Aethiopien: Netsanet Mengistu

We have to be able to gain the trust and respect of those in power and the people around us, without compromising our fundamental principles and values.

— Netsanet Mengistu

Netsanet Mengistu has a BA in Management and Administration. She is the founder of Progynist, an Ethiopian women’s empowerment NGO, and Meklit, a pioneering local microcredit bank. Netsanet focuses on gender discrimination. She is committed to building up and enhancing the infrastructure in the underprivileged areas in Ethiopia. As an active member in the Ethiopian opposition for many years, Netsanet mobilizes women to strive for social development and the establishment of community projects in healthcare, education and legal consultation for marginalized Ethiopian citizens.

Netsanet Mengistu was born in 1951 in Assosa near the Ethiopian-Sudanese border, far from the privileged Amharic center of Addis Ababa. At the age of 25, with a BA in Management and Administration, she gained a unique experience working underground in the opposition party for ten years to bring justice and development to Ethiopian society. However, she was later arrested and imprisoned for six years. After her release, she assumed various positions in government offices and in several international NGOs. She was inspired to found a local NGO in 1997 to fight injustice against women in her country. She says, "I am committed to helping Ethiopian women to become full participants in society: to participate in achieving political, economic and social welfare in their country." Netsanet has successfully networked groups of women from all political levels, social backgrounds and religious–based organizations. She says, "We have to be able to gain the trust and respect of those in power as well as the people around us, without compromising our fundamental principles." Starting out from one small room in the marginalized quarter Kifle Ketema, in Addis Ababa, Netsanet made visits and carried out interviews to mobilize the community with its existing social organizations and local authorities to set up basic social, educational and health services for the destitute people. 8000 urban and 4000 rural school dropouts, single mothers without income, illiterate and HIV patients have so far found support in diverse ways to generate their income and maintain their standard of living. Netsanet also organizes alternative basic education classes, provides support to impoverished children to continue their education and offers tutorial classes for girls to enhance their chances of getting to university.

Progynist Meklit Microcreditbank