Society’s Perceptions Define No One, Personal Ones Do

It is great that there are many people thrilled to see women and men work together to lead the country into a better future. It is hard to describe how inspiring and detrimental it is for a nation to gain leadership representation of both the sexes.

I have actually worked with one of these women who were appointed to ministerial positions in Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s (PhD) cabinet. I closely worked with her in another government body in her former ministerial position, and my colleagues and I were none-too-pleased with her performance there.

But I like to believe the individual has tremendously improved as our Prime Minister has vouched for the potential of his cabinet choices. Ethiopia should pride itself in this inclusive leadership.

Often, we hear people undermine the capacity, skill and potential of hardworking women. Although discrimination is not acceptable whoever does it, it is utterly strange when it comes from women. In a commercial flight or hospitals where the captain or the medical doctor is female, it is irritating to see some people uncomfortable, merely because they fail to note that gender is not an additional element to ability.

One of the most important lessons in life is that accomplishment is never gender-based and it never comes easy. Our success and failure depend on our ability to handle and respond to situations with tact.

It should be evident that men and women have equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities. The principle of equality between women and men and the prohibition of discrimination is a fundamental principle of human rights. Indeed, those who do not recognise the potential they have cannot accept the potential they see in others.

Discrimination based on gender comes in many forms and varieties. Many of us are made to explain how we reached the position we did because being young, progressive and a woman are seen to be counterproductive attributes. It is a fact that we do not always control what happens to us. But we always control how we interpret what happens to us and how we respond.

We are not exempt from the trials and tribulations that come from incorrect perceptions. It is impossible to control others and what they say about us, but we sure control how we process those thoughts in our mind. We should not be conditioned to respond in a reactive way but learn to respond constructively.

I once read the very inspiring story of Victor Emil Frankl, a Jewish neurologist and psychiatrist. He was also a Holocaust survivor who lost his wife, parents and his brother in Nazi concentration camps during the Second World War.

He experienced torture, horror and loss that is difficult to comprehend. Despite such hardships though, he decided how all that happened to him and his family would affect him. He deliberately separated his agony and how he responded to it. His understanding of finding meaning in any situation not only brought him emotional freedom but also became an inspiration to those imprisoned in the camps with him and even the guards that kept him captive.

Frankl’s great story reflects what Eleanor Roosevelt observed: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

In any situation we need to be logical, take action and avoid being influenced by negativity. It is right that we fight against discrimination, but we should also focus on how we can find meaning and inspire ourselves and others in the face of challenges.

Society may be to blame for deliberate discrimination against women, but we have a responsibility to respond constructively. This is because we always get to select how we see, react and value things. We need to begin to think that nothing affects us until we let it impact us negatively. We need to stop the enabling role of discrimination and practically disprove wrong perceptions.

Growing up, I was told how society generally perceives women and that I should never be affected by it. We should credit such honesty, books and the many women that have striven to pass through unimaginable challenges for the social paradigm shift to improve gender equality.

This is where real change and improvement come from. To simply continue to blame society will only hurt us, the generations to come and the nation.

By Eden Sahle
Eden Sahle is founder and CEO of Yada Technology Plc. She has studied law and international economic law. She can be reached at

Published on Nov 03,2018 [ Vol 19 ,No 966]



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