Exclusive Interview with Meaza Ashenafi

After noticing the high interest in our first ever blog, Influential Ethiopian Women, we decided to do a small Q&A with the women who made the list. Mrs Meaza was the first to respond to our request and here is her exclusive interview with AradaOnline.

AO: Who is Meaza? Can you tell us a few things about your childhood and education?

Meaza: Meaza is an average Ethiopian women. I grew up 800 kms away from the Center (AA), born and raised in Asosa Benshangule kilel. I am the fifth in a family of nine. I was raised by strong and intelligent mom. I love learning and education. I came to AAU and got my LL.B degree and more recently M.A. Degree in international relations and women’s studies from USA.

AO: What is your goal in life?

Meaza: My goal in life is to see Ethiopian women more empowered and claim their rightful places in the society.

AO: What is life to Meaza?

Meaza: Life to me is nurturing and supporting ones family but also being able to be of use to the collective.

AO: Do you have an Idol? Or a role model?

Meaza: Yes ! all those African women grabbing the Noble Prize and those that are not yet quite known but are doing wonderful work towards women’s empowerment and equality are my models. Women who galvanize change through promotion of idea without necessary having a formal authority particularly inspire me.

AO: As an advocate of women’s right what do you think are the top three challenges Ethiopian women face? Not common problems faced by Ethiopians but rather problems just because they are women.

Meaza: Violence against Women, luck of voices and agency, embedded traditional and cultural attitudes that reinforces gender inequality. I hope you have been following the unfolding outrageous acts of violence against women lately. Aberash Hyilat being one of the latest victims. Her Ex- husband pulled out her eyes! Violence is an archaic code of gender relations buttressed by weak enforcement of laws.

AO: If you made the most Influential Ethiopian Women list would you put yourself in the list? Who will you add besides what we have currently Birtukan Mideksa, Abebech Gobena, Eleni G/Medhin, Bethelhem Tilahun?

Meaza: I believe your choice is fair. It also depends on the kid of criteria you have used and which areas of influence you wanted to highlight. I know most of the women in your list and have a lot of respect for them. Nonetheless, there are lots of other women who have done and are doing fantastic work in both community organizing and business. Eleni happens to be a friend and remember the early days of her flirtation with the idea of the ECX, glad that her dream came true. I am pleasantly surprised to learn about Bethelhem who has found a niche market to come up with an environmentally friendly product. I say to her- Go girl! We need more of those.

AO: What was the happiest day of your life?

Meaza: At the personal level the days I had my wonderful daughters Senait and Menna were the happiest. At the professional level the day the Ethiopian Parliament approved the Revised Family law was overwhelming. That was the result of 4 years of advocacy and activism when I was the Director of the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association. Apparently I seem to have many happy days- the day we launched Enat Bank (July 9th 2011) was another moment where I felt yes we have done it! That was another challenging project.

AO: What is your favorite quote? movie? Book?

Book- Tuesdays with Morrie
Movie- I have many but surly not eat pray love.
Quote: “ We must begin to understand that a revolution entails not only the willingness to lay our lives on the firing line and get killed. To die for the revolution is a one –shot deal to live for the revolution means taking on the more difficult commitment of changing our day-to-day life patterns” Francis Beal.

AO: Any last comments?

Meaza: The 2012 world bank Flagship report is dedicated to gender equality and development and argues that gender equality is smart economics i may add that gender inequality is bad economics.

Ethiopian women are hard working, have immense potential to empower themselves and contribute to the well being of their families and development of their countries. Let us recognize this and work to remove the hurdles facing them on daily basis.

Big Thanks to Mrs Meaza for the interview.



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