Menelikish men – ReCap

AWiB hosted another wonderful, thought-provoking and entertaining monthly event entitled “AWiB’s Menelikish Men: Men who Support Women”. The panelists shared their personal and professional experiences on the issue. The presentation was really a cohesive conversation between the speakers and the audience. Elements of culture, religion, leadership, child rearing, maternity and paternity leave, policy and self-evaluation were all touched upon, wholly revolving around various aspects of women lacking adequate support on all levels of their personal and work life.

First panelist, Dr. Mehret Debebe, is not only a consulting psychiatrist but also an author and a motivational speaker. With a focus on mindset change and personal development, Dr. Mehret provides various corporate trainings, has published two renowned novels widely read by the Ethiopian public and is also a regular radio guest as an advisor on personal development matters. He started off by saying that we are all born with “infinite possibilities to be either selfless or selfish” and that is what determines whether a man can truly support a woman. Dr. Mehret believes that in order for a man to truly support his counterpart, he must first understand and be in tune with himself as an individual; he must essentially love himself first. He made a clever analogy stating that men and women are but hardware with different software and as such should be approached accordingly with patience and respect and most importantly with the notion that “the concept of support” cannot be forced unto anyone but better yet trained.

Dr. Mehret talked about the importance of working on our children and stressed that the issue of supporting women comes from within an individual; basically saying that the more enlightened an individual is to matters of the world the more willing he is to accept the notion of supporting women as a natural part of life. He mentioned that culture encompasses social media, politics, religion and educational systems as a whole and thus the responsibility lies in the enlightened individual to bring change to whatever aspect she or he can to contribute to this movement. He even said that unfortunately for us, this generation is the one that must sacrifice for the next generation to live in a world of equality and mutual understanding and support. He ended his piece by saying “we can’t be happy when the other half of the population is not; a win-win is always better than a win-loose”.

AWiB’s second panelist, Nebil Kellow is the Managing Director of “Enterprise Partners”, a social enterprise with the objective to enable access to finance by facilitating agro-industrial growth. The project’s major aim is to impact women in particular, creating skill development for women to work in Ethiopia’s industrial parks. Nebil’s first speech was all about thanking AWiB for giving him the chance to reflect on such a topic and for getting him to get out of his comfort zone in order to look within himself to understand his experience and his stance on the matter. He first said that his support for his wife was out of love and not an obligation. “I don’t think I deserve a cookie” and so has never thought of why this had to be an issue but was now made boldly aware that it is infact a topic that must be always discussed until it has changed.

He believes that things haven’t changed strongly due to culture as many of our Ethiopian ways have been deepened and perpetuated throughout time. He mentioned how he believed King Menelick was beyond his time for even thinking of letting his wife take control as he let her do. As far as prioritizing time to raise our kids, when comforted with the question of maternity policy in the country, he said that each parent has to set their own priorities and make the decision to raise their kids on whatever time frame they wish to, considering the obvious fact that, it is a luxury for most to have that allotted time to do so in terms of policy and financial stability. He jokingly added that “left to our own devices, we could get away with the way things are another 1000 years”. And so his strong points was to make sure we talk about these issues and begin to become comfortable with the topic enough to always talk about it. He ended his piece by saying that this gender equality issue is not one that can be led by men but instead by women and that it will not be a gentle or progressive fight but one that will have to be disruptive if anything.

Third panelist, Haddis Desta, Director for Ethiopia and representative to the AU at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation began his piece by saying he was no expert at this matter but an ardent observer of the matter. He shared his experience of working for female bosses and his high appreciation for women in leadership positions, stating that the world needs more of that than anything else. He mentioned that his association’s maternity and paternity leave is for a year, much to the audience’s applaud; and then added “this is not to be nice but because it makes good business sense”. An employee must be valued for their contribution to the company and must be taken care and waited upon whenever the birth of child occurs. 

He asked the audience to consider just how far they are willing to go when it comes to the fight for women right’s and equality. When asked what’s in it for him in terms of gender equality he said that its not what in it for him but the fact that it is the right thing to do for the nation and setting up the right platform for the next generation to come. He said the absence of females in high political position, the civil society decision-making arena, governmental policy sphere and all aspects of leadership is taking away 50% of the nations ability to grow and progress on all matters. He ended his piece by saying that culture is not static and change must be forced to work, “remember the other half of the population, women, is the most productive”.


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