“I will be one of Ethiopian Most Influential Women” 

by Amref Health Africa

From an early age, the Ethiopian Hermela has one clear goal. She wants to become the most influential woman in Ethiopia and positively impact on the lives of children and young women. On this International Youth Day 2022, she calls on adults to believe in young people, because they still have dreams and ambitions. 

Hermela Azerefegn (23 years old), lives in Debrebirhan, North Shoa. She graduated in Information Technology in 2021 and has recently completed studying Business & Economics – Management.

Hermela is a member of the Amref Youth Council and a youth representative for the Power to You(th) Project in Ethiopia. 

“Let Ethiopia be a role model for the world in how we deal with young people.

As a young girl, Hermela already saw that there was a lot of (domestic) violence, particularly against women in her locality and the enormous impact this has on children. Around the age of ten, she wished that when she would be older she would support and empower children in their education and aspiration. Now, she added young people to her mission, since she saw them struggle with many obstacles too.  

In addition to learning well other courses in her schools and colleges, she decided that if she wanted to become influential, she also had to learn the English language well, which she believed could link with the rest of the world and learn more. As a thirteen-year-old girl, she practised in front of a mirror and strived to improve her command of her English.    

Now Hermela motivates and inspires young people to do their best in school and stand up for their rights. She has been dreaming of creating a suitable environment for children and youth”

Her friends see her as a role model and often ask for advice. She herself had and still has many female role models from whom she is still learning a lot. 

In 2020, she became Miss Debrebirhan and was named ‘Ambassador of Peace’ in Debrebihan. Hermela participated in this beauty pageant purely because the title and recognition could help open doors to achieve her mission as a youth advocate.  As a Miss, she would be able to reach people with issues that are important to young people. After a radio interview, we – Amref – asked her to join our Youth Council, where she now is an active member and serves as a secretary.  

Power to You(th) is a consortium that – together with young people – is committed to the rights of girls and young women in Ethiopia, among other places. When our Amref Power to You(th) representative came to school to ask if there was a passionate and energetic young person who would like to stand up for other young people, everyone pointed at Hermela. She has been the Power to You(th) youth representative for her area since 2021. For Power to You(th), she listens to important issues that matter to her and her peers and participates in activities to positively influence policies for girls and young women in her community. 

“We graduated, but can’t find any jobs” 

Her wish for young people? That children and young people can grow up lovingly with room for self-development so that they can stand up for their rights regarding sexual and reproductive health and against gender-based violence (such as female circumcision and violence against women). She wishes that women can become financially independent because according to her this is an important solution against domestic violence. 

She wants young people to be taken seriously by adults at every level: home, school, labour market, and at the policy level. Those young people can get more work and become economically independent. Hermela calls for the placement of youth representatives at the district and regional levels so they can participate in decision-making. 

Besides wanting to become the most influential woman in Ethiopia to give a voice to the people who are not able to speak up for themselves, she wants to be a young achiever her family will be proud of. She aspires to have a loving family of her own.

Hermela believes Ethiopia will soon become a role model for the world in how it engages its young people. For this to be true, everyone should play their role.

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