Generation that Should Write

Americans may think they have a stronghold over the world, but their global dominance is not as long reaching as they wish it to be. Still, they have been able to convince the world and themselves that they are a nation unparalleled in their political, economic and cultural strength.

They admittedly have admirable skills, one of which is their ability to sell themselves. There is a significant amount of information available about them. Of the top of my mind, I could come up with a load of useless knowledge about the North American nation I have never lived in. The same goes for many of the youth.

Conservatives, which is close to all Ethiopians of adult age, believe this is the fault of the youth – too interested in what is going on in the Western world to care about their own. The truth though is that information about the United States is easily accessible, not to mention attractively packaged. Movies and music constantly sell the image of the country. Even an Ethiopian with a weak internet connection and a mobile phone, is bombarded with information of the west and learns about the ups and downs of a country far away.

There have been considerable investments in Ethiopia, especially in transport infrastructure. Although this has been critical to the growth of the nation, the media and entertainment sectors have not gained the attention they deserve. It is through music, arts, articles, and podcasts citizens can keep being informed about their country. It is through reaffirming some ideologies by debating and analyzing them that we can all be on the same page, whether they agree all the time or not.

One of my favorite personalities on Youtube is Egeleet – a young woman with a very genuine and relatable outlook. I have always felt as if the entertainment medium was not speaking to me. And now, it is exciting to have found a voice that connects with me and the observations I make.

Egeleet is among the pioneers of Ethiopians with an online presence who can discuss issues that are not mediocre or subjects that have been endlessly debated to little consequence, such as politics. It has been a pleasure watching youngsters such as herself make their presences known in the industry. There is no money here. Blogging and ‘vlogging’, a.k.a video blogging, the former of which I used to do myself, are only functions of interest, because some people feel such issues must be raised – hoping others can relate to it.

We must all be better at documenting our journeys. Even though it might feel trivial to do as such, it is essential to have voices and thoughts shared and remembered. The voice of a generation is what is left when one gives way to another. In the absence of records, the gaps are filled by assumptions, often to adverse outcomes.

Too much of African history has remained undocumented. What we have had are oral traditions, but as these forms of knowledge dissemination have taken a back seat to our fast-paced world, documentation becomes increasingly necessary.

There must be more encouragement in written, voice and video documentation of even the everyday occurrences, as trivial as they may seem. It is important that young people can share the realities of their existence with the world. Our stories must be told by us in a way that we have understood it.

There is an African proverb, “until the lion learns how to write every story will glorify the hunter.”

This acknowledges the importance of self-documentation as an African nation, as many of our stories have originated by those with European origins.

I find it hilarious that some countries are “discovered”. Dates, time and explorers are attributed to a nation’s alleged discovery, even as indigenous people have long lived in that land. I have learned this in my school, in an Ethiopian classroom and curricula. We have accepted the version of history that “discovers” a land where local people have long lived in, such as the United States.

There is power in recorded history. It is essential and relevant for future generations to understand their roots. As for the oral tradition, there is less and less relevant conversations between parents and their children – not to mention that such a form of human communication is not as consistent. If we would like this and future generations to contribute to a nation, understanding the past is an integral part of it.

As we build Ethiopia, it must also be through giving strength to our voices. We need to encourage the generations of new voices, emerging personalities and those with unique perspectives. I am excited to be alive in a time where the young can have the power to be heard as we work for them to be celebrated.

By Hanna Haile
Hanna Haile ( is an Ethiopian writer, researcher and social worker who uses her writing to promote social and gender equality, identity and women’s rights. She is one of the organisers of Poetic Saturday at Fendika Cultural Centre where she performs spoken word poetry every first Saturday of the month.

Published on Apr 06,2018 [ Vol 18 ,No 936]



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