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Ethiopia’s “Generation Me”

The term Millennials is given to people born in the 80’s and 90’s who came of age during the turn of the Millennium (EC). They are also known as Generation Y and at times are referred to as “Generation Me”. Millennials are viewed as open minded and are perceived to be selfish. Some research indicates that Millennials themselves do believe that they are self-centered.
More than ever this generation is exposed to technology and social media. I for one am hooked to my laptop and cell phone, and cannot go a day without using the Internet either for work or personal purposes. I believe this is true for most Ethiopians my age.
It is hard to imagine a very liberal generation in a country that is deep-rooted with customs, social norms, and religion. Proudly, these entrenched customs are one of our unique traits. There is something fascinating about a society that has kept its traditional practice for so long.
As Ethiopian Millennial I sometimes find it hard to be accepted in a society that does not prefer to deviate from the norm. It is the sad truth that you have to do certain things just because it is what is expected in the culture. Doing your own thing is often considered disrespectful towards the culture.
Ethiopia is not a technologically advanced nation compared to the rest of the world. However, like their peers elsewhere, Ethiopian Millennials are the first generation that has been exposed to the Internet at such a young age. Our exposure through social media makes us think and act differently. This difference is visible even from Ethiopian Generation X or baby boomers (preceding the generation of Millennials).
There are many Ethiopian Millennials who have brought about new ideas. These concepts have helped the country to be recognized at the international level, positively. However, because of lack of acceptance to new ideas in our society I wonder how many Ethiopian Millennials are hesitant to go beyond the norm in fear of society’s negative feedback.
We have certain norms that we have to follow regardless of our choices. For example, because I’m a woman I might have to wait until marriage to leave my parents’ house. I may have a desire to live by myself or lead my own lifestyle, however, this may be viewed as disrespectful to the family that raised you.
Weddings, burial ceremonies and other gatherings in our society are held in higher standards. As an Ethiopian Millennial you might have your different “nontraditional” ideas of how you want these events to take place. However, you may be discouraged to have it your way because you don’t want to come across as rude/selfish.
Growing up we were told to become engineers, doctors or chase after similar professions. Understandably, we were pressured in these directions to have a better chance at life. Though, this comes from a better place it limits the young from taking chances and exploring new ideas. Given our culture I wonder how many in “Generation Me” are unable to follow a passion that they aspire to so dearly.
The Millennial Ethiopian generation, including myself play a double role. We feel like we have to live by the rules of the society, but then again due to the time we are at, we question some of our norms. We are probably the first Ethiopian generation to challenge our customs. This is may be why we are seen as rebellious and less obedient towards our elders.
We have been very blessed to grow up in a community that values family and friendship. I think that Ethiopian Generation Y has the same values and esteem for their Ethiopian culture. From where I am standing “Generation Me” has and will keep the traditions that have been bestowed upon us by our ancestors intact. Thus, if we have accepted the past Ethiopia as it was, there is no reason why we can’t add to our customs and create an even better Ethiopia.

By Makeda Leikun


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