Acting together, the Ethiopian Government and United Nations Fund set life-changing objectives for Ethiopians. One of their goals was to achieve zero tolerance for female genital mutilation (FGM) by 2024. They also aimed to increase the contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR) among women of reproductive age. To support these goals, PMC-Ethiopia strategically designed and launched Nekakat (“Cracked”). This radio show was purposefully created to educate and entertain listeners, serving as a crucial component of a nationwide communications campaign focused on these critical issues.
Dr. Hailegnaw’s Visionary Leadership as Country Director for PMC-Ethiopia
Allow me to introduce you to Dr. Hailegnaw Eshete is a remarkable individual leading the charge as the Country Director at Population Media Center (PMC) in Ethiopia. Dr. Hailegnaw’s journey through the corridors of public health, social transformation, and communications spans over three decades, marking him a true catalyst for change in Ethiopia. It’s this wealth of experience and his collaborative approach that has made him a powerful leader of PMC’s Ethiopian team – telling stories that resonate and inspire change.
Design a program in collaboration with stakeholders, involving the affected people from the inception, for positive change,” says Dr. Hailegnaw.
With a career rich in experience, Dr. Hailegnaw started as a passionate public health researcher, gradually assuming roles as a manager and consultant for various public and international NGOs, with a focus on gender dynamics, HIV, and communication strategies.
Notably, Dr. Hailegnaw played a pivotal role in the formation of the Ethiopian Public Health Association (EPHA) and served as its Executive Director. His visionary leadership was instrumental in shaping the association, turning it into a prominent professional entity within Ethiopia.
Before his PMC tenure, Dr. Hailegnaw’s dedication was evident during his 2.5 year engagement with Columbia University’s International Center for AIDS Care (ICAP). where he was project director for the Ethiopian Population-Based HIV Impact Assessment (EPHIA).
The PMC story began for Dr. Hailegnaw as a freelance consultant and part-time collaborator where he showed his skills by leading a team of consultants in the Afar and Somali regions. Their mission was to conduct vital surveys on pressing issues such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage. These surveys laid the groundwork for profound and ongoing portfolio of PMC multimedia interventions.
Entertaining at Scale. By Popular Demand.
Since stepping into the role of PMC’s Country Director in 2019, Dr. Hailegnaw has been a driving force in program impact and creating a sustainable country office. His collaborative endeavors have successfully secured vital funding for a spectrum of projects and enhanced the network of partners. Collaborations with entities like UNFPA, UNICEF, and Save the Children International have opened doors to addressing issues such as population dynamics, sexual and gender-based violence, child marriage, and FGM in remote, hard-to-reach areas.
Beyond project management, Dr. Hailegnaw has transformed PMC into a fountain of knowledge dissemination. PMC boasts a diverse array of electronic and print publications, and, thanks to research Dr. Hailegnaw and the PMC-Ethiopia team contributed to, PMC has shared key insights in prestigious peer-reviewed journals to advance our industry, including:
- The effectiveness of radio talk shows by UNICEF Ethiopia in increasing knowledge, changing attitudes and behaviors, child marriage, female genital mutilation, and gender equality. Advances in Social Sciences Research Journal, Vol. 10, No. 10 (2023)
- The role of audience monitoring surveys (AMS) in strengthening radio talk shows (RTS) by UNICEF Ethiopia on female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage programs. Advance Social Sciences Research, Vol. 10, No. 1 (2023).
- Baby wash and diarrhea prevention practices following multimedia educational interventions in hard-to-reach areas of Afar and Somali regions of Ethiopia. Mixed-method evaluations.
These research findings have underscored the profound impact of radio talk shows and multimedia educational initiatives in driving transformative change.
What fuels Dr. Hailegnaw’s resolve to tackle such diverse challenges? His profound dedication to eradicating gender injustice and upending entrenched societal norms. His strategy hinges on collaboration, appealing to reason and human rights to inspire change. Central to his approach is the active involvement of community leaders, policymakers, and influential figures in reshaping societal norms.
“Gender injustice is deeply rooted in social norms, emerging primarily from the premise of religion and culture. Those who do not comply with social norms pay a heavy price. This is very common in all countries, including Ethiopia,” Dr. Hailegnaw said.
To break down barriers and empower individuals, Dr. Hailegnaw emphasizes the importance of comprehensive problem identification, stakeholder collaboration, and a rigorous feedback and evaluation process.
“The best way to confront social norms is through innovative and collaborative engagements, appealing through reasoning that upholds human rights and dignity of all people, irrespective of their gender. It starts with identifying the problem or issue at the beginning. Design a program in collaboration with stakeholders, involving the affected people from the inception, for positive change. A good working relationship with colleagues, stakeholders, the public and private sectors, and the community is consistently important.”
PMC’s multimedia programs, particularly radio broadcasts, are potent tools for sparking positive behaviors and empowering women.
Yalaleke Guzo (“Unfinished Journey”) is an Ethiopia-based talk show produced by PMC. The talk show started in 2020 and will air through 2022 in the Amharic language. Yalaleke Guzo, along with PMC’s show Nekakat (“Cracked”), is contributing to the goal of the Ethiopian Government to achieve zero tolerance for FGM and child marriage by 2025. Each 30-minute episode addresses issues in a variety of ways including short stories, interviews, poems with music, health tips, short audio plays, and features.
Yesak Jember (“Laughter at Dusk”) was a stage play that premiered on September 29, 2003 and was performed throughout Ethiopia until January of 2004. The play was staged in the capital, Addis Ababa, for four months and then performed in 14 other cities around the country. Yesak Jember premiered at the Hagar Fakir Theater in the presence of 800 invited guests Including distinguished personalities and high-ranking dignitaries like the former President of Ethiopia, Dr. Negasso Gidada. The play focused on issues surrounding HIV/AIDS, not only addressing the suffering and death caused by the disease, but also dealing with the adverse social and psychological impact on society. Yesak Jember was part of the whole society strategy surrounding radio serial dramas Dhimbiba (“Getting the Best Out of Life”) and Yeken Kignit (“Looking Over One’s Daily Life”).
In 2008, PMC published Zaren Ketegubet (“If You Become Diligent Today”). A collection of essays, the book focuses on youth mental and physical development and holds out positive role models for young people. This book contributed to the Whole Society Strategy supporting Menta Menged (“Crossroads”) radio serial drama in Ethiopia.
Yeregebu Feteloch was part of the Whole Society Strategy to address alcohol, substance abuse, and HIV/AIDS.
Sibrat empowered social norm changes around FMG and gender-based violence in communities.
Outside of his professional commitments, Dr. Hailegnaw maintains a keen interest in current affairs, global news, and innovative solutions to global challenges. He actively participates in community initiatives, such as tree planting and environmental sanitation, embodying the change he seeks to create.
Facing new challenges with readiness and motivation is second nature to Dr. Hailegnaw. Challenges are viewed as opportunities for growth, and his extensive experience equips him to navigate obstacles effectively. He emphasizes the importance of maintaining a resilient mindset, learning from mistakes, and continually striving for improvement.
“There are always challenges in life, personal or workplace. But if we use challenges as an advantage, they can help us tackle problems. It is important to be strong in mind and heart, understand your strengths and weaknesses, and learn from your mistakes to keep making positive progress.”
In Ethiopia, Dr. Hailegnaw is not just a leader but a beacon of positive change, transforming lives and communities with his visionary leadership.