AWiB Listens: Being a Woman in Ethiopian Contemporary Society – January 2015 World Café Event

On January 1 2015, AWiB not only welcomed a new calendar year, but a new president. We are honored to receive the leadership of Tihitina Legesse, General Manager to Waryt Mulutila International Plc.

AWiB has embarked upon a new and innovative style of management whereby each board member is assigned to take a leadership role every month. Tihitina has taken on the reigns for the month of January, and next month will be alternated by another board member. This new style of management provides the opportunity for individuals to take up leadership positions, manage their team and in doing so supports the emergence of strong leaders.

Tihitina gave a warm welcome and introduced the first monthly event for the year. ‘AWiB Listens’ was a very much anticipated monthly event. Facilitated by Nadia Waber and herself, the World Café created an evening of life giving conversations.

World Café was born with the understanding that, in meetings and seminars, the best conversations happen over coffee and in small groups. World Café is about sharing information/ knowledge, learning from others, co creating solutions and networking. AWiB members sat around various tables to discuss three questions all contributing to the theme ‘What it is to be a Woman in Ethiopian Contemporary Society’. The questions explored were:

  1. Without being shy, as a woman what unique qualities do I express?
  2. What elements of our culture may be holding us back from fulfilling our full potential?
  3. Where will I be when we overcome our challenges, together, where will we be?

20 minutes was assigned per question, and after each question, members were requested to change tables (hosted by AWiB Board members and volunteers) to ensure that they met new faces.

Unique qualities expressed by women include: ability to relate with people, ability to boost the self-esteem of others, problem solving, ability to care for others, loyalty, ability to think under pressure, foresight, ability to think outside the box and from all angles, honesty, patience and ability to assert ones rights. It was noted that women have many qualities, the important question to ask however is – are we aware of our qualities? Do we internalize our qualities?

Once our qualities were identified, we then went on to discuss limiting factors. Elements that hold women back from fulfilling their full potential include gender stereotypes that downgrade women and a culture that is not conducive to expressing one self. As a result, women are shy, reserved,  submissive and risk averse.  AWiB members and participants explained that they are outnumbered by men in many workplaces which makes it difficult for their ideas and suggestions to be taken seriously.  Women are not able to control resources or make important decisions which further compounds the challenge of achieving their full potential.   In addition, there is a fear that if women are to be educated they would challenge the status quo and life as we know it will be different.  Educating women ,therefore, can be perceived as a threat instead of an asset.

Having overcome such challenges, AWiB members and participants expect to grow both individually and as a nation. They expect to be more vocal, self-reliant, to be more productive and to express more female values into the working culture. They envision an environment would emerge whereby women will have equal access to resources and their leadership would promote peace, prosperity and stability.

Through several rounds of insightful conversations and self-explorations, members including three men were able to think about and put forward what it means to be a Woman in Ethiopian contemporary society. 

In wrapping up this evening, Nadia Waber reminded us all that World Café is not only about finding answers but about exploring questions. Thus , our readers and listeners are all encouraged to continue this conversation outside of AWiB’s monthly event and to continue asking questions and internalizing answers generated.  The final question the participants took with them was: are we perhaps afraid of our own greatness?

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