Two years after completing my undergraduates degree I finally decided to start studying for my masters. Far away from home in Mekelle, Ethiopia. If your a young woman and living away from home for the very first time, you sort of have to relearn some of your feminist values in the new context.
Let’s start from my mornings
My first two weeks here, I had to eat out mostly because I hadn’t bought all the necessary items to start cooking. Here’s the weird part, where ever I went to have breakfast on workdays, I’d find that there were just single men in the cafes. Not a single man would have a friend next to him. Seeing a women walk into the restaurant was obviously a scene for everyone. Most of those men in those cafes probably aren’t married or living with family so they have to go out and eat their meals at cafes. But why was I there? Can’t I cook? Aren’t I a woman? I felt judged. I felt so out of place. Then I remember the most important pep talk that I’m hoping others give themselves every time they walk into a room where they’re the ‘only ones’ there. “All space is shared, you deserve to be in all spaces you want to be, you are worthy and the next women to walk in will feel more welcome because you walked in. KEEP YOUR HEAD UP!”
I’m the ‘only one’ there too. Six Graduates students and one teacher, the only female in the room. So now I have to be the over achiever in the class. No other choice, if I’m a bad student I’ll destroy the reputation of all women those men will meet in their lives. Together with other women and the information they collect about me, they’ll probably take me as one sample to determine what level of respect women deserve in the work place and in the home.
I’m guessing I’m not the only one who feels this burden. Expecting less from the world than what women deserve. Afraid to fail and let the idea that failure is unacceptable for women persist. “No! I’ll work hard but its okay to fail because thats the best route to knowledge.”
Where do you go to make friends as a woman? Especially when your classmates are already very used to the environment you are dealing with; they have a job, family, friends and very little interest to make new friends. Game Zones? Night clubs?
I choose to start my own book club! Having an interesting book to talk about would definitely make me more social and open. So I posted it on Facebook and now have a bit of interest.
Where ever you are in Africa, I hope you’r taking risks and walking out of your comfort zone. Moving somewhere far away, making new friends and trying to learn a new language. The Universe is made so nothing is learned and truly enjoyed unless you are a little uncomfortable. Mark all spaces with your presents, your ideas and your mistakes.
Mehret E. Berehe is currently a student at Mekelle University in the Tigray region of Northern Ethiopia studying her Masters in Political Economy. Mehret works as a mentor for the Yellow Movement, an initiative that works to empower young women studying in Universities. She is a true believer in dialogue and reflection for personal or social progress; which is why she makes a point of recording and sharing her stories.