ETU Gender Club: Women eager for the chance to be leaders!
At the Ethiopian Technical University (ETU), some students took the initiative to start a gender-club with the guidance of the Sport for Development in Africa project. These ambitious and forward-thinking students want to take destiny into their own hands. We interviewed six of the club members about their dreams, goals, the gender club and how they use sport for development within their activities.
Most people have big dreams and that is certainly no different for these young women. They dream about successful careers, including ones in more male-dominated subjects like architecture and electrical engineering. Some of them highlighted that the presence of women in these subjects is essential because they offer new perspectives and creativity. The prospect of getting to meet inspiring Ethiopian women through the gender club is definitely encouraging them to further develop their visions for the future.
Since the formation of the club, the members use physical exercises to enhance team-work, communication and trust. Their impression is that sport is fun and a great way to expand relationships. They also want to use exercise to solve conflicts within groups of friends or family members. “I’m planning in the future to do things which are fun. To enjoy our jobs, these exercises are very helpful for both our career and our health” – Mekdes.
Meron, the founder of the gender club, is a young visionary: “We haven’t been given the chance as women to be leaders. I am not satisfied by what is being done in and outside the campus now. So, I would love to change that. I want to have a place where girls can be open about everything. I think we should have a psychologist on the campus because it is rare to be able to talk to a person and feel comfortable enough to talk about emotions, anxiety and such sensitive issues. Just because we are not complaining; they think we don’t have any problems. The club is a first step to try to reach that”.
The other members agree with Meron and add that they want to stand stronger together as women. They want to feel supported by each other when they are down and to create a strong support system. Mekdes says specifically: “We are trying to be an influence and change other women’s lives and image and tell society that we are able to do things if we are united”.
Clearly the gender club is an idea that arose from great energy and purpose. Specific topics that they would like to discuss relate to confidence, helping girls accomplish their goals, understanding each other and creating awareness among men of the strengths of women. They also want to discuss topics such as menstrual hygiene, harassment and abuse. “Currently, we don’t talk about the abusive culture, but we want to talk about it. We need an extra push to talk about it” – Kidist.
What about men?
Currently the gender club just consists of women. This however, does not mean that they want to exclude men. As Nina highlighted: “Men have to understand us, so we have to communicate with them”. The women really want men to be aware of the impacts of their actions and that men can help make a change if they are aware of their own flaws. Moreover, Mekdes said that she wants to impress men with the abilities of women. She further highlighted that it is important to note that with this club they are not at all trying to underrate men. “We are only trying to show them what we are capable of, what we can do and that we are not inferior to them”.
There are also more obvious gender inequalities on the campus. For example, the dorms for men and women differ. The female dorms are smaller, and eight women share one room, whereas the men’s dorms are larger, and they share their room with only six others. Similarly, the girls mention that the toilets and showers for the male dorms are also nicer and bigger. On the positive side however, every girl says that their teachers put great effort into ensuring inclusion of women in the classes and providing them with the space to speak up.
In conclusion, Meron, the founder of the Gender Club, summarises very well the desired impact of the gender club: “When we started here, the gender club is the greatest thing this campus could ever have. I think that we can make a change and do a lot of work”.
About the project
Launched in 2014, the ‘Sport for Development in Africa’ (S4DA) project supports mainstreaming sport as a tool for achieving sustainable development goals in selected African countries on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). Building on the great enthusiasm for sport in Africa, together with its partners S4DA creates safe spaces by constructing sports grounds; capacitates coaches and teachers in offering quality value-based sports activities, following the do-no-harm and safeguarding in sport principles; advises governments and other partner organizations on fostering youth development through sport; and encourages private sector engagement to promote corporate social responsibility.
Author: Veronique Sprenger Publising date: 05 October 2021