Women as leaders in Ethiopian society. Let me just try to focus on only political leadership. In a way, it’s – the irony is like if you look into the political history of the governing party when they were engaged in an armed struggle, like 30 percent of the soldiers, they were women. And you know, they were known for taking women as partners – equal partners, you know, in any kind of political stride. And after they came to power, you know, they just came up with their masculine face. You know what I mean? You don’t find anybody with significant influence within the party with you who is a woman, you know?
So even that process – the struggle of this party which is in power, which accommodates the participation of women, you know, it didn’t achieve anything; it didn’t bring about anything in terms of empowering women, in terms of political leadership. That’s really saddening. Yeah, but – yeah, you know, always equality and empowerment and all those things are directly correlated with having democracy, whether internally or in the national political sphere. So you know, a political party known for autocratic method of, you know, political process couldn’t kind of assure, you know, equality for women in any way.
When we – when you come to opposition politics, of course there are a lot of obstacles for women to come to political participation, the opposition. Of course there is a cultural component into it. But there is also, you know, this difficulty with regards to the role as a mother or, you know, as a – you know, as somebody who takes care of the family affairs, you know. I remember when we were in prison in 2005, of course many women, you know, had to share that plight. And the saddening part was, you know, those mothers, you know, had to – their suffering was kind of double-fold, you know?
They suffered as prisoners, you know, facing that horrible condition in prison, and they suffer as mothers leaving behind their children and, you know, seeing that the family members and that the family as a whole facing all kinds of challenge because of their absence. And even one of my co-defendants, she was a journalist. And we were in prison, she realized she was pregnant. And she had to spend that time of her pregnancy in a very bad prison condition. She had to live with 70 people in a very packed manner, you know what I mean, very narrow cell and with all kind – types of criminals, you know, murderers, you know, people who committed robbery and all kinds of crimes. And even mentally ill people, you know, were supposed to live with us. She had to endure all that, you know. She was – she was having her own medical problem and she wanted, you know, the normal prenatal care, but she didn’t have it. And she had to handle that kind of living environment. And she had to give birth to her first child while we were there.
So the realm of political opposition for women, you know, the challenge it poses is kind of double-fold, because of the role they have in the society as mothers, as wives and, you know, as a responsible woman, you know, taking care of the well-being of the family. So that is, in a way, discouraging for a woman to come at the forefront. But regardless of this, you find very strong women, you know, in every level who dares to defy, and who committed their life to pay the price necessary for this noble cause and – but, you know, because of this cumulative factors, we don’t see the participation of women in political leadership and political participation as we need to.