As Ethiopia goes through changes, there is a need to invest in the Ethiopian youth and women. A need to invest in the future generations and reap the fruits together. A need to encourage Ethiopian young people and women to be active citizens that speak loud and clear; to make sure Ethiopian youth and women are fully empowered and actively engaged in local, regional and national democracy.
Ethiopian young people and women live in a country with institutions that lack democratic culture, principles and accountability. Our young people and women had been part of what George Soros in his essay Open Society Needs Defending refers as a closed society. These young people and women now live in an open society - Ethiopia.
60% of Ethiopians are below 25 years of age. These people live in different parts of the country and make a majority. They are keen to see a better Ethiopia. They want to see their voices heard and included. They want to be part of the change process. Yet we often see silence. We see silent majority. Yes a few do speak loud; louder than many others. But that is not enough. There is a need to get the balance right. A need to bring the silent majority on board.
Although we have seen a transformation of the gender balance at governmental and institutional level, with many prominent women and young leaders being appointed to positions of power and responsibility, we still have a long way to go. The impacts of these appointments will be minimal unless they are matched by changes in the grassroots of the Ethiopian people – the wider society. It is, therefore, vital we pave ways for young people and women to be part of this change making process as we cannot sustain the change without them; or change and progress remain dreams!
What can be done
It is vital to design projects that will highlight the challenges facing the silent majority, at times anxious middle, and what it takes to overcome these challenges. We need projects that aim at encouraging Ethiopian youth and women to actively engage in what matters to them and the wider public. Project that aim at equipping Ethiopian youth and women with some of the basic skills and processes to build and rebuild their confidence and help them take control of their destiny. Projects that support Ethiopian youths to be part of the wider collective voice that works towards a stronger, inclusive, open and tolerant society. Projects that work to see how empowered Ethiopian youth and women could hold the state and the market to account. Projects that can explore and engage Ethiopian youth and women leaders from higher education, civil society and faith institutions and prepare them for actions. Community Organising could be used as one of the tools. These projects could be grassroot based and do as much awareness work as possible so that the wider community engages in what matters most for itself.
The need for the project arises from the fact that many young people and women want to see change happen but do not take part in the change making process for a number of reasons. Hence the project should aim at tackling the challenges through training, capacity building, community organising, confidence building and reviving. The current leadership in Ethiopia have done their part to promote youth and women in leadership roles in governmental institutions. However, they have called upon non-governmental and civic organisations to provide the changes that are required in the grassroots of Ethiopian society. Hence there is a need for civic insitutions to step in and take charge. A need for young people taking charge and leading. This is both important and urgent as we cannot afford to spend more time. It is now and only now.