Women’s special gifts, unique potential make a global impact

Dina Kