Mission – Changing the narration of Ethiopia
Meron Feleke – the managing director of Impala Communications – has been a passionate AWiBer since 2012. Meeting her for coffee on a Monday morning, the start of a brand new week has proved to be an eye opening experience into what women with passion can accomplish while working on so many priorities at the same time.
The first born to her family with 3 other siblings, Meron was raised in Addis. She left for London to complete her high school studies and obtained her BA in project management before returning to Ethiopia with her family of her own; with a husband and her two beautiful daughters, in 2009.
Asked why she established Impala Communication, Meron says, ‘It is really a passion project’. Upon realizing that the only story being repeatedly told about her country in the UK was that of famine, draught and children surrounded by flies, she wanted to share the many success stories in Ethiopia with the world – least of all to ensure her daughters know that they should be proud of their heritage as those terrible images, though once true and reflective of reality at that time, are not the only narration of their beloved country. Before starting the company with her husband back home, in Ethiopia, she has worked in various organizations in the UK. Her first job as a student was working as a cashier in a store. Her first “real” job, however, was when she worked using her qualification, with the local council on designing and implementing projects for the local authority in various areas of community services.
She then took a career break to raise her daughters; describing this responsibility “as the toughest but most rewarding job.” It was after becoming a parent that Meron noticed that most of her fellow parents were not communicating with their children with their own language; hence families faced s serious breakdown in communicating with their children resulting in identity crisis on the children. This prompted her to propose a campaign encouraging both Ethiopian and non-Ethiopian parents in the neighborhood to communicate in their mother tongue and actively teach children about their heritage. The project started offering workshops to parents and information on various aspects of parenting. She describes it as one of the most important accomplishments that she is proud of. The program is still running sustainably in her neighborhood back in London.
Back in Addis, Meron’s typical day involves representing Impala Communications in various projects – ongoing and potential ones. As the Managing Director of the company, she manages the “front –end “ and deals with clients, partner organizations and employees while her Creative Director husband takes care of the technical part of the company. She jokes “a typical day is not over until she takes her daughters home from school, helps them with their studies while she does hers”
Meron is a strong believer in the need to nurture the next generation of leaders. She says leaders should always ask important questions of others to bring the best out, challenge them in a good way to enable them understand their strength as well as focus on what they need to improve. She also says” There should be relentless coaching as it is important to build the confidence of others.” The other important value she holds dear to her heart is respect. She says that is the most important lesson she would love to leave for her daughters – to respect themselves first and go beyond the superficial.
For someone whose philosophies in life are so many, Meron says they all come from her upbringing in a very loving family that stillis very close to eachother. Being loved and giving love is her number 1 philosophy. Meron mentions
that this is actually very easy in Ethiopia. Shaping her philosophy in life are two of her role models – her mother and grandmother. She credits these strong women for teaching her to respect herself, instilling the importance of hard work. She also says she learned to speak her mind from Nahu – one of the founders of AWiB. Meron says she continues to identify role models and tries to model after them throughout her life. One of her daughters introduced her to the story of the late Dr. Wangari Mathai and her wonderful effort to protect the environment. She also admires her husband – Terusew- greatly since he has the ability to not be judgmental, his respect and acceptance of peoples and all creatures of the world as they are. The qualities she admires from him include his kindness, his respect towards everyone he meets, his dedication to his family as well as his work.
Since Meron was raised by her mother after her father died when she was 12, she has witnessed how strong a woman can be first hand. She says her mother never refrained from speaking her mind, standing for her views, even if it would not be appreciated by some in the audience. Her mother’s determination to ensure her children had a happy upbringing using limited resources is another lesson she learned while still young.
Success is measured in our own individual way. For Meron, successes is beyond merely providing enough for the family and sending children to a good school or wearing the business hat, success for her is not a superficial success in terms of solely financial measures. Instead, her company growing organically to be one of the most successful communication companies in Africa is her ultimate goal. She says, they are aggressively working towards it. In addition, she is constantly thinking about the impact the company can make on society beyond merely making money. To this end, she plans to teach the new generation of young people the craft of filming and editing using state of art technology.
She credits her grandmother and mother – both strong women – to her success. Their strength and ability to take very calculated risks inspired her to move back to Ethiopia and pursue her dreams using her modest savings. And she didn’t disappoint. She mentions among her accomplishments, producing 7 Women of Excellence (WoE) 2014 documentary for AWiB. Being given the opportunity to shine a bright light on the finalists work has been a moving and humbling experience for her and her team. She says all the hard work – the many long days and nights spent on the project; away from her daughters – paid off when she saw the reactions of the finalists themselves as well as the audience.Definitely a highlight of her career, in terms of the impact it had on telling these beautiful stories of 7 strong and inspiring women of Ethiopia. “This kind of project validates our existence.”, she remarks.
Aside from being an active member of AWiB, Meron is on the Parents &Teachers, Student Association of Andinet International School. In this role, she is an important member of the school community; mediating between parents and the school, holding the school, parents and students accountable in meeting their responsibilities. They also organize activities such as the school science fair.She is also a member of EWEP as well as the CEO Forum.
Meron is a strong believer in women supporting each other though the environment makes it look like that is the least likely thing around these days. For instance, she mentions that a group of friends who are close to each other are her rocks; they help each other out when in need and hangout and have fun with their children together. On the other hand, when moving back home, a lady who lives next door came by to welcome her to the neighborhood, gave her a number to call in case of any problems and she stood by her word. As mothers, Meron says, we support each other in many ways; from helping with childcare arrangements to running errands on behalf of others, sharing information and resources to giving candid feedback. She says she tries to “pay it forward” by encouraging other women pursue their dreams, sharing information on trainings, career and business opportunities.
Meron’s contribution to the community comes in the form of employing an almost all female team in Impala Communications and informally supporting families through tough times. That said, she is not only about work –more work- and only work. When she is not at work or taking care of the family, she unwinds with an energetic Zumba lesson. She also likes to go for walks with her family every chance she gets.
She was introduced to AWiB through friends and is very proud of where it started and where it is now. She insists that potential members as well as the general public have to be very clear about what the association stands for to ensure sustainability.
Meron is very grateful for her health and different lessons she had over the years. Her motto in life is “go for it”. Often times, she sees a lot of us are surrounded by fear and doubting ourselves. Trying to please everyone with thoughts such as “what do I need to do to be accepted by others, even if this decision does not serve my needs?” she says she has learned to listen to her inner voice and follow it no matter what. She is yet to be disappointed. She also says never stop learning. Everyone who is around you can be your great teacher if you are willing to listen. She says the younger generation has so much to offer – if only we give them the time and attention they deserve- they are taught to believe in themselves so they can have important lessons to share with us. I want all of us to recognize that in our own unique way, we all have something to offer our country – our world – humankind.
AWiB wishes her active member and contributor, Meron Feleke, her family and her company continued success.
Share on your socials!