Youth Should Influence Change

On the day of my wedding, one of my aunts took the stage to impart a valuable lesson.

“It is the responsibility of all of us to break the chains of culture that does not serve us,” she told the crowd of guests.

This powerful statement is an embodiment of everything I feel the younger generation’s responsibility is. The youth should be aware of how much more is expected from them when it comes to moving forward.

It is during conversations with friends and family that I see the great divide prevalent among successive generations, not unlike the ones that exist in other countries around the world. The eldest in our community resist change with all the energy they can muster while the youngest among us feel they need to hide what is different about them.

It is at times of celebration that this divide is the most evident. Family members who had been advising us throughout college years that having a romantic relationship might be the end of our educational endeavours ask on our graduation day which of the invited guest is the partner.

And as we stand on the wedding altar, those who have been speaking with terror of the honour the family will lose if there is an untimely pregnancy, now pray for the couple to have children pronto. These moments always come laced with a bit of irony that we learned not to notice through centuries of repeating the same tradition without questioning its necessity.

Much does not make sense within our own culture, and the younger generation does not have anyone else but itself to reprimand for it. We have prioritised others’ expectations of us over that of our own.

We await instructions to live the life we are born into. We have not tried to make this world ours. We have not spoken up, asked questions or been brave enough to change what is improper to us. We are like strangers in the lives of others. We can speak of all that prevents us from making our life work, yet we are not brave enough to live the life we want.

We can point as many fingers as we would like to, but responsibility also lies in us to build a world that can embrace who we are. At times it may feel like we are pushing against a brick wall, but I have come to discover that living our best-imagined lives is what will change the country.

Growing up, we are taught that poverty is our nation’s greatest enemy. And I am sure many have tried to make an impact on a grander scale, which is remarkable and admirable. Yet at a very individual level, it is also essential to create change as we go along, not merely waiting for the change to embrace us.

Change is uncomfortable and hard. Feeling change is usually a painful experience. I remember reading in my psychology class that the evolution of any relationship is to end. Indeed, change is not a smooth or easy process. And as we embrace the fact that all our relationships evolve and change, with some even dying off, it is the same with culture and tradition. We must not resist change; it is necessary that we influence it.

Too many go by what they have seen before rather than deciding on a new path for themselves. Thought out decisions make change happen. Those who go through the norm merely reiterate a culture that benefits no one but makes the culture stagnant, which hurts our economic trajectory.

Each time we are asked to throw a wedding that goes beyond our means, say “no” because saying “yes” is not mandatory; listen to the women in the family because her input matters, and she deserves the say; and give space for men to show vulnerability. Our progressive outlook in social affairs will make for a better Ethiopia.

By Hanna Haile
Hanna Haile ( 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 Oct 27,2018 [ Vol 19 ,No 965]



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