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Hirut Woldemariam (Dr.)


 
Key Achievements:  

Rapid rise to Associate Professor of Linguistics; first woman Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and then the first woman Vice President for External Relations and Partnerships; Vice President for Institutional Development, over 20 publications; 25 papers presented in the international conferences; privately involved in ecological conservation

Current Position: Associate Professor of Linguistics, AAU; Vice President for Institutional Development, Addis Ababa University
Birth Place: Debremarkos, Gojjam, Ethiopia
Birth Date: 1968
Current Home: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
 
       
  Primary School  
  Taitu Bitul Elementary School  
  Secondary School  
  Entoto Comprehensive High School  
   
  BA, Linguistics, Addis Ababa University  
   
  MA, Linguistics, Addis Ababa University; PhD, Linguistics, Institute of African Studies, University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany  
   
  Education  
 
 
   
 

Dr. Hirut Woldemariam, Associate Professor of Linguistics at Addis Ababa University,  has the distinction of being the first woman to be appointed to upper-level management positions in university affairs at Addis Ababa University, first as Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and then as Vice President for External Relations and Partnerships.   With more than twenty academic publications, her academic career has been outstanding.  As a private citizen, she is also involved in ecological conservation.  Here is her story:

I was born in 1968 in Debremarkos, Gojjam.  My father was a graduate of the former Harar Teachers’ Training College and assigned to teach in Gojjam.  There he met and married my mother.  I was the first born in a family of four children. When I was 4 years old, my family moved to Addis because my father got an opportunity to pursue degree-level training at Addis Ababa University.  I went to first grade a few months after my fourth birthday, having first completed reading and writing at home with the help of my favorite uncle, who was also a teacher.  I attended public schools throughout.  My elementary schooling was at Taitu Bitul Elementary School.  For my secondary education I went to the Entoto Comprehensive High School. I did my first and second degrees at Addis Ababa University (AAU) in Linguistics (which is a scientific study of languages), and was subsequently recruited as a lecturer in the department of Linguistics. I did my PhD in Germany, at the Institute of African Studies of the University of Cologne.  The program that I attended was put together as a collaborative “Sandwich” program  between Cologne and AAU.

Like most other children, my father was the first role model for me.  My dream from early on was therefore to be a teacher like him. I remember trying to learn to be a teacher at home also, observing my father preparing for his classes and marking his students’ exam papers etc.  As I got older, I even began to assist my father with the computation (but never marking!) of the students’ results. Our family was rather very restrictive regarding our use of time. My father was persistent withme and my siblings,making sure we spent most of our time reading, writing and otherwise studying. There was not much entertainment, not even watching TV beyond a limited amount of time.   We were not allowed to go out even to visit relatives, leave alone to spend time with friends. The only business we were supposed to have been focusing on was our education. Our home was like a library, and everyone was supposed to have books for friends. The focus on education was such that even my mother, who was a housewife, had to start school, eventually completing high school and getting a job as a telephone operator in an organization. In short, my childhood was characterized by little or no social life.  I guess that is where my strong focus on work rather than socialization comes from.  It is a shortcoming that I owe to the academic orientation of my family.

My first job was at the Ministry of Culture and Sports, following the completion of my first degree in Linguistics.  I worked as a junior expert in what was then the Academy of Ethiopian Languages under the Ministry. I worked there for one year.  After completing my Masters degree, as I said earlier, I got a position as a lecturer in the department of Linguistics at AAU.  I have since been working for the University.  You can say that I have been fairly stable as an employee, in part because the values instilled in me in childhood meant that I have come to regard academic work as my natural avocation. 

I believe I have many achievements that I am proud of and for which I am very thankful to my God.  As a scholar, I have progressed very well and rather very fast. As a linguist interested in endangered languages and cultures, I have conducted research in many parts of the country, often in very difficult and trying circumstances.  Field work has taken me to places like the Surma district and the Island of Abaya in the south, and to the Kunama and the Irob areas in the north.  In many of these places I had to travel for many hours across difficult terrain, and stay in places where there is neither electricity nor hotel services.  I have written and published the results of my research extensively, having participated in over 20 international conferences across the world. My promotion to the rank of Associate Professor was an accelerated promotion because I was able to produce double the number of publications required for promotion.  At present, I have over 20 publications to my name, most of them published in international journals. I have 25 research papers presented in different International Conferences. I have ongoing research projects, some of which I pursue in collaboration with international colleagues.  Many of them, including book projects, will be completed shortly.

I have also been Involved in academic administration at AAU, often at higher management level.  I was the first woman head of my department, the first woman Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and for about two years now, the first woman Vice President for External Relations and Partnerships.  It is extremely gratifying for me not only to have served the institution that has nurtured my intellectual and professional development, but also to have set what I believe to be a precedent and good example for young female scholars and academics in this regard.   

