By Tseday Alehegn
Published: Thursday, March 8, 2012
New York (TADIAS) – In celebration of Women’s History Month, Tadias is interviewing extraordinary Ethiopian women who are blazing trails in various fields including science, art, philanthropy, and business. We launch our series with a Q&A with Dr. Mehret Mandefro, physician, film producer, anthropologist and social change activist. She is a former White House Fellow, Fulbright Scholar, and currently teaches at the Department of Health Policy at George Washington School of Public Health & Health Services.
Mehret is also the co-founder of Truth Aid, an organization that produces visual ethnographies of health and social issues. Their current film project entitled Oblivion is based on a true story about a legal precedent-setting case that outlawed abduction for marriage in Ethiopia.
Below is our Q&A with Dr. Mehret Mandefro:
TADIAS: What do you most enjoy about your work?
Mehret Mandefro: I love teaching and working with students. I find the next generation to be very inspiring. I also like having the time to think, write, and create new forms of knowledge that will challenge audiences to think different about health and human rights.
TADIAS: Who are your female role models?
Mehret: My mother, Tsedale K. Mandefro, Abebech Gobena, Sister Zebider, Meaza Ashenafi.
Tadias: What challenges have you faced as a leader and how did you overcome those hurdles at work or life in general?
Mehret: In some work environments where I have been the youngest and happen to be the only woman sometimes it was a challenge to have my voice heard. So I went to great lengths to be very clear about what I thought. Learning to express your opinions in forums that are not necessarily friendly is an important skill for women to develop.
TADIAS: What are some practical tips you can give for young women who want to follow in your footsteps?
Mehret: You have to believe in your vision above all and be willing to put in hard work to execute. You also have to surround yourself with a support network that can nurture your growth. That’s very important.
TADIAS: Please tell us more about yourself (where you were born, grew up, school and how you developed your passion for your work?)
Mehret: I was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and I grew up in Alexandria, VA. I attended Harvard for college and medical school. I also received a Masters in Public Health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. My passion for public health and medicine emerged out of a study abroad trip I took to Kenya as a junior in college.
TADIAS: What would like to share on Women’s History Month with Tadias readers that we have not asked you about?
Mehret: Dream big. Work hard. But most of all never be afraid to do something different.
Thank you Dr. Mehret and best wishes with your endeavors.
Stay tuned for highlights celebrating Ethiopian women role models and change agents.
Interview with Birtukan Midekssa
Interview with Artist Julie Mehretu
Interview With Model Maya Gate Haile
Interview with Nini Legesse
Interview with Sahra Mellesse
Interview with Lydia Gobena
Interview with Maaza Mengiste
Interview with Grammy-nominated Singer Wayna
Interview with Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu
Interview with Journalist Fanna Haile-Selassie
New Book Highlights Stories of 70 Accomplished Ethiopian Women (TADIAS)
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