Moving with Menelikish Men: Women’s Rights Men

As with any solid formation, AWiB has had a strong focus since its early stages—networking.  We extend ourselves through our tribe.  We are women unleashing potential!  We have gathered to exchange ideas and grow together.  Calling out double standards and violations, we do not stand alone.  There are women’s organizations in Ethiopia we align and collaborate with.  AWiB has been the first of its kind, but we insist on flourishing in different forms.  To name a couple off-shoots of AWiB, take a look at the strong establishments Setaweet and Earuyan Solutions.  There are men feminists, too.  If we had more men champions for women’s rights and support in general, our work would not be necessary.

Over the years, AWiB’s monthly networking events expanded as our programs developed, diverse in exploration of life’s experiences.  We network with each other—and men.  One month out of the 11 we gather at Hilton is dedicated to honoring men who support women—Menelikish Men.

What Do We Mean by Menelikish Men?

In the most unlikely events of all, where it is traditionally men’s designated job to lead a war, Emperor Menelik trusted and delegated Empress Taitu Betul to handle matters of AZMACHNET (leading the warriors) to one of the most historic battles against colonization—the Victory of Adwa.  Many admired Taitu for her courage and boldness.  It is written in history that Taitu continued her support in the diplomacy and PR after that.  Taitu wasn’t only Menelik’s wife, she was his confidant and advisor.  He trusted and believed in her.  He empowered her, giving her space to rise up as a leader.  We might say Menelik unleashed Taitu’s potential!

Where there was not a single restaurant around Addis and all government officials were entertained at the palace with a free of charge dinner “GIBIR” daily, Menelik took a risk allowing Taitu to open the first restaurant and hotel in town, Taitu Hotel.  He became her first customer, encouraging others to pay for the food they ate.  The story of Menelik’s support to Taitu was endless.  It was not the matter of advocacy or popularity in the gender field for Menelik; it was about doing the right thing!

Championing Women

In our purpose of celebrating men uplifting women, AWiB coined the phrase “Menelikish Men.”  This is by no means condoning all Emperor Menelik’s actions but highlighting his character as a man who supported a woman.  We celebrate these men in our communities who, individually or in collaboration with women’s movements, uplift women!  Over the years, some of the men AWiB highlighted include Daniel Kibret, Yohannes Tilahun, Tewodros Tadesse, Haddis Tadesse, Dr. Mehret Debebe, Nebil Kellow, Hallelujah Lulie, Fisseha (Fish) Alazar, Taye Worku, Esayas Yeyesuswork and Andrew DeCort.

Since AWiB’s theme for November 2020 is He for She:  Men Allies Championing Women, we want to highlight feminist organizations that have support from men and are working together to create gender equality.  Some prominent movements:

Setaweet – Setaweet, meaning “Of woman,” was founded in June 2014 by two Ethiopian feminists, Sehin Teferra (PhD) and Billene Seyoum, who saw that Ethiopian feminists needed a safe space to discuss.  The movement challenges social norms and fights sexism in every sphere possible.  Realizing for the feminist movement to be successful we need to work with men, Setaweet organizes on open session every three months on topics that are essential to women and which are open to both women and men.  They are a home-grown, grassroots, and uniquely Ethiopian collective of women and men who are dedicated to the empowerment and liberation of all Ethiopians.

Setaweet has different events to promote gender equality, one of which is #ArifAbbat, created to redefine traditional masculinity.  Setaweet, in partnership with the Swedish Embassy in Addis Ababa, hosted the #ArifAbbat (‘Great Dad’) photo competition and exhibition in December 2017 to encourage active fatherhood.  The event brought together photos of Ethiopian and Swedish fathers in both countries displaying attentive fathers.

Setaweet is a member of the MenEngage Alliance.  MenEngage Africa regional network (MENE) is an organization that believes in working with existing women’s rights movements and engaging men from a positive perspective.  The alliance uses a human rights and gender transformative approach as a means of achieving gender equality, building on evidence, collaboration and transparency, and promoting existing UN mandates.

Earuyan Solutions – Earuyan means “equality” in Geez.  Founded by Billene Seyoum, it is a social impact driven feminist company offering workshops, forums, research, project/program design and content development solutions with a particular focus on projects promoting gender equality and leadership development.  Their vision is to be a leading social impact driven company providing gender equality and transformative leadership promoting solutions for organizations and projects throughout Eastern Africa and the Horn region.

Earuyan currently has three projects it is working on:

  1. Meri Mentorship: designed to introduce and match female university students with experienced Ethiopian women, complimented by a leadership development program
  2. #HERSTORIES: an annual event that features multigenerational women writers of various backgrounds and experiences
  3. #Arifwond (CoolMan): an initiative co-created and supported by Earuyan Solutions.  The team works to promote positive masculinities by mobilizing men through dialogue and reflection to address issues of gender justice in a more systematic way

UNWOMEN, the global champion for gender equality, works to develop and uphold standards and create an environment in which every woman and girl can exercise her human rights and live up to her full potential.  In 2014, UNWOMEN started a movement called HeForShe, a global solidarity movement involving men and boys to achieve gender equality by showing that this issue isn’t only a concern for women but for men, too.

