Mebrat Beyene: Serving Her Nation with Commitment

Mebrat Beyene was born and raised in Mekelle, in Tigray region in a family of six siblings. Mebrat served her country as a freedom fighter with TPLF and after freedom was won, as a diplomat for 24 years. Mebrat joined the freedom fighting movement along with TPLF at the age of 20; retired at 60 from her diplomatic mission she continues life as a philanthropist and as an instructor at the Civil Service College sharing her experiences and guiding the young generation in the schooling of diplomacy. Mebrat has earned a Master’s degree in internal relations fromUniversity of Amsterdam. Mebrat says it is gratifying to give back to a society that sustains life as she knows it. Mebrat, in collaboration with a few of her comrades, is writing a book depicting a life of a freedom fighter in hopes that it will teach the young that “if you want something in life, you will have to fight for it; delaying instant gratification, willing to sacrifice beyond imagination, not looking back and staying the course no matter what until you achieve what you aspire to”.

Mebrat is one of the few women who fought for the women’s association within the TPLF. Against the resistance that there should not be a separate entity for women or otherwise, her group won and formed this association that advocated for women’s common agenda. This association later expanded to “Tigray Women Association”. Through this association, Mebrat served in the rural community and helped women delivering their babies; her short term medical training came in handy.  Mebrat served within TPLF taking different assignments in different areas. She also was part of the group responsible for the production of a publication, “Hizbawi Dimts” (People’s Voice”)

In November 1991 Mebrat joined the Ministry of Foreign affairs. Among her notable achievements was the establishment of a unit that solely dealt with issues concerning the Diasporas which later developed into Directorate General of autonomous department for the Diasporas. Under her leadership, the Directorate provided the most important privileges to the Ethiopians by birth but holding other citizenship– a yellow card– to facilitate their investment desires in their country of origin. Diaspora policy is another achievement of the department she led. In her 24 years of service in the foreign ministry, she was posted in Great Britain, South Africa, the Scandinavian countries and Los Angeles as councilor, minister councilor and consul General.

During her mission in Great Britain, Mebrat met an American philanthropist, Caroline Rogers who saw a report on British Broadcast about the Fistula patients at Catherine Hamlin’s Hospital and was moved by what she heard. During her childhood Roger’s father was volunteering in Addis Ababa University and so she had a chance of free education in Nazareth School for which she felt she owed Ethiopia a great deal. Together with Mebrat, they started an NGO “Wubitu” in Bahir Dar whose key purpose is reestablishing fistula survivors back to their community through skills training and some financial aid. This is going to take most of Mebrat’s time hereafter.

Mebrat also sits on the board of the “Berimayda Girls Project” in Tigray Region Samre province. Founded by her comrade, Colonel Zenebu, Berimayda supports young girls pursue high school and avoid early marriage. The project is self-contained in that all expenses including lodging is afforded to the girls. She also sits on the board of Women’s Strategic Development Center founded by Dr. Gennet Zewdie with the objective of ensuring women’s equal participation and benefit from development activities.

Mebrat’s community work that started at the leadership of the Association of Women Freedom Fighters four decades ago has impacted many lives, but above all she feels much connected and satisfied of her achievement in the Diaspora Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  “It was an era of finding new ideas and concepts”, says Mebrat. Of course as any freedom fighter she feels proud when she thinks of her past. She said “no matter who appreciates it or how far the mission went in accomplishing the intended result, our main purpose was making a difference/change to the lives of many which I believe was successful”. Not only TPLF, she asserts, all the movements: EPRP, MEISON, that arose largely through the student movement were about bringing change to the society and she feels very proud to be part of such a great movement.

Mebrat spends her leisure time walking long distance, watching Ethiopian movies, taking care of her grandchild Axum Mussie and reading books. .

Concerning the youth, she says they have the energy to make changes, to make their own mistakes, and learn from them. “The youth of today cannot be us or we cannot be them so I don’t buy this old saying –our generation was by far better than the current–. I say this generation has its own challenges and opportunities; they should not necessarily be on battlefields as we did to make a change, rather they do well fighting their own battles of their time. So my advice to the youth is to grab opportunities, to believe that this nation is theirs so to rationally and reasonably involve in knowledge-based political activities instead of blindly supporting or opposing any political group”.

As her mother of 94, whose mission is education for all, Mebrat hopes to see many libraries where the youth can spend time reading to widen their horizon, to expand their minds and become independent thinkers instead of time spent on social media that feeds empty rhetoric subliminally to the young and impressionable mind.

Mebrat is most grateful for being healthy, energetic and for having such a supportive family. Her husband’s character seems completely different from hers but that actually is the strength of their family, complementing one another. “He is my gift from above”, says Mebrat being very grateful to his endless support.

Her message to the readers especially to women is that we need to work on common agendas regardless of which profession we are in; common agendas that certainly could unify than divide but unfortunately the reality tells a story of focusing on our differences than our similarities.  She would like to see women working on things that unite us which is the only way to a better world for ourselves and the generation ahead.

Mebrat is part of the AWiB tribe and naturally as a forceful woman leader, we feel she has chosen the right platform to participate and expand; to teach and learn.  We wish this courageous and generous woman much more success in her future endeavors. Her best is yet to show.

The AWiB Team

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