I engage in public service too.  I am for instance involved in projects related to ecological conservation and environmental protection in different parts of the country.  I pursue these projects along with members of my family and my close friends. 

Above all, I am married and blessed with three sweet children. I get a lot of love and understanding from members of my family as well as from my parents.  I am still young, healthy and energetic.  I believe there is a lot more ahead of me. What more can I ask for in life?

I must say that all along my life and career, I have been very lucky with people.  My teachers and colleagues, from my school days to my University career have been encouraging, supportive and emboldening.  If it were not for these positive and truly exemplary persons, there is no way that I would have come along so far.  However, there have been challenges. 

The major obstacle and challenge has been the fact that women’s rise to leadership positions is still regarded with deep suspicion in the public sector in general and in academia in particular.  I think in the public arena this is somewhat understandable, given the long feudal past and strongly patriarchal orientation of our society.  It is, however, sad that it persists in higher education.  I am saying this because all over the world women occupy central, and at times dominant, positions both as academics and as academic officials.  Many of us who have had training outside of Ethiopia know that women staff members constitute a significant proportion of academic staff and in many places constitute the majority.  Women are likewise dominant in many places as academic administrators.  In our country, however, even those who had exposure to these situations act in very strange ways when one of their own takes a step or two up the leadership ladder.  If you are a woman leader, you are by default regarded as weak and potentially incompetent.  Nobody will give you the benefit of the doubt on anything.  .  But if you are strong, decisive and upfront, which I try to be, the attack on you will be unrelenting.  Your scholarly good record comes up for review and attack in the most vicious way.  Attempts will made to cast doubt on all your promotions and appointments including those of strictly academic nature for which clear criteria and rules of procedure have been laid out.  The attack will at times take on your femininity and your relationship with all men, including your colleagues.  In short, it will be an attack that knows no boundaries between the personal, indeed the private, and the public.  I have gotten more than my fair share of these attacks, I could say an abuse. 

However, it so happens that I am not a kind of person who is held back by these kinds of attacks.  I happen to be a self-made woman who has faced adversity head on, and have emerged stronger rather than weaker out of each one of them.  I don’t think anything will ever change that orientation and substance of my character. 

A good friend of mine is fond of quoting the saying that the camels march on while the dogs keep on barking.  But my most favorite story that illustrates this is the story about a race among frogs to climb a mountain.  The competitors were surrounded by spectators who were shouting loudly to each frog that he or she was falling behind.  All the frogs, one after another, eventually fell out of the race because they believed they were, indeed, too far behind.  Only one persisted, and, of course, eventually won.  At the end it was discovered that the winning frog was deaf.  At times, I think, you need to be deaf to the noise and machinations of your detractors. 

Everybody’s life will be somewhat different.  Therefore, there is really nothing that can be taken from my life into the textbook of a young woman’s life in Ethiopia.  But there are pieces of advice that I can offer.  Whatever you do, do it with conviction, passion and bravery. Don’t ever be discouraged by your environment and give up on what you do. Don’t redefine your goal or mission in life because of adversity.

Learn new methods, techniques and life skills continuously. Have strong faith. Don’t accept a failure as a final destiny but use it as an opportunity to take a lesson and come out a stronger person.

I hope to see Ethiopia prosperous and developed not just in terms of infrastructure and the economy but also in terms of developed citizenry.  By developed citizenry I am referring not just to the number of people with degrees and certificates, but to people with positive attitude to each other and to life in general.  I want to see this country to be referred to as the home of people who try to see the good in each other and seek to grow by building on that goodness. May the Almighty help us in this!

 
 
 
  Key Sources  
  Written by W/o Hirut Woldemariam in response to questionnaire  
  Other Sources  
  0  
  Researcher  
  Woderyelesh Abebe  
       
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No.
Primary Area of Work
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15 Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu Global Business  1980 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Contemporary More ...
16 Bruktawit Tigabu Tadesse Media: TV Producer Children’s Programming  1981 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Contemporary More ...
17 Brutawit Dawit Abdi Banking  1947 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Contemporary More ...
18 Camille De Stoop Environmentally Sound Development  1949 Kortrijk, Belgium Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Contemporary More ...
19 Catherine Hamlin (Dr.) Obstetric Fistula Care and Prevention  1924 Sydney, Australia Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Contemporary More ...
20 Chachi Tadesse WoldeGiorgis Music, modeling, entrepreneur, community service  - Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Atlanta, Georgia, USA Contemporary More ...
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30 Fetenu Bekele Gebremeskel Gender and Development, Women's Empowerment   1945 Gosh Wuha, Wello, Ethiopia Contemporary More ...
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