UNWOMEN’s work on engaging men and boys for gender equality is anchored in the belief that achieving gender equality is about transforming unequal power relations between men and women. This involves challenging notions of masculinity and traditional perceptions of manhood.  It requires men to question power dynamics in their actions or their words at the personal, interpersonal and societal level and to take responsibility for change.  Men need to be engaged as gender advocates—speaking out as active agents and stakeholders who can transform social norms, behaviors and gender stereotypes that perpetuate discrimination and inequality.

Be it through the “HeForShe” initiative, which has galvanized citizens around the world to sign up to do their part for gender equality, or its policy and program work, UNWOMEN is actively engaging men and boys for women’s rights.  From the classroom to the streets, local leaders and everyday male champions are addressing violence against women and redefining masculine identities through community intervention programs, education and even music.

UNWOMEN Ethiopia country office with its triple mandate of (i) supporting the strengthening of global norms and standards; (ii) promoting more effective coordination, coherence and gender mainstreaming across the UN system in support of commitments for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (GEWE); and, (iii) supporting the FDRE, upon request, to collaborate in the translation of global norms and standards into Ethiopian legislation, policies and development plans at both national and local levels as part of its operational activities, has been pushing the agenda of GEWE in Ethiopia for the past decade.

#MeTooEthiopia – #MeTooEthiopia is a movement created to bring awareness to Ethiopians who are survivors of sexual violence—both men and women—who have been directly or indirectly affected by the physical, psychological and social trauma of sexual violence in the Ethiopian community.  The group’s mission is to create awareness about sexual assault among Ethiopians around the globe, to provide a safe platform for victims and survivors to speak, and to connect victims with resources that can help them heal and take action.  This movement has created an impact on the public by making people aware of the trauma these women and men have gone through.

Yegna / Girl Effect – Yegna, Girl Effect’s multi-platform youth brand in Ethiopia, tackles different life issues through its radio drama and talk show, TV drama, digital channels and music.  Yegna encourages positive behavior change for girls in Ethiopia by tackling real-life challenges through stories and music.  While Ethiopia is a country on the rise, girls still face serious challenges—from educational access to early marriage and violence.  The group inspires behavior change for girls, boys, their families and communities, by encouraging them to rethink what it means to be a girl in Ethiopia today.  Yegna is also inclusive of boys.  People are often shocked when they realize boys and girls in Ethiopia don’t spend much time interacting with one another once they’ve reached adolescence.  Yegna continues to challenge some male stereotypes and use the male characters to effectively role model the role of boys in girls’ lives.

Why is it Necessary to Involve Men in Women’s Stories?

Paradigm shift is a process.  The ladder to women’s rising up takes time and effort through visibility, conversations, dialogues, resources and recognition.  The world’s HIStory includes endless accounts of men ruling their kingdoms as society’s norms encouraged the solo reign, a status not to be shared.  This simple concept translates into the resistance of sharing power that hurts a society by diminishing women to invisibility.  In order for the paradigm shift to happen, men must be made aware and action must be taken.  And the tool—men themselves:  Menelikish Men.

The Importance of Men Allies to Women

“The evidence shows that when men are deliberately engaged in gender inclusion programs, 96% of organizations see progress — compared to only 30% of organizations where men are not engaged.  But today, too many organizations still miss the mark on gender equity efforts by focusing gender initiatives solely on changing women — from the way they network to the way they lead.  Individualistic approaches to solving gender inequities overlook systemic structural causes and reinforce the perception that these are women’s issues….” (

AWiB’s argument stands this is a societal issue—not only women’s—and the number of men champions, when encouraged, increases exponentially.  Globally, there are numerous feminist movements that have the support of men.  These movements have produced positive results for their countries.  They opened the gateway for equal opportunities for employment, access to education, improved productivity, innovation increase, and much more.

Male allies throughout history have existed including feminist icons such as Frederick Douglass, a women’s rights man.  While numerous male feminists exist, many more need to join the discussions to make equality a reality.  The role of men’s involvement in women’s movements cannot be stressed enough.

We celebrate the men who have acknowledged their privilege, who have shown solidarity, and understand the causes of gender inequality are universal.  Naturally, men are not aware of the impact of their privilege; they enjoy it and resist giving it up.  The patriarchal system led to societal roles, and the fact that women have been excluded from most decisions in history has to be recognized.  With acknowledgement of men’s privilege must come daily practice—men’s stance with women—to rid the world of this oppression.  To have a daily stance against gender inequality, we must understand countless roots to inequality including bigoted gender roles, harassment and abuse, and demoralizing women to control them.

To the men who uplift women by giving opportunities, sponsoring them in their profession and well-being, coaching and mentoring, and encouraging women partners of any kind to join organizations such as AWiB and Setaweetthank you!

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