Half the Sky Women Carry

After hours of watching successive programs on the national television, I was left to wonder where all the women in Ethiopia have gone.

From analysis to opinions to news presenting, there is an inescapable bias towards the male group of society. This occurs on topics – from sociopolitical issues to that of economic – that affect all citizens.

The news is a glimpse into the happenings of the world we live in. An in-depth, comprehensive look gives us an opportunity to understand the condition that we find ourselves in. In such cases, a female voice offers a vital and indispensable perspective. 

But it is not out of character to find a program that does not feature a woman, and the roundtable slated for what should have been an inclusive and impactful discussion does not feature a single woman. Just as confounding is how public opinions either disproportionately grant airtime to male participants or even fail to engage a female voice to help represent half the gender of the country.

Women are still in the background when it comes to the news media. And unless it has to do with something along the line of physical abuse, it is men that usually dominate the airtimes.

It is unfortunate that in the current political reality of our country, where every single member of the public is feeling the hurt and confusion, women continue to be left out of the crucial debates and the decisions being made.

It is essential to give credit where credit is due. We are nowhere close to the finishing point, but it is heartening that women have been able to serve in certain vital positions in government, such as speakers of both the legislative houses.  

Nonetheless, stories featured on the news have a significant impact on the way citizens view their country and the way we form our understandings as well.

I have long been disconnected from viewing the news on ETV or the programs featured there; I prefer to read about current events. This has to do with the low journalistic standards the state broadcaster is known for, but also as a result of how it was tailored to appeal to a demography that excluded me.

I did not feel represented thus believed that the state broadcaster was not representative of me. It represents a very patriarchal view of our nation.

Women are left out of the narrative, our voices unattended on many relevant topics, even if all issues of national importance affect us profoundly and require our involvement.

“The revolution and women’s liberation go together,” said Thomas Sankara, first president of Burkina Faso who was also referred to as “Africa’s Che Guevara,” and a champion of women’s rights. “We do not talk of women’s emancipation as an act of charity or a surge of human compassion. It is a basic necessity for the revolution to triumph. Women hold up the other half of the sky.”

Yet that sky the women of our nation are holding aloft is taken for granted and given little consideration.

Women in Ethiopia seem to have no voice. They are afterthoughts in the stories that are transforming the country. As I was watching the coverage of opposition parties taking centre stage these past few weeks, I was often left to wonder which would stand to represent the women in our communities.

In Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s (PhD) olive branch to opposition parties, the media should have taken it upon itself to ask about the aggravating deficiency of women practising political activism, or if they simply did not show them on Tv.

Men’s privilege is that they have the luxury to choose the sort of representation they get. Women have not been so lucky. We are still fighting for the bare minimum – to be represented, however, that might be.

I have encountered many who seem to think that some causes are more important than others and that the most distressing issues in Ethiopia today do not have to do much with allowing women more representation.

But the voices of women matters at each step of the way. As we build a version of Ethiopia we all want to be a part of, unless women are made to be a part of it, it would remain half-built, half-explored and half made.

By Hanna Haile (hannahaile212@gmail.com)
Hanna Haile (hannahaile212@gmail.com) is an Ethiopian writer and social worker. She is one of the organizers of Poetic Saturdays at Fendika Cultural Centre in Addis Abeba and at Terara Bar & Kitchen in Hawassa, where a stage is open to those who celebrate art through performances on the first and second Saturday of each month.

Published on Aug 11,2018 [ Vol 19 ,No 954]



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