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Ethiopian Journalist Melkamsew Puts Women at Show's Heart


Melkamsew Solomon (2nd from right) interviews women of the Benna tribe in the south of Ethiopia, in 2020. (Photo courtesy of Solomon Yohannes)

Ethiopian journalist Melkamsew Solomon broadcasts a weekly radio program, Yimechish, which focuses on rural women in Ethiopia.

But for some listeners, Yimechish — an Amharic slang term which roughly translates to "You go, girl" — is too niche and too narrowly focused.

"We get told, 'You keep talking about women all the time, what about men's issues? Is it only women who have problems in this country?' They say that we have a lot of other societal problems. Some people say it's luxury to talk about this," Melkamsew said.

Yimechish, supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has been running for the past four years, highlighting issues that can improve the lives of women in areas of health and education.

In Ethiopia, most women — like men — live in rural areas, and making space for their voices is important, says Melkamsew.

Melkamsew Solomon attends a celebration at the Economic Commission for Africa in Ethiopia, March 8, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Ayantu Ebba)
Melkamsew Solomon attends a celebration at the Economic Commission for Africa in Ethiopia, March 8, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Ayantu Ebba)

"We get the stories of these women to be heard," she said. "We show how hard their life is, how they don't have any help … how far they go to fetch water, how much they carry by themselves to the market, they don't have any help. We also do stories on what they could accomplish if used this time working on something that can earn them money."

People have that "aha" moment when they hear these stories, she says.

Yimechish has received positive feedback from male audience members amidst the pushback.

Bethlehem Negash, a member of the Ethiopian Media Women's Association, says that women traditionally don't have a voice in the media in Ethiopia.

"Mostly women are the subjects of the media, as victims and, you know, passive voices rather active ones who are, you know, who can contribute to the society," Bethlehem said.

According to a 2021 research report that Bethlehem co-authored, 30 percent of the journalists employed by seven major media houses were women.

Bethlehem says media houses which offer a better work-life balance for women through providing daycare and improved maternity have been successful in growing women's participation.

"I think, maybe, what we take from that is that, for us to advocate for, you know, more balanced and female-friendly newsrooms and also media operations. So, maybe we need to appreciate some of the work done by a few media houses and also try to advocate, you know, for other media houses to replicate that as well," Bethlehem said.

Yimechish airs weekly on Sheger Radio in Ethiopia, whose owner, a veteran woman journalist, has supported the show in content production.

"She has advised me, based on her own professional experience, on who to speak to for the show, and then helped make those connections happen," Melkamsew said. "She has helped me meet a lot of distinguished women."

Shows like Yimechish are not common in Ethiopia, but media expert Bethlehem says including women's perspective in media can be used to counter the same narrative that it is guilty of echoing.

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