are what life exposes us to but the 90% of the impact is dependent on our interpretations. In summary, he said life is abundant that it manifests all of our interpretations, so let us be careful on the interpretations we put out to the world and the glasses we wear from which we view the world with. He challenged the participants with a question on how we can remove our glasses. Some of the responses mentioned were to acknowledge we have glasses, invest on our self, and be open minded to change but most of all to forgive ourselves and others.

Questions from the audience:

  1. How we know that we have put on the glasses?

Eskinder answered, we will an unsettling feeling that gives us a constant reminder of something that is wrong, so listen to your instincts.

  1. On the wrongness and rightness of the principles that are accepted in society as a whole?

He responded that on every action we take we must always ask ourselves “What am I doing? What am I getting from it?”

  1. Do I have to first solve my problems to see change in others and the world?

Eskinder: Our problems are infinite; it is like a folder we keep on unfolding”. You can always impact the society the best way you can but this impact will be of exponential benefit if you are an example of the change, if you have gone through the process yourself.

  1. What was your turning point?

Eskinder: It was when I attended a training in India where a young man explains the key to his success at a young age was that he was doing something he was passionate about. So I decided to follow his footsteps – to teach, which my passion was. And in this I had to learn a lot and this helped me discover a lot about myself.

Some more questions:

How do we arrive at the point of removing the different and oftentimes incorrect  “glasses” – recognizing the need to change .

There are perspectives which are deeply held by our society as inarguable. How do we face them and correct our understanding?

The need to recognize different perspectives from others

Some perspectives are wrongly putting youth on a path of illusions of self-grandeur.  We need to be realistic in our praise and candid feedback.

The need for forgiveness – for ourselves first and for those whom we feel they slighted us – as the only way of healing.

We agreed at the end that the discussion raised more questions than answered.

“I like AWiB’s commitment to invest on women, to give opportunities to women from rural areas through sponsorship. All session were useful. They have been a floor to push me to my limits. I like the programme as they have been an awakening call to strive for excellence.” ~ Kidist Sheferaw~

3. Communicating your Vision

“There is nothing more demoralizing than a leader who can’t articulate why we’re doing what we’re doing.” – James Kouzes and Barry Posner

Helina Girma accompanied by Roman Tafessework led a riveting discussion on the topic of communicating your vision. Helina is an International Leadership Trainer, Public Speaker, Life Coach and Founder of InsideOut Transformation Group. She is currently working on accomplishing her vision of reaching a grander stage in which she can serve people through personal development and leadership training.

Helina started by sharing her personal story of how she used to be a shy girl from her family. She accepted her shyness because she didn’t challenge the conclusion that was given to her. She advices everyone to think in questions and not in statements. She asked herself ‘Am I a shy girl?’ rather than saying ‘I am a shy girl’. Thus, begins her journey of personal development. Helina said that personal development and self-discipline are crucial for a leader. A leader cannot be a leader if he/she cannot develop themselves through challenges and new experiences. Helina also said leadership is serving others. She mentioned a leader has to “walk the talk” and show by example before expecting others to follow.

To be a leader, one has to have a vision. Helina identified it as the indispensable quality of leadership. It is what brings order to chaos and brings the world into touch. That’s why it’s vital to separate our sight and our vision. A vision is what could be, a grand possibility that is not bound by our current situation. A vision has no boundaries and it is terrifying and gives electrifying energy for the leader. A vision is something that is not realistic yet. It is accomplished in the mind of the visionary and waiting to be accomplished in the real world.
Our sight, on the other hand, puts us off from dreaming big and having a vision. A vision has to scare us. It is the highest peak we could imagine.

Helina said communicating the vision is very important if we truly want to achieve it. She said it is important to choose the people who we communicate our vision to, as they have to be capable of sharing our vision, and encourage us to move forward. They might not necessarily be our family members, our co-workers etc…

Helina said we have to simplify our vision when communicating it with others.  In addition, it is essential to communicate not only our vision but also our challenges. This helps us from having burn outs but also gain supportive people who will share our vision. We also have to set priorities. Another advice was to stop comparing ourselves. She said ‘Nobody is a mistake. We just pick our experiences and move on.’

