1st female PhD recipient: I have miles to go, says Dr Genaye Tsegaye

It’s undeniably true that even in 21st Century female struggle to make it to top male chauvinism and deep-rooted prejudices are still active that belittle and pull them back from their cherished dreams. But it’s also true that innate talent can’t be prevented from blooming in any hostile circumstances!

Dr Genaye Tsegaye, the toast of entire AMU for being 1st female PhD recipient in Natural Resource Management from KU Leuven, Belgium in 2018, was no exception. This might be gratifying but she knew what it takes to break the glass ceiling, especially when all odds are against you!

Hailing from Holeta, Addis Ababa, she got BSc in NRM from Jimma University (2007) and Masters from Haramaya University (2011) and forthwith became an instructor in AMU. Being department head and associated with Netherlands Universities Foundation for International Cooperation project, chance came her way that couldn’t be materialized but in the next attempt she was in; she began doctoral study in 2013 and completed it in October 2018, that includes her pre-doctoral study as well.

On why NRM, she said, my Master was purely experimental but I think socio-economic aspect is the pivot of my PhD; it was challenging because when you begin socio-economic research; it begins on understanding terms; herein data has to be collected and analyzed, query people and conduct survey; in the beginning, it was quite weird but ultimately it turned out to be very interesting.

She continued, my thesis ‘People-State Interaction: Gender & Institutional Dimension of NRM in the Nechsar National Park, Ethiopia’ was aimed at evaluating interaction between local people and government for managing natural resources in a sustainable way. At Nechsar National Park and Chamo Lake, I evaluated the implications of management approaches applied to resolve this complex issue by three Ethiopian governing regimes i.e. Imperial Derg and EPRDF.

Imperial regime used pressure tactics but then resources were limited and population was proportionate; now though resources didn’t grow but population has swelled; therefore, exclusionary approach led to the conflict. When you evict people from Nachsar Park, you lose socio-economic component, and when you include them conservation takes backseat. Presently, park is fully encroached and wild life extinct; if you want to conserve, working with people right from planning to implementation stage is the key, she adds.

What matters is how you deal with the situation, convince people, who are the first beneficiary. And above all, you have to listen to women for they constitute 50% of the society. I have interviewed most of them who want to have their say; they are important, hence approach must be gender-inclusive, she stressed.

The stance of present political dispensation though said to be strict on ground, nothing has been done and resources aren’t managed properly. Yet I see the light at the end of the tunnel; this endangered park still has a hope to get revived provided our remedial measure must be holistic and timely; it must protect interests of people that will prompt them to understand and contribute towards conservation approach. She also maintains that policy-makers must be aware of the ground realities and do the needful.

Wisdom she got through PhD, she said, I learnt that there are lots of things, which we don’t know, it gave me confidence to go beyond my capacity to explore the unexplored territory; now I can try and do things which I couldn’t do. And primarily, it made me realize that whatever I have learnt is just a tip of an iceberg, the actual ocean of knowledge is waiting for us, she quipped.

Being 1st PhD recipient, she is overwhelmingly excited but at the same time smells huge responsibility ahead to inspire, inculcate and nurture future female scholars from among her students. I want more females to come out of their cocoon and break that narrow domestic walls preventing them to do what they want to do. She admits that male chauvinism is very much active and female has to fight it out.

Relating her saga, she said, when I applied for scholarship, despite position didn’t demand more teaching experience, yet few male counterparts tried to scuttle my chance on the pretext that I was a greenhorn. It made me give up hope, but professors associated with STRONGBOW Project of which I was a part, duly enforced AMU to facilitate my candidature and I am deeply indebted towards them for this.

Being an instructor, Dr Genaye is also the local promoter of a joint project between AMU, Mekelle and Bahir Dar universities to prepare females for doctoral studies in a summer school. Professors from KU Leuven and South Africa will train and she will motivate them to pursue inner instinct. Emphasizing further she said, research should be designed from gender perspective; it shouldn’t be lopsided.

Unveiling future plans, she said, as of now, I am getting into groove and will continue to contribute for AMU; and I am still connected with my professors abroad and work in project and research. Now I am teaching undergraduate students, but would like to guide Master female students to help them push beyond their capacity and make a difference in life, she exclaimed.

She attributes credit of her success to God and doting parent, who were supportive and always lifted her sagging morale especially when she experienced lows. Her father, Mr Tsegaye Taffese is a retired government official, mother housewife; she has three brothers and two sisters.

(Corporate Communication Directorate)