“Gender Equality is a Major Issue in Ethiopia”

Menna was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She believes that gender equality is a very important thing and that it should be practised everywhere as well as in everything that we do. This equality is what will build momentum in the improvement in this world. She strongly believes that much work should be done in this regard to help females more involved in growth. Menna's GTF Mentor is Sonja Lokar.

Q: Tell us a few things about your country, and also your life's story! 

A: Ethiopia is a country with so much cultural diversity. It is a country that is known for its impeccable hospitality and great coffee smile It is now ranked as the 3rd fastest growing country in Africa. I was born and raised in Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia. I briefly lived in New York with my younger brother and mother. I finished high school from Lideta Catholic Cathedral and pursued my university studies at Addis Ababa University.

I am currently doing my MBA at the University of Greenwich and I am working as an Accounts Manager at an advertising agency. I am very passionate about gender-related issues and am very much interested in working in that area to bring improvement areas where it is needed.

Q: What is your view of the world as it is today? And how do you define the concept of a better world?

A: I think that the world that we are living in today is one that is more focused on image rather than the reality. We live in a world where we are told what a certain thing or person should look like and where some major problems are not considered as problems worth addressing. Yes, times have changed in a good way but I believe that we have a long way to go. I believe that there is so much that we, this generation, can do to make this difference. We are lucky enough to be present at a time when limitations to make things happen are minimal if any. My concept of a better world would include a situation where everyone had the same idea of what gender equality is, where peace meant the same thing where ever you go and a place where everyone felt that they had a personal duty to keep the world that way.

Q: What are some of the key challenges in your society?

A: Some of the key challenges that are faced by my society I would say are the issues related to gender equality. Even though times have changed, there are still parts of the country that gender equality does not exist. The majority of girls are not educated because they had to drop out of elementary school as it is not considered important to have educated women. They are considered more important as just mothers or wives. This is, however, changing drastically but still has a long way to go.

Q: As a young individual what are a few of the hurdles that you had to overcome up until today?

A: As a young individual growing up in a society where people usually have a certain way of thinking, one of the hurdles I had to overcome was being able to voice what my dreams were. Most of the time what I wanted to do with my life and the things that I considered were important were not shared by many people around me.

Fortunately enough I had a very supportive family and was constantly encouraged to pursue the things I wanted. For instance, the one thing I knew for sure when I was in high school was that I wanted to get my MBA. I would always talk about how I was going to do that and surprisingly, it was usually such a shock to a lot of the people I told it to. This was mainly because getting a first degree by itself was too much for a girl. There were times when I was even discouraged because I was worried about how I would be able to survive being the "odd one out".

Q: Why is the role of a mentor important for you?

A: I believe that learning is a very important part of life and that it can come from many sources. A mentor is someone who has more experience and someone who is willing to pass that along to someone else. These experiences are important because they are not the kinds of lessons you get from books or any other form of generalized source. He/She is more realistic and can help you see and understand things from different angles.

Q: Do you have a lesson that life has taught you and you would like to share?

A: I don't have a specific story that I can mention.

Q: Name a project, a foundation or a person in your country that you think is doing great work in helping improve other people's lives!

A: Though there are many foundations and projects that are helping improving other people's lives, I would like to mention the great work that is being done by a student based movement called the Yellow Movement. It is mainly focused on helping eliminate violence against women but it also does work to help girls stay in school by providing school materials and sanitary products.

Q: Share with us a phrase, a poem or a story that you love or you find interesting!

A: "There is a silver lining for every cloud" I love this saying because of its positive connotation. It describes that there is a way around any bleak situation and that we should stay positive even when we don't have the will to.