Below you will get the excerpts of the interview between State Minister of Women and Children Minister Bizunesh Meseret and the Ministry's Magazine Tewelede or Generation. For many years now she has been leading various women sectors. She has a probing insight and a wealth of experience in the area. At various echelons, hand in glove with the sector actors, she has been serving people and her country. She stresses that fine-tuned with the developmental thrust of the country, the participation of women must be led in a streamlined and organized manner. From the perspective of Ministry's mission,women's organizations and the support being extended to them Tewelede has presented to her the following questions.
What is your personal understanding about women and leadership?
State minister Bizunesh Meseret :-Being a woman is quite a nature-bestowed gift. It could not occur of one's choice. Nor could it happen contrariwise one's will. This thing is a bit divergent from societal perspective. Yet, it is possible to assess the analysis given by social science experts on things that take shape after birth. It is possible to talk long on the societal mindset about women that sends root based on the tasks and roles society assigns or set aside for women.
Specially, at a close up, when we evaluate Ethiopia's trend till recent times we notice that it was not one that put women on a balance or equal footing. To off set the imbalance that persisted all along the road from one generation to the next, the government is engaged in corrective measures at every layer. The gender disparity is apparent in every sector. Specially, when we look the number of women deployed in leadership position, we understand to which side the balance is tilted. But leadership must not be viewed as a gift to proffer. There is a call for leveling the system that has been posing a lopsided terrain between men and women for ages. Via a historic lens, when we evaluate women's decision making power and political participation we witness changes and improvements are taking place in every strategic era or approaches. We have to underline the call for throwing one's full weight behind further addressing women's issues.
How do you personally see top leadership?
As a woman, being positioned on a higher wrung of a leadership ladder has a meaning that is lofty. Because it saddles leaders with higher societal and governmental responsibilities .It goes without saying, assuming higher position on the leadership ladder presupposes due preparation,fervent commitment and higher accountability. Leadership is nothing but living for others letting go one's advantages. It should be well understood that those who assume leadership positions from both gender mix are meant to serve as they are entrusted with higher responsibilities.
Following Ethiopia's historic watershed that ushered in a budding democracy, the involvement and benefits of women in all spheres are mounting by the day. This trend tangibly proves if citizens persevere in respective undertakings, change will not be tardy in coming. Hence, as a woman in higher leadership position a lot is expected from me.
How do you describe the activities of women organizations?
The objective of getting organized under the umbrella of different organizations must not be for window dressing. It must aim at breathing life into the objectives of the respective organizations. In cognizance of this key objective, a large number of Ethiopian women are active getting aboard different organizations, having set goals. Previously, there was a trend of correlating or dubbing organizations set ups by women solely with gender-based circles. But, currently, women's organizations are playing glaring roles in development-oriented organizations specially in 1 to 5 arrangements. From time to time, changes for the better are snowballing. Specially, in ensuring women's rights, protecting the rights and advantages of members and seeing to the development of organization's respective strategic goals are picking steam.
What are the roles of your ministry in stepping up women's political participation?
The ministry has been rendering various support to women organizations so that,as a legal entity, they pose a sound posture. It has pressed ahead with this task. Taking into account the organizations,which serve incubators of leaders, we are widely engaged in sensitization works. Multifaceted activities has been undertaken to strengthen women's decision making role and bolstering their political participation. Changes are actualizing. Specially in all platforms at every echelon the participation of women is growing. To come up with capable women who could play a role to this end close to 40 women from all states and two city administration were offered a post graduate program in public management at Ethiopian Civil Service University(ECSU) in 2012. Similar activities are underway to multiply over the number. This is a good beginning. There is a need to press ahead with the task.
What activities are you undertaking to render women organizations vibrant?
To afford women associations a right posture various activities are underway. In addressing their skill gaps, multifaceted activities are undertaken. Technical supports too are given to them so that they could sustainably troubleshoot hurdles they encounter in their day to day activities. Preparing procedural manuals and developing projects are among the activities. Sensitization and mobilization works are underway to let them efficiently discharge their front line role in supporting development, ensuring good governance and building a democratic system. Above all there are tasks of fine-tuning the national push of empowering women with similar continental and global trends. Such tasks spare the organizations confinement to local scenarios.
The ministry is doing its due to expand the frontier of their commitment drawing lessons from best practices of other countries as well as rippling such inputs across the country. It is exploiting international forums. The combined effect of all supports is strengthening organizations and rendering them potent enough. As such,for sure the country shall efficiently handle additional tasks down the road.
What is expected from women organizations ?
As it is known, though the government doesn't organize women, it has a role of supporting them. Women organizations have the responsibility of taking on board members of the fair sex that sit aloof. In order such organizations play role in a successful manner they have to ensure accountability and transparency in their activities. They are expected to stamp their seals on government chalked out strategic goals at every layer. They are expected to actively participate in spurring development, strengthening democracy and ensuring good governance. Cross pollinating ideas with sister organizations, they have to develop the culture of flexing muscles to take off.
If you have additional message to carry across you are welcome.
The continuation of support on the government's side cannot be gainsaid. Putting garnered support to meaningful use is the responsibility of such organizations. At last, I call upon women organizations to lend force to the governmental thrust towards the burgeoning of development, good governance and democracy.///
(Source Tewelede, Public Relation Office of the Ministry)
TRANSLATION BY ALEM HAILU