Samrawit Tassew: Time to Feminize Peace and Security

Samrawit Tassew, the second child of liberal parents who believe in the power of education, was born in Addis Ababa. Her mother is an outspoken gender advocate who has been politically active since the Derg Regime. Her father is an engineering lecturer at Addis Ababa University. Her family did not impose any cultural, political, or religious viewpoint but rather was open to entertaining her unending questions. Samrawit questions everything. Her childhood shaped her personality in such a way that she does not respond well to restrictive, definitive perspectives but to convincing rationales and justifications. She was given the freedom and space to explore the beliefs and cultures on her own terms. She never did anything she did not believe in. Her parents prioritized education and ensured that all of their children received the best education available. Their most significant investment is in providing a good education for their children. Samrawit attended Nazareth School, a relatively protected space from direct harassment and bullying from toxic masculinity that mostly occurs in teens.

Samrawit has had a varied career path throughout her life. Earlier in her professional life, whenever she got too comfortable in one position, she felt it was time to challenge her comfort zone and fear that might have been embedded in the comfort zone and moved on. Law degree from Addis Ababa University cemented her career as a prosecutor. She later joined Professor Andrea’s legal reform team, which she thought might impact social justice, change, and transformation. That wasn’t to happen. As Samrawit is proactive in recreating her career path, she moved on to global studies that presented an opportunity for better things to come. Her challenge during this time was as a mother of three young children and a single parent soon to be; commuting between Addis and Germany seemed quite insurmountable– a challenge that could have disrupted another woman’s dream. But those with a good support system overcome all obstacles as Samrawit did—her parents came to the rescue. Global Studies – a multidisciplinary study was best fitting for her personality with its multi-faceted approach and frame of analysis to understand the complexity of the world and diverse dynamics of life. In terms of occupation, the dynamic nature of journalism well fitted her inquisitive personality. Getting to “the truth” is a non-linear process; rather, getting all sides of stories and telling the story in a balanced way demanded being open to understand the same facts from various perspectives. Her time working at Fortune Newspaper as an editor-in-chief gave her a spark for her passion. Journalism gave Samrawit a deeper understanding of actors, interests, and processes influencing key decisions.

Armed with a deeper understanding of how the globe works, she moved on to be part of the continental organization. She joined the African Union as an Advocacy and Communications Consultant on Women’s Peace and Security. But the rapid political development in Ethiopia prompted Samrawit to be an active participant in this crucial national phenomenon. She established a consulting firm that focuses on providing technical services on advocacy and media engagement for social justice. Its operations focus on women’s inclusion and gender mainstreaming in peace and security fields- Women Peace and Security agenda.

Samrawit’s intention lies in social justice. Her consultancy firm “Lulawi,” which is Amharic for “globe,” is based on her view of the world as one and recognizes each person’s responsibility to positively contribute to the globe. Lulawi focuses on turn-key advocacy, communications, media, and other projects. Samrawit believes the ultimate goal should be freedom of expression. “If a person is allowed to discover and express oneself, one will not violate other people’s freedom”, she asserts.

Success to Samrawit is the ability to decide on what makes one happy and at peace- fulfillment within rather than from external validation. Her satisfaction comes from being relevant and influencing change. “I enjoy leaving a space that I occupy different and better”.

She recalls starting a project where she introduced and translated a Sunday school curriculum for children. She wanted to create a safe and nurturing environment for her children while she went to church. Her success in establishing a well-organized Sunday school and training curriculum for church children and teachers did not satisfy her. She went one step further and organized a high-level policy workshop in the Hilton Hotel titled “Children and Media” that brought various stakeholders together because of her sheer deeper drive.

Recently, her first national intervention on Women, Peace, and Security begun with an email request from NEWA (Network of Ethiopian Women Association). NEWA invited her to make a presentation regarding women, peace, and security for March 8 Commemoration. Shortly after, joined them as a technical lead in the Women, Peace, and Security project. Though she joined them in the middle of the project, she played an important role in directing the focus to a grass-root for optimal impact. The Ethiopian Women Peacebuilders, a nationwide women’s network for peacebuilding, is envisioned and structured to impact policy by changing the ground-level reality.

She professes that it is high time that women reclaim their space in all sectors- especially peace and security- a national priority agenda for current Ethiopia. The National Dialogue, the overall political reform, opens doors for women to advocate for a Feminist outlook on peace and security. They also have to preemptively engage in peacebuilding/consensus-building intervention in every community they occupy and showcase their potential and capabilities to bring about peace and reconciliation- challenging the age-old “Shimigilina”, a space predominantly protected for older men.

Samrawit believes in small contributions – contributions to stand up to injustice on the streets- to high-level decision-making. However, she does not believe in the most common theme in social justice movements, especially in women’s movement, “being a voice to the voiceless”, but rather in empowering others to use their own voice.

Her ultimate goal is to bring a paradigm shift in the way we understand justice in all aspects of life using media and advocacy, therefore, reforming the media sector. She strongly advises others to embrace uncertainties and challenges. Change in whatever form it comes opens a door for many “Become relevant and Impact change,” she says.

AWiB applauds Samrawit’s courage to contemplate a territory many wouldn’t dare! More power to the woman who is determined to guide those to find their own voice!

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