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  • Rachel Mekuria - The woman who pioneered broadcasting education Posted on 18 October 2014

    Former Head, Educational Television Production Division; Former Board President, The Young Women's Christian Association

    Background

    Rachel Mekuria was born in Addis Ababa in 1942.  She attended primary school at Mrs. Ford’s establishment around Kassanchis and later transferred to Sanford English School finalizing the seventh and eight grades before completing her secondary school education at Kedamawi Hailesellasie school as the only girl in the class. Rachel pursued her higher education in England, earning her certificate in Education from Homerton College in Cambridge.

    Upon her return to Ethiopia, Rachel began working with the Ministry of Education where she started the first education program in English on Ethiopian Television in 1965. She recalls performing all that was required in the filming and broadcasting work, from being a camera woman and acting when situations demanded to presenting, directing, editing, preparing scripts and producing.  The highest post she assumed was Head of Education Broadcast although she had been assigned in the capacity of acting manager. Overall, she says as the Head of Educational Television Production Division with the Educational Media Agency, Ministry of Education, she was responsible for the planning and execution of formal and non-formal educational television programs, educational films and other audiovisual production; preparing production projects, negotiating funding with agencies and supervising implementation; managing and coordinating activities of the formal and non-formal program production and transmission as well as the audiovisual units.

    After thirty years of service, Rachel retired from her post and joined the British Council as a Gender Officer where she was responsible for coordinating and delivering trainings.

    Passion in life

    Rachel shares, “I am passionate about being a lending hand for others.” Her family members and those who know her closely attest to this fact saying that she is a person who is extraordinarily committed to serving the needy. She dreams of a society where women and men are equal and gender-based violence and discriminations are halted. While serving as the Board President at the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) of Ethiopia for five years, the organization became more forceful in promoting women’s rights issues through its programs in women’s economic empowerment, reproductive health, girl’s education and youth programs.  The income generating, skills training, entrepreneurship training and the access to loans facilities for women have helped women to alleviate their economic vulnerabilities, increase their household income and chances for employability. Asked to reflect what she thinks enables a woman to thrive, she said, “A woman thrives when she is given the opportunity to access education, knowledge, and knows her rights.”

    Achievements Rachel is Proud of:

    • She started a radio program where she became the TV and Audio Visual Section Head.  The TV programs reached thousands of youth throughout Ethiopia. Rachel reflected on her 30 plus years of service and what she was most proud of in her work was the mass media program where ten thousands of people have been reached through the regular TV education program.
    • As the Gender Officer at the British Council, she started the first women magazine in Ethiopia called “Women to Women” that raised issues of women’s rights and equality where she served as the Chief Editor.  Under the British Council’s sponsorship, the magazine was produced for two years every three months and distributed to secondary schools throughout all the regional states of Ethiopia reaching thousands of young children and youth, enhancing their awareness on women’s equality.  Rachel remembers receiving many letters from her readers telling her how the magazine has been educational in enhancing their knowledge about the importance of achieving women’s equality in society.
    • Aside from her engagement at the YWCA, she has served as an active member and at some point as the Deputy Chair of an organization called Peace and Development, whose main purpose was to solve conflicts that arise in Ethiopia.  She also served as a member of the Elders Council, which comprised different NGOs that work on peace. The Council, composed of famous figures and personalities in Ethiopia including Professor Ephrem Isac, Athlete Haile GebreSelassie, Wzo Tsion Amdemariam and others was tasked with peace negotiations.  She shares, “the Council was instrumental in the release of political prisoners of the previous regime, including members of the opposition party such as Bertukan Midekssa.”

    Enabling Others:

    Rachel shares that she would enable others to do great work by providing opportunities for training when she observed a perceived skills/knowledge gap.  Serving as a bridge for connections to be made between people is her way of playing the role of enabler.  She also recounts her involvement in entrepreneurship training that she did with the Addis Ababa Chamber of Commerce where she became a trainer on entrepreneurship equipping trainees with business knowledge to enable them start up their own businesses. Several hundred young men and women have undergone the training she led and enabled many to start their own businesses.

    Helping Other Women:

    The girls’ education, reproductive health and human rights training programs have enabled young people to become knowledgeable on their rights including on such issues on sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, on gender based violence and how girls can become assertive. These trainings that were delivered by the YWCA have enabled young girls to protect themselves and their families helping them to focus on their education and successfully graduate in time. 

    The youth programs have promoted the spirit of voluntarism among the youth whereby young people were given the opportunity to do community service and take active leadership.  During her presidency, the organization has reached a minimum of 5000 women with its programs and services. 

    In collaboration with an organization named Active Learning Center and with trainers from England, under her portfolio as the Gender Officer at the British Council, Rachel has been involved in voters’ education for women travelling throughout the nine regional states of Ethiopia delivering training to women voters on the importance of participating in elections, and voting to exercise their rights reaching out to thousands of women. Similarly, she organized and provided training to women parliamentarians for them to take active role to fight for the rights of women constituencies they represent, and to be the voice of women’s rights.

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