Monthly event RECAP – He For She:  Men Allies Championing Women

The Nov. 5, 2020 event opened with remarks from AWiB 2020 president Felekech Zewde.  She said in its 10-year journey, AWiB has presented extraordinary monthly programs to celebrate and recognize men allies championing women as a showcase to create positive change in our communities.

AWiB monthly gatherings—always open to women and men—bring networking in focus with interesting programs companies can sponsor.  Castel Winery (BGI Ethiopia), Hadero Coffee Company, and East Africa Bottling SC, Subsidary of Coca Cola Beverages Africa jumped on the opportunity to support the AWiB movement and men uplifting women.

The men champions honored were Tameru Wondm Agegnehu, Amanyehun R. Sisay, and Befekadu Hailu with legal, journalism, public policy, community development, political, writing and human rights backgrounds.  The discussion was moderated by Sehin Teferra (PhD), founder and director of Setaweet and former AWiB board member.

Sehin started the session by thanking AWiB for creating such a platform that highlights men supporting women, the men standing out especially in Ethiopia where a community-based, similar-minded society exists.

Ahead of the program, the moderator asked speakers to reflect on, “What inspires you to support and be allies to women?”

Tameru was supported by his mother to pursue his education.  Though she was uneducated and there was no school nearby in the town he grew up, his mother was able to envision his future.  It was due to her endless support that he was able to pursue his career as vice president for the Supreme Court.  He believes that women’s rights are a basic and necessary part of life – as human rights.

Tameru added the very nature of women being care-givers has forced the lifestyles to become servants of families and give all their time and energy to their families.  However, what blocks the freedom is not the care-giver nature but the mindset of the majority of society.

Amanyehun shared the story of his childhood as being a restless and curious kid, but his mother’s tolerance and patience was enormous, later shaping and nurturing his career.  She was also independent and wise in financial management.  When he had the idea of having his own business but no financial capacity to start up the business, female members of his family encouraged him and lent him money to get started.  His life experience and education are his prime factors to support women empowerment.  And now being a full-time politician (EZEMA), his party is working on the gender mainstreaming during the development of agricultural, industry, education and financial policies.

Amanyehun emphasized bringing women to leadership will increase profit and is the shortcut to fight poverty and overcome existing challenges.

Befekadu’s basic reason and way to support women is to be independent himself.  He said, “Men are so dependent on women, however, it is covered by men having the political and economic upper-hand.”

Befekadu believes there is no equivalent injustice within the country in terms of political, economic, or social challenges in comparison to those imposed on women.  He also shared a study by the World Bank: If all girls in Ethiopia were to complete grade 12 there will be an increase of 4 Billion Dollars to the GDP.

Questions related to the justice system, public administration, culture, media and educational system were asked by the audience exploring:

  • Justice system – gap between policies and execution
  • Segregation of duties by rural and urban women where urban women have a double burden for domestic and professional work
  • Contribution of panelists to improve the social challenges in their respective sector
  • How to provide legal and political support for women to spend more time with their children
  • How does gender parity benefit men?

Panelists addressed the questions by sharing their personal experiences on efforts made to bring change.

Aman explained his party is working of drafting around 39 policy out of 40 that are related to gender equality and for all those who are under privileged and is subject to be reviewed by professionals.  As the founder and executive editor of Addis Maleda, he also features successful women on the cover page of the newspaper.  However, there is a cultural perception that Addis Maleda is owned by a woman since it featured three “Super Women” in a row.  All the while, no one asked why so many men were featured when his newspaper covered 11 men in a row.  This perception must change, and we all need to work on education and economic empowerment of women to bring the required change, he said.

While Tameru explained how the professional demography has changed from 1964 E.C.—where women’s jobs were limited to cleaners, messengers and copy typists in the judiciary structure—to currently having a woman Chief judge and women judges, attorneys, secretaries, etc.  This is progress, but we still have a long way to go, he said.  Change does not come based on willingness; it comes when there is a change in the economic (Education and Knowledge) and political structure, he remarked.

Befekadu was bold about most men not being on the front line to fight for women’s right. Having an editorial policy of women in Addis Maleda is one of his proudest things to do in order to support women.

Kemer Temam AWiB present-elect made the closing remarks reminding everyone to advocate for women’s rights and thanked the panelists and moderator for being champions by sharing their experiences.

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