One of Ethiopia’s famous personalities, the late Woizero Senedu Gebru served her country as an author, activist, patriot, and the country’s first woman parliamentarian. Educated in Switzerland, Senedu was Ethiopia’s number one woman in public affairs in the Emperor’s time. While she was the director of the Menen School, she introduced many innovations there, taking the girls for picnics on Mount Intoto, which was unheard of. She also made them perform plays she had written in Amharic to give them confidence to speak in public, in their own language. Senedu’s daughter, Gohalem Assefa here portrays the extraordinary environment she grew up in and shows her mother to be a woman of great warmth, charm and substance.
First and foremost, my mother Senedu Gebru was a teacher. As I look back at my youth, there are some key lessons my mother imparted on us. Love of country stood out as did her conviction that women are just as capable as men to accomplish anything they want to. The key was education. As long as there was basic education, the subject matter of interest could be learned, at least from books.
Books were ever present in our home and in her hands. Both my parents were voracious readers and always encouraged us to read. I knew of my mother’s love of literature when I was just a little girl. My most vibrant childhood memories of activities with my mother revolve around reading together. We would discuss what I read and my thoughts around that. In turn she would tell me stories her father told her and about places he went to. I enjoyed fairy tales and was frequently invited to tell the stories I read to my siblings and my parents.
My mother’s way of sharing her love of country was to take us on trips to different places. I remember many trips to Mojo and Koka and a few trips to Harrar where she would point out the majestic mountains and peaceful valleys as well as the Eucalyptus forests in Furi and Addis Alem. Many years later, we were living in Germany when the Military Dictatorship began. At that time my mother prepared to go back home during this time of crisis. When I told her that I couldn’t understand how she could go back to that country now, she looked me square in the eyes and told me not to confuse my country and the government. She said governments come and go, but your country will always be your country.