Nov. 17, 2022, 1:52 p.m.

Staying true to your dreams and identity against all odds

2022 change leader story

Hamere Mulugeta was born in Addis Ababa and grew up close to nature, playing all the childhood games you can imagine. “I had a very good childhood time highly connected with nature and from then I learned how to make colors and paint different pictures”.

When she turned 12 she faced a lot of challenges and was rejected by relatives and family. People believed that Hamere was weird and strange. "My family considered me as a disturbance and my thoughts as useless but it was exactly then that I found out what I needed and what I could do”. Parents and relatives took Hamere to different religious places thinking she was obsessed with bad spirits and considered her mentally ill because of her uniqueness and physically punished her for everything she did. But even if she knew she would be punished, she did everything she believed in and that was how she learned to overcome challenges.

Hamere was very famous in elementary school and that helped her to build confidence and identify her talents as she was never afraid to try something new. She left her family at the age of 16, stayed for four days at the church compound, and then rented a house starting to work as a graphic designer with a 150 birr salary.

“I paid 120 birr for the house rent and was left with 30 birr - less than a dollar - for the monthly expenses. I slept for one year without a mattress, right on the ground but I didn't feel bad because I enjoyed every moment of planning my dreams and future. And I could prove that I could stand alone. I am always against people underestimating me for being incapable of doing anything. Challenges were there when I started the mud and clay business but now I am the winner and I can show everyone how it works. I came into business focusing on children and considering what I had lost in my childhood. I am not evaluating my business from the profit-making perspective, I have always believed that I am contributing to the connection today's children have with nature. Being myself helps me to be really successful. I advise all women not to listen to any mistreatment but to focus on their dreams and to believe in themselves."

Nowadays there is a lot of pressure on children regarding their future. They have to become doctors or engineers without considering their talents and gifts. Hamere recommends families give children the freedom to decide and follow their dreams.

“The first person in my life to appreciate what I did was my husband. He supports all my ideas and my business. What I learned from life is that the most hurting thing and at the same time a key to success is not what people say to you but what you say to yourself. Most supporters come after your success so I advise every woman to stand by themselves first, to show how strong they are and how their ideas can work."

Hamere believes that she should contribute to the world and its future as she came here for a reason. Reach for Change was the first organization to support her idea and to let her develop and grow. Challenges are always there on our way to success and the best thing is how to overcome these challenges. My best ability in life is not wanting others to clap for myself but to clap for my success."

After all the challenges Hamere is now one of the most successful women in Addis Ababa, an example and inspiration for others. In 2011, she hosted a special family event bringing more than 5,000 parents and children together in Unity Park at the Grand Palace. She kept inspiring children and in 2014 more than 10,000 people attended the beautiful Meskel Square event she organized called "One Color Festival". In her center, she helps children bring out their talents by involving them in various creative and artistic works and planting vegetables that are enough for our whole family at home.

Listen to the inspiring stories of other Ethiopian women who challenge gender norms and stereotypes on the Voice of Change radio series, done in partnership with Erq Maed Media and The Swedish Institute.

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