A women led movement
An introduction to Meaza.
Meaza Gidey is one of the leading faces of the #StopWarOnTigray, Ethiopia movement. The war has been taking place for 113 days, largely in the dark. Meaza’s passion isn’t political. It’s personal. She knows poverty and oppression personally and has close family members who were survivors of sexual violence and victims of brute violence. She is a survivor too in her own right.
Meaza was the youngest out of her siblings in a household led by a single, widowed mother. Her sister disappeared over 20 years ago after moving to Eritrea, the very country that is accused of some of the most gross human rights violations in Tigray, the northernmost region of Ethiopia. The family suspects she was killed by the forces of Eritrean dictator Isaias Afwerki after being kidnapped from her house in Asmera merely for her ethnic identity. This tragic event contributed to her mother’s deep depression that ultimately led to her untimely death leaving Meaza orphaned at the age of nine.
School became Meaza’s escape. She knew that was the most feasible way out of poverty as she and her mother worked cleaning public restrooms in Tigray while she was in primary school. After being orphaned, she was taken in by her older brothers who tried to give her as many opportunities as they could. Yet, her childhood was unstable and fraught with challenges.
Meaza’s activism started at an early age. At the age of 16, she worked at the first local FM radio station in Tigray, 104.4 Radio FM Mekelle, producing biweekly programs teaching children about compassion, resilience, and tolerance. She used her small salary from the show to support impoverished children in her neighborhood.
She overcame an unstable childhood and got a merit scholarship for a bachelors at Kyung Hee University in South Korea . While in school, Meaza built up a social media presence around her activism to help mobilize funds for hundreds of visually impaired and orphaned children.
Upon graduation, she returned to Ethiopia and focused on an initiative called Siiqqee Scholars. This initiative was aimed at empowering young university students at Addis Ababa through education. In 2019, Meaza co-founded Yikono, a grassroots movement aimed at creating a society that treats men and women equally. The large scale devastating reports of Weaponized SGBV in the war on Tigray have been recognized by the UN and Meaza has been the leading voice on that too. Within the first year, Yikono was able to raise enough funds to help 25 young, vulnerable women start their own business.
Meaza is an organizer at heart. When Tigray was preparing for its regional election last year, Meaza single-handedly held virtual debates among competing political parties focusing on their policies involving women. This was aimed at helping women within Tigray make an informed decision on who to vote for.
She saved up money as an English teacher and is now putting herself through graduate school in Washington DC. At the cost of sleep, when Meaza is not in school, she is lending her voice to those who don’t have one, to the civilians.. mothers and children.. who are being killed, raped and/or are refugees trying to escape the torture and violence happening to the people of Tigray.
After the war started, she realized that the movement against it needed to be globalized. Meaza helped establish Omna Tigray alongside other Tigrayan Diaspora around the world to promote educated-based advocacy. Since then, she has been dedicating her time to speaking on panel discussions, media agencies, politicians, and the community on the genocidal war happening in Tigray.
A moment that will illustrate Meaza’s passion for the cause.. She stood up on a flight from Virginia to Portland and asked the flight attendants if she could have a moment to speak to passengers about the war happening in her homeland. The flight attendants gracefully gave her that space. Meaza’s passion overrides fear or ego because it’s grounded in humanity.
Omna Tigray Contributor 02/27/2021