The below is a contribution by Ethiopian tour guide Berhan Teklay Teka – she’s passionate about showing visitors the sights of her country and one of the few women to be able to do so in a profession that is still predominantly male.
My name is Berhan Teklay Teka. I was born in 1989 in a small village called Geralta (Hawzen), Tigray, Ethiopia. I grew up in Geralta and at the age of 7 I left for a city called Mekelle, along with my aunt and cousin. It was a good opportunity for me to get an education – something my sisters and neighbours did not have access to. Alongside school, I learnt to take responsibility when I helped my disabled cousin with household chores.
After completing high school, I enrolled at university and graduated in Eco-tourism and Biodiversity. I then received a job with a tour guiding company where I worked in the office. Only the men could be guides and as I was a girl, they told me “You will work in the office because you are a girl.”
However, one day an opportunity arose for me to go on a trek as a guide. After expressing to my managers how much I had enjoyed guiding the trek, they allowed me to become a guide. Some years later, our company was in the process of being phased out, and at that point five male guides and I decided to work together and create our own legally registered association.
Alongside receiving a monthly salary, I was enjoying my job as a guide because I was learning and experiencing so much about different cultures, traditions and how diverse the culture is at every destination.
In 2014, I planned to have my first child and became pregnant. I was still working as a guide but asked the other guides for maternity leave nearer to the time of giving birth. I was given maternity leave without a monthly salary because the male guides had decided they wanted a bigger share of the income, benefitting them but not me.
When I was ready to come back to work, the male guides were not interested in having me back at the company. I then decided to get my job back through legal processes, which took some time. As I needed an income to support myself and my daughter, I set up a small juice shop.
It took two years, but with the support and negotiations of the relevant government agencies I managed to get my job back. Today, despite these past challenges, I am still working as a guide. I do still feel that some men try to benefit more financially from the work than I do, so I learned to be resolute and insistent.
From my experiences, I have learned that women are physically and mentally as strong as men, but men still think women are weak.
I believe these challenges provide an opportunity for girls to show exactly what they can achieve.