Helina also said to have a vision board. It is a like any other board but where you will draft your vision. Helina advised we can use words when making our own vision boards but she advised it would be much better if we used pictorial representations so that it will be on our mind constantly.

As a leader, vision alone is not enough. Roman, the moderator, summarized it well,”a leader should have a vision and a vision should be communicated”. The main question is why? Helina reasons that a vision needs people. One person can’t achieve everything but with people who believe in the cause achieving that is possible. That’s why communication is key. But for communication to work, building a connection is vital. Creating a safe, trustable, caring space facilitates communication.

To communicate our vision:

  1. Creating a vision statement.
  2. Keeping it simple
  3. Being authentic
  4. Communicating through multiple channels
  5. Walking according to vision
  6. Asking for feedback
  7. Mapping out our path
  8. Repeating and repeating

Finally, we can define our vision in pictures. Picturing the sets of elements of a landscape can shape our vision. The horizon is the height of possibilities with our vision. Flowers, the enjoyment of the journey we are going through. The Sun, it’s the shining bright hope that keeps us moving forward. The path is the direction we have to take to reach our vision. Mountains are the challenges we have to face to reach our vision. The Birds, the potential our vision has, and last but not least yourself, the committed person behind it all. If we display all of these aspects when communicating our vision, people will feel connected and know what they are going into.

Overall, the discussion was filled with recollections from both women that showed how impactful communicating our vision is. It was saddled with stories of great women and men in history who not only had great visions but continually communicated their visions to those around them. And that communication is what led them to be notable figures whose work and actions still live on today.

The only thing worse than being blind is having no vision. – Helen Keller

Women in Lead: Women of Vision

After a sumptuous lunch and a structured networking session of 2 hours, it was time to go back to the conference hall and be entertained, mesmerized, inspired and charged by a session women in lead. Three successful and leader-qualified women; Dr. Teguest Guerma (M.D), W/ro. Genet Kebede, and W/ro. Andinet Feleke shared the stage with AWiB’s very own W/ro. Kemer Temam, as she facilitated the experience sharing stage and questions and answers from the audience.

All these exemplary women presented their own unique experiences and demonstrated what made them all leaders through their life experiences. Dr. Teguest Guerma, a patriotic expat who left the world of comfort of an abroad life to fulfil a childhood dream of better service for Ethiopian mothers started her speech by recalling the resilience she was born with, as she had to fight for survival from her very first arrival in this world, along with the good fortune she had as she lived in the city. She went on with her speech by underlining the need for passion, determination, self-confidence, cooperative mindsets among women, selling oneself, to lead by example, with an emphasis on the usage of money to invest in humanity.

The next diva, W/ro. Genet Kebede, a calm, hardcore, passionate, resilient and an experienced pioneer in the garment and manufacturing industry demonstrated the need to love one’s job as an anchor to jump the hurdles life presents with every now and then, the need to appreciate one’s self, to always keep on going, to chase excellence and let the money follow.

The third woman was Andinet Feleke, a contemporary, light and charismatic young entrepreneur in the tourism sector, presented to us her own unique life path, her core believes on opportunity identification, a rear view of failure, as a chance to learn and the need to pass through a process, she was distinct in underlining the need for innovative and contemporary solutions for current and unpredictable changes the day brings, she underlined to be open to fail, as it would mean to learn in the best way. Unsurprisingly, they all shared their vulnerability and the tough times they had endure to get to here they are today. These ladies were real life prototypes of what women can do.

Concluding remarks was given by Roman Tafessework on “AWiB Matters” and the well awaited annually May Forum that was created in 2012, to cultivate a culture of dialogue came to an end. AWiB, every year bring current relevant issues and takes a day with experts to inform, educate and enlighten. What made this year a bit special was it resumed after two years of interruption because of C19. This year’s May forum was a sign of hope for a good thing to come. Close to 300 people who took a day off from busy schedule to attend would become testimonial to such momentous occasion.

Thank you AWiBers and Friends of AWiB. We wouldn’t move an inch without the staunch support of our community. We encourage you to find you tribe in AWiB

The AWiB Team.

“People say women sometimes choose outer beauty than the inner, but not us the AWiBers. We know spending on our external body is vital and makes us beautiful, but AWiB makes us useful! Purposeful & powerful”. ~Roman Tafessework~

AWiB Aspires to Inspire!!!

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