Feminist Series — Bookworm Activist

By Hanna

My name is Hanna Lemma, an Ethiopian National living in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I am a young feminist researcher at Includovate. I have always been passionate about working to overcome the widespread social injustice and gender inequality. To this end, I have founded a couple of women’s rights advocacy initiatives and consider myself a feminist activist. Personally, I am a free-spirited, analytical and friendly bookworm. The first thing people notice about me is that I am skinny. My colleagues also say I am a fast learner; I mainly owe this to my fascination with new things and research provides me with that learning platform. Due to these characteristics, people say I am catlike, which is not unfounded.

I have completed my undergraduate and graduate studies in economics and development economics, respectively, at Addis Ababa University, College of Business and Economics. My department was dominated by male students, especially in my undergraduate studies. Adding to the gender disparity, most female students dropped out of school over the course of the three years leading to graduation. We later heard that some of them had to get married due to family pressure. This made me more conscious of the privileges I had over other girls, who came from the rural parts of the country and were offered fewer choices in life. However, being one of the few female students left in class also meant our voices were often undermined, and at times we were treated as if we didn’t belong. It made us extra attentive and assertive in class. Another privilege I had was language; raised on American movies and English books, I never had to face language barriers in class or in my role as a researcher.

We live in a world that is very unequal, and the disparity is heavily felt in Third World countries like Ethiopia. The inequality feeds more corrupt political systems and contaminates humanity and moral values. Seeing people in power, those capable of making a positive difference, choose to exploit those they rule makes me angry. I am saddened by the feeling of powerlessness that can follow such anger. However, as a young person who has been engaged in multiple youth-led and grassroots initiatives aimed at overcoming such barriers to development, I am hopeful. If I had one selfless wish, it would be to give more power to those who contribute to these initiatives with little or no benefits except the dream of a more equal future.

In the long term, I would like to be involved in politics so that I can impact real change and meaningfully support grassroots organisations in the country. I am most inspired by the grassroots women’s rights organisations that I have had the chance to collaborate with in the past through the feminist newsletter I co-founded, Addis Powerhouse. To mention a few, I have worked closely with Yitawek Timret, Equal Opportunities for All, Sara Justice, and student-led organisations like Yellow Movement and We for Her. Most of the women’s rights organisations in Ethiopia are faced with a lack of financial and human resources — which is something I would like to work towards as well. Despite these glaring challenges, I have met many women who are committed to improving the lives of other women and this has encouraged me to always stay on the path to learn more and contribute to the movement. My favourite poet, Rupi Kaur, believes like me, “We all move forward when we recognise how resilient and striking the women around us are.”

Hanna Lemma is a writer and researcher, passionate about gender equality and women’s empowerment. Co-founder and creative of Addis Powerhouse, a digital feminist newsletter. She adopts an intersectional approach in her work and is always interested in opportunities that aim to close inequality gaps across and within nations. She has a particular interest in adolescent girls development and education.

Includovate is a feminist research incubator that “walks the talk”. Includovate is an Australian social enterprise consisting of a consulting firm and research incubator that designs solutions for gender equality and social inclusion. Its mission is to incubate transformative and inclusive solutions for measuring, studying, and changing discriminatory norms that lead to poverty, inequality, and injustice. To know more about us at Includovate, follow our social media: @includovate, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram.

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Includovate

Connecting and empowering people to overcome the norms that lead to poverty, inequality and injustice.