An Evening of Life-Giving Conversations: AWiB Listened

Conversations bubbled throughout the room: what does it mean to be a woman in contemporary society? This is a recap of the event held on January 10th, 2013.

‘Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t’ – Bill Nye

Indeed, AWiB enjoyed deeply listening to 57 ladies at 10th January 2013 event, as they shared their deep reflections on what it means to be a woman in contemporary society, especially Ethiopian society.

The methodology deployed for the conversation was World Café, a participatory one, aiming to have those frank conversations we often have in cafés and during workshop coffee breaks, and bring them into the room itself. World Café was created by Juanita Brown and David Isaacs in the late 1990s, and this methodology has been applied by organizations (government, business and not-for-profit) and communities around the world. It aims to foster collaborative dialogue, sharing mutual knowledge, and discovering new opportunities for action.

Ready, Set…Go!

All those present, a mix of participants from the private, not-for-profit, medical and entertainment sectors, were invited into an energizer in which they were encouraged to move around and get to know each other. They then joined an AWiB Board Member/ Moderator at each table.

The World Cafe’ was set up in the following manner:

–        The participants would be asked three questions, and would have 20 minutes to have conversations on each question

–        The participants would disperse to other tables after having had dialogue on each question.

The central questions posed for the rest of the evening were:

1. Without being shy, as a woman, what unique qualities do I express?

2. What elements of our culture may be holding us back from fulfilling our full potential?

3. Where will I be when we overcome our challenges? Together, where will we be?

The Conversations

The participants appeared to be so committed to get to know their table-mates that they were slightly resistant to moving around after each question. The ease of moving around though, increased as the evening progressed: perhaps that’s because the benefit of hearing from new members, and accessing new perspectives, became apparent.

The level of energy in the room substantially increased throughout the evening.

In essence, here are highlights of what was shared for each question, the first one being:

Without being shy, as a woman, what unique qualities do I express?

Women were being recognized as having limitless femininity and power, having the capacity to love deeply, to hold and balance different roles (professional, social, and as a mother) in society. Their resilience, patience and fearlessness were recognized.

Here are highlights on other elements shared in the table conversations: women’s qualities of being perseverant, comfortable in expressing their feelings and caring. In addition, the ripple effect a woman can have in society was mentioned. As a woman changes herself, her family changes, and so does her environment.

The invitation here was to use this gift more to make a difference in one’s community and society, since a woman’s strength can increase when a woman knows her worth, and what she can contribute.

Reflections on the second question below, were shared as follows:

What elements of our culture may be holding us back from fulfilling our full potential?

The obstacles identified, to reaching one’s potential included some the norms in one’s culture, society’s enforcement of Do’s and Don’ts, living in a patriarchal and hierarchical culture, the lack of female role models (or lack of knowledge of those that exist), and the pre-defined roles/ expectations for women and men. Observations on how women are experiencing a double burden (being motherhood, work and other social responsibilities), were shared. At times however, it was noted that since women are expected to stay at home with the children, they do not assume leadership roles outside their homes. A provocative question was shared: could it be that some men feel threatened by the very confident women?

In the various tables, other responses shared included expectations for women to be shy, and the women’s own sense of guilt.

And yet, the questions posed were: how do we, as women create our own culture? How are we perpetuating certain practices in our culture? Does this serve us? How are we creating systems that are confining us? If we wish to see change, do we live what we speak?

A conclusion was reached on changing one’s mindset, and being pro-active as individuals to generate the change one dreamed about.

The conversation proceeded to reflecting on the final question, which was:

Where will I be when we overcome our challenges? Together, where will we be?

In other words: ‘What is waiting to happen? What opportunities lie ahead?’

The energy in the room mounted when we all explored what possible in a society where the various challenges mentioned were overcome. ‘The sky is the limit!’, exclaimed one. The members present envisioned a society:

– in which there is more freedom and creativity, and one can be more authentic,

– in which women’s caliber is expressed in every arena of life, and where they become bolder

– where there is a shift in attitude,

– where women are not making sacrifices any more,

– in which there is equal pay,

– where perceptions on motherhood as a ‘deficit’ shift to a positive one,

– where there is harmony in the family, and thus, in society,

– where women feel liberated in the most private areas of their lives

– where one writes one’s own life script!

Time was taken to reflect on the necessity to be bold and a risk-taker, and how vital it is to take responsibility for one’s self development.

In reflection, that is what AWiB intends to provide – a platform for participants to have space to develop the safe and others, so that potential can be untapped.

The moderator, Nadia Waber, concluded by hoping that such deep reflections and conversations that give life could continue in one’s family and organization.

With gladness, some of those who attended commented on how the conversation just had was the kind they had been waiting for.

Draw for the ‘Art for a Good Cause’ Campaign

The evening would not have been complete without the raffle draw of the long-awaited ‘Art for a Good Cause Campaign’, with the purpose of promoting a culture of art (read here for more information: and to support two micro-businesses in Addis Ababa.

In the midst of all agog, waiting for the results, 15 random participants made the draw. The 15 winners of the 15 art pieces were:

1.  Selam Geremew – ticket no. 1029
2.  Brian Horn                          1003
3.  Abate Sebsebe                    0517
4.  Fulvio Arborio                      0010
5.  Yu Ming Mui                         0178
6.  Ulrich Plien                          0701
7.  Seble Aemro                       0274
8.  Tilahun Deribe                     0253
9.  Lily Amde                            0267
10. Ben irwin                            0406
11. Brian Geenough                   0103
12. Girma Lemma                      0334
13. Bruktawit Assefa                  0906
14. Jacque Dubois                     0714
15. MOENCO                             0778

As a parenthesis, we would like to inform all those who purchased tickets that the Temsalet Catering micro-business has have already received 80,000 Ethiopian Birr for the expansion of its business, and Lucy Weaving project will receive theirs by mid-January 2013.  These communities, have thus benefitted from a total of ETB 160,000!

Sharing cries of appreciation, the Temsalet business members shared that through the income they would generate, they would at last be able to educate their children.

AWiB sincerely thanks all those who contributed to the cause, as purchasers or volunteers, and is already waiting with expectation for the next monthly event, and engagement with enthusiasts of personal development and societal change.

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