Third International Conference of Ethiopian Women in the Diaspora

At the 2014 International Conference of Ethiopian Women in the Diaspora. (Photo: by Kebadu Belachew)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Washington, D.C. (TADIAS) — The lively and diverse crowd at the Third International Conference of Ethiopian Women in the Diaspora — that was held at the Sheraton in Silver Spring, Maryland this past weekend (Saturday, March 22nd) — featured several speakers (both women and men) discussing current issues affecting Ethiopian women globally. Some of the presenters participated via Internet from Colorado, Kentucky and California.

The conference commenced with a motivational speech by Chereace Richards, a successful business woman and author of Faith, Focus, Action: The Journey to Becoming Who You Are, followed by a segment of Dagmawi Yimer’s movie Like a Man on Earth, a moving story of Ethiopian migrant workers in Libya. “We showed the clip of the film and Dagmawi gave a brief speech,” said Dr. Maigenet Shifferraw, President of CREW (Center for the Rights of Ethiopian Women) who organized the conference. “The movie and his speech left a lot of people in the audience sobbing.”

Others presenters included data visualization expert Jomo Tariku, as well as the editor and senior researcher of the Bahrain-based Rima Kalush, an advocate for migrant rights in Middle Eastern countries. Dr. Maigenet shared that during her several previous communications with Rima, who joined the conference online from Caliofrnia, she never asked about her birth country. “To me, she is just a powerful and strong woman from the Middle East who is defying her own culture and works for migrant workers,” she said. “And at the conference, I asked where Rima was from originally and she said she is from Libya.” She added: “What a story to tell. Thank you, Rima, for all what you are doing. You are a role model to all.”

In a letter to supporters and participants Dr. Maigenet added: “Our first session began at about 10:30 a.m. by bringing Drs. Minga Negash and Seid Hassan via Skype from Colorado and Kentucky, respectively. [The speakers] set the framework for the conference by explaining the push and pull factors of migration in general and Ethiopian outmigration in particular. ”

Another panel was focused on the current situation of Ethiopian women migrant workers in the Middle East and about the returnees from Saudi Arabia. “Our moderator was the young and vibrant, Dr. Menna Demissie, who is senior policy analyst for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation,” Dr. Maigenet said. “Speakers on this panel included filmmaker Dagmawi Yimer, technologist and designer Jomo Tariku,  Researcher Helen Afework, and our own Genet Derbe, a social worker and the treasurer of CREW.”

Speaking of Helen Afework, a young researcher and a graduate student at the European Masters in Migration Studies in Germany who is currently in New York on a fellowship program at the National Domestic Workers Association to study domestic workers in the United States, Dr. Maigenet said she became the recipient of the 2014 CREW scholarship sponsored by Tsehai Publishers.

“She read on Tadias Magazine the coverage about our upcoming 3rd conference and wrote us,” Dr. Maigenet recalled her conversation with Helen. “We contacted her and interviewed her. She was really God-send, and because of her extensive work on domestic workers in the Middle East, she became our 2014 CREW scholarship recipient.”  The scholarship is designed to encourage Ethiopian women researchers to present their papers and findings at CREW’s annual conferences. “With more sponsors we hope to invite at least two Ethiopian women researchers every year,” she said. “There are many who wrote us to sponsor them, but due to our limited resources, we were unable to do that.”

Tadella Fanta, a gender specialist with many years of experience in Ethiopia and other countries, addressed “the gendered nature of migration” based on research she had conducted regarding Ethiopian migrant workers in Yemen and Sudan. “She is one of the founding members of CREW, which has provided her a platform to present her research papers,” Dr. Maigenet said.

Dr. Maigenet noted that “a lot of people inquired later about how we brought all these dynamic young professionals and senior scholars [together],” Dr. Maigenet said. “It was through contacts from the National Press Club roundtable that was organized by Tadias Magazine in December 2013 where we were introduced to a number of the panelists.”  Dr. Maigenet also thanked additional media sponsor ESAT television and radio and CREW member Birtwait Girmay who is a producer, Voice of America (VOA) Amharic Service, Netsanet LeEthiopia radio, Addis Dimtse Radio, and ECADForum.

CREW looks forward to hosting a fundraising event in May.

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