Rich Tradition Meets the Future: Ethiopia Part 2

Sent October 10, 2014: Experiences in Ethiopia

But what about my intention for this travel – to amplify the impact of feminine  energy and women’s leadership?    For me, it always comes back to sharing stories of what women ARE doing, how they are contributing to their families and communities.  Three experiences are worthwhile to share.

About ten of us gathered in a training room at the Institute where Weub works.  She selected the room  – because she could set the chairs in a circle.  I selected the focus point – the beautiful replica of “the rug” that Tam made for the Summit

Much of teaching, I believe, is demonstrating our vision through symbol and modeling. Most of the women were young.  All of them had “big” questions:   Tell us about a challenge you faced and how you dealt with it.  How can women make an impact when they are one of two in a management team of 12 – all the others men?   Talk to us about balancing family and work.

Our conversation focused on Competence, Confidence, and Courage ~ Leading with Our Strengths.  The obvious surfaced again:  Women around the globe, at various economic levels and various professional levels and roles – experience similar issues, AND, demonstrate the Competence,Confidence and Courage to contribute their talents!

Weub also arranged for me to meet with Fozia Hussein.  For those of you familiar with the Developing Women’s Leadership Capacity Building Guide, you will recognize her.  (   She participated in one of Weub’s Conversations and commented that she had dropped out of school to raise her four sisters.  Her story about how she rescued a sister who was kidnapped will be featured as the Story of the Month on my web site ( as soon as I can make the time to complete it and have Fozia review it.

The final experience related to women’s leadership was the wonderful opportunity to meet Dr. Catheriine Hamlin, co-founder of the Hamlin Fistula Hospital in Addis.  Recognized by the United Nations agency, UNFPA, for her development of surgical techniques and procedures, she and her husband founded this hospital where more than 34,000 women have been treated for obstetric fistula.  I have seen pictures of her in the operating room at age 89.  She is now 90, a most gracious woman – the glint of steel peeks through, however.

The hospital is amazing! !   Clean, and welcoming.  The grounds are beautiful, filled with flowers and bushes of all kinds.   Stepping inside from the hustle and bustle of the city with its accompanying dust and noise – – is like being transported to a quiet resort.  Even more important, however, is the wholistic and appreciative treatment of the women who come there.

Women needing only simple procedures are placed in wards where they will spend a month to six weeks, receiving not only physical treatment, but also psychological and spiritual counseling.  As the Chaplain said – “They have lost everything  – their baby (usually), their husband, and their mother and father have usually rejected them.”

Women with more complex needs may be with them for several months.  As they heal they are taught handicrafts and have education classes.  For this group, as well as the other two, integration assistance is provided.  Sometimes, with proper assistance, the family will accept the daughter back.

If a woman’s organs and tissue is so badly damaged that she really can’t go back to her village – many have to wear colostomy bags for the rest of their lives – she may be trained as a nurses’ aide and work at this hospital! ! !  Or she may be assisted to set up a small shop to support herself.

Goodbye for now, treasured friends.  We leave soon for Uganda.





Rich Tradition Meets the Future: Ethiopia Part 1

Experiences in Ethiopia  ~  September 25 to October 5, 2014

We were hosted in Ethiopia by the gracious Weub Eshetu and her family.  At Weub’s encouragement, our travel to Addis Ababa was specifically planned to coincide with the Meskel, one of the largest celebrations in Ethiopia.  On our first day in Addis, Weub and her husband, Berham, picked us up at the B&B where we stayed and after a magnificent traditional lunch, took us to the Celebration of the Meskel.

[Of course these are OUR experiences, NOT an objective reporting of the culture or politics of Ethiopia.]

The Ethiopian Meskel celebration has been designated by UNESCO as an  Intangible World Heritage.  It celebrates the Finding of the True Cross.  The Ethiopian Orthodox Church has been preserving this festival for the past 1600 years.  Constantine’s mother, Queen Helena, received a vision that she should make a bonfire and the smoke would show her where the True Cross on which Jesus was crucified had been buried.

The celebration, to this day, is held outside.  A large pyramid (Demera) is constructed of tree branches and the finale of the celebration is the setting afire of this pyramid.  After the bonfire is lit, Priests in full ceremonial dress sing around the bonfire.  All who are around it experience an inner feeling of brightness.  The Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church expressed the intent of the celebration In this way:   “Today we celebrate the Meskel with the intent to renew our vows continually to exert efforts to realize the spiritual development and peace missions of the nation.”   From the Official Guide book at the Festival.

The confrontation of cultures ~ What learning is available at these edges!  I’ve long understood that one of the values of travel was gaining a different perspective on one’s own culture.  Two of these experiences were quite powerful.

“Separation of Church and State” a basic building block of our government – is something we learn from some of our earliest social studies classes.  However, being in a culture where religion, Eastern Orthodox Christianity is part of the very fabric of their social structure highlights just how “separate” our government and our religion is and suggests how difficult it is for us to understand those whose culture and religion are inseparable.

The religious pageantry, worship, celebration enfolds all of their life – personal and collective – in a larger spiritual context..  Large churches are everywhere and regular attendance at services is very important to many.  The impact of their involvement seems to be reflected in personal values of respect for others.

The other cultural confrontation that provided insight into my own culture was around machines!  (smile)    I think of our culture as mechanistic, but more in terms of step by step, sequential, thinking, appreciation of reason and logic over intuition.  In Ethiopia I realized how much we actually love machines!   As we drove through Addis, and through the countryside, where pedestrians, cars, donkeys, sheep, horses and huge trucks all shared the road, I realized anew how the only animals we allow into our lives are the cats and dogs we have as pets.

We heard complaints that when machines – whether buses or medical equipment – quite working, no one wanted to fix them.  I sensed a huge difference in the basic relationship to machines!  Yes, I’m glad to have folks in my culture who can fix my car, but I also am aware of the loss when we embrace our machines – whether cars or smart phones or computers – more fully than we do ensuring that we have time to be with friends and family.

Lots of “friends and family time for us in Ethiopia!   Some pix of Weub’s family:










Weub’s family was so welcoming and open.  Her mother presided over the Coffee Ceremony, and then invited me to participate.  On another day we had lunch at Weub’s home with her husband, Berham, and childen, Abrigail and Johannus.

Overall, the angst I feel is around “development.”  How much “we” – all of us – have to learn about how our rich traditions and current technologies can somehow complement one another for the greater good.    I have seen few examples to guide us – – – HOWEVER – – – I have discovered a philosophy of development that warms my heart and brings renewed intention to help create a healthy collective vision of development.  Perhaps some of you already know of this organization, Global Engagement.



While defining development in terms of economic growth is still fashionable, already the Greek philosopher Aristotle acknowledged that “wealth is evidently not the good we are seeking; for it is merely useful and for the sake of something else”. At GEI, our understanding of development has been greatly influenced by Nobel Prize winning economist Amartya Sen and his influential thesis Development as Freedom. According to him, development is all about expanding the choices people have to lead lives that they value, and improving the human condition so that people will get the chance to lead full lives. This understanding of development constitutes the foundation for all of our high-impact programs.”

 More tomorrow…