International Women's Day 2017
05 May 2017
This year on March 9, Earuyan Solutions, hosted an event to commemorate International Women’s Day through AWiB’s platform of monthly events. The event, titled Our Journey as Ethiopian Women: Building a Common Agenda, aimed at triggering a conversation towards articulating a common agenda as Ethiopian women and initiating collective action.
As an introduction to the rounds of activities central to the event, a short documentary produced by the Earuyan team was screened. The documentary depicted interviews with several women from different socioeconomic and professional backgrounds on what issues they are most concerned about as Ethiopian women, their perspective on the existence of a common social agenda among women, and whether they believe Ethiopian women have been historically successful at working together to bring forth social transformation. The interviewees, which included recognized women working on gender issues like Maria Munir, Selome Tadesse, Brikit Terefe and Saba GebreMedhin, were also asked what it means for them to be bold for change.
Following the video, the first round of discussions started with two questions that aimed to identify what lies at the crux of the disjointed action and lack of cohesive impact regarding gender issues in Ethiopia. The questions were designed with the belief that no significant and comprehensive impact can be achieved without a shared vision for change, one that includes a common understand of the problem and a joint approach to solving it through agreed upon actions. Consequently, groups of participants were each asked to articulate their vision of equality for Ethiopian women across generation in ten year’s time and to identify the common agenda that unties/should unite us to realize this vision.
After each group summarized their reflections on these questions, the second round of the discussion commenced with a request for participants to articulate exact moments when they took bold action, individually and/or collectively to improve or develop themselves, other women, or women’s status overall. Participants were asked to explain in detail what designated their action a bold one, how they did it, what motivated them, what difference they made and what challenges they faced.
The two rounds of discussion were met with enthusiasm from all participants, who were eager to voice their concerns about their perceived lack of a common agenda that unites Ethiopian women and the urgent need to rally behind a common vision if we are to bring about any significant change. Although there was no consensus as to what issue should be prioritized enough to serve as a unifying agenda, participants were more or less in agreement on most of the issues that are of utmost concern to Ethiopian women right now. They mentioned the burden poverty especially places on women, gender violence, lack of equal opportunity, as well as lack of self-assertiveness and confidence that prevents women from realizing their potential.
The final round of the discussion commenced with an interactive activity in which participants were asked to identify what bold action each of them will take over the next year. They were then asked to post their actions on the ‘Wall of Boldness’, a symbolic representation of gender equality that had been put up on one wall. The ‘Wall’ was eventually filled with colorful pieces of paper with each participant’s promise to be bold for change in her own way over the coming year.
The event concluded with a reiteration of this promise: a volunteer from each table was asked to write a fear that prevents them from taking her bold action on an inflated balloon that had been tied to the table. They were then asked to name the fear and burst the balloon to release it, in the hopes that the symbolic act of courage will inspire the same in truth.
Recap by staff writer, Helina Yigletu