Women’s Empowerment Art Exhibition

To celebrate Women’s History Month in March, the U.S. Embassy held a Women’s Art Exhibition at the new library in my host city of Dire Dawa, Ethiopia.  With over 30 pieces by Ethiopian women artists, it was a visual testament to the power of art as a mechanism for empowerment, transcending words and allowing the viewer to draw their own conclusions, taking into account their unique set of circumstances juxtaposed with the colors on canvas set before them.  Moving around the gallery (library) it was evident that the works spoke to those who wanted to listen, sights expanded by the power of perception.

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Panel

Apart from myself and my colleagues, in attendance were representatives from the Embassy as well as local Dire Dawa dignitaries from both the community and university.  These included the Embassy’s Counselor for Public Affairs, the city Mayor, as well the Gender Officer from the university.  Bringing perspectives from a variety of different backgrounds added to the dialogue as it pertained to gender equality with a panel discussion as one of the highlights of the program.  In addition we were honored to have Sergeant Wongel Tesfaye, Head of the Sexual Violence Unit at the Dire Dawa Police Commission on the panel as well, as she is one of 64 women featured in a book titled Temsalet: Phenomenal Ethiopian Women” which was likewise celebrated at this event.  With an interactive discourse featuring comments and questions from the audience, it was an opportunity for all to address the discrepancy in gender equality, working together to find sustainable solutions which enable empowerment to flourish within the realms of both education and society.

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Myself and the Mayor

The library itself is a new building constructed for the use of not only students but the larger community of Dire Dawa a well.  For the presentation, while there were respected local elders, there were also nearly 300 students in attendance, coming from three different area high schools,.  For my part, I plan to host weekly lessons at the new library, aiming to incorporate both educational as well as cultural lessons to share with the community, much as was the case with the art exhibit and panel discussion.  To expand worldviews through different topics is how a sustainable learning environment is fostered, and I am honored to have this as well as future opportunities for outreach available at the new library…

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Elsa Mekonnen: “The Holder” (2015)
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Selamawit Gebretsadik: “The Extra Mile” (2015)
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Ebtihaj Abdella: “Innocent Image” (2009)
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Kidist Birhane: “Waiting” (2015)
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Empowering Youth through Sport

Honored to have been a part of this dynamic and important program which was held in my host city of Dire Dawa, Ethiopia…

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Recently held in Dire Dawa was the Community Outreach Youth Soccer (COYS) Program which brings together regional soccer player youth’s for community building workshops and a three-day tournament.  Selected participants from the Somali, Harari, and Dire Dawa regions were invited, with support provided in part through the U.S. Embassy along with partnerships with local and regional leaders.  The fifth year of this particular youth program, it espouses the virtues of empowerment through sports while also incorporating community involvement as an integral part of its underlying mission.

The Soccer (Football) tournament was hosted at Dire Dawa Stadium with community networking hosted by the local police commission.  The notion of community involvement with safety speaks to the integrated approach to sustainable development in the region, where neighbors support each other rather than a reliance on others.  The students were involved with on-the-ground observations of community policing, learning the social and cultural skills…

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The Ethiopian Herald Article: “English Education: Ethiopia and Beyond”

Article I wrote for the the daily English newspaper in Ethiopia, The Ethiopian Herald: 

http://www.ethpress.gov.et/herald/index.php/society/item/3938-english-education-ethiopia-and-beyond

Language is an educational and cultural gateway which allows access beyond borders, crossing boundaries as few things can.  Within the complexities of Ethiopia, the languages spoken here are as diverse and dynamic as the people, adding layers of historical context to the fabric which makes up this country.  As a visiting educator working as an English Teaching Fellow I value the numerous regional languages and tribal dialects but also see the importance of English as a tool for economic, social and educational growth, not replacing the rich heritage which Ethiopia has but simply adding to the directional path this country is on.

Having spent last year at Ambo University and this current academic year at Dire Dawa University, I have the opportunity to work in partnership with the American Embassy on designing educational and cultural outreach programs which benefit students both inside as well as outside of the classroom. Whether it be high school students in Oromia, college students in Addis, or primary school students in Harar, I believe that the future of a sustainable Ethiopia rests with the educated youth, learning not only about linguistic attainment but moreover, how that knowledge can translate into an expanded worldview.  Through outreach programs which espouse the virtues associated with critical thinking skills coupled with community involvement, the Embassy sponsored English Language Fellowship I am involved with provides resources and training for everyone, from community elders to young learners.

Spread throughout the African continent, I have had the opportunity to work with my colleagues from Benin to Tanzania and from Burkina Faso to Côte d’Ivoire.  This week in fact, we are hosting a continental conference in Addis to address the similarities and differences as well as the hardships and successes which visit our classrooms, learning from each other’s experiences while at the same time sharing our own ideas and viewpoints.  Language, like our students, is complex, and the more we understand about the variations it plays in places like Ouagadougou or Cotonou, the better equipped we are as educators to help facilitate growth both inside as well as outside the classroom.  Whether it is English or Amharic, language is a living thing, capable of change and the power it possesses.

About halfway through my second year in Ethiopia, as a teacher I feel that I have perhaps learned more than I have taught.  With nearly 15 years in front of a classroom, I believe that this is the mark of successful teaching, learning in partnership with students as a cohesive educational entity.  I am grateful for the experiences I have had both inside as well as outside the classroom in Ethiopia, be it in Ambo or Dire Dawa, and I look forward to what the remainder of my time here will bring…

Matthew Jellick is an English Language Fellow teaching in Ethiopia on behalf of the U.S. Embassy.  He holds a Master’s Degree in Teaching from USC in California and has educational experience on five different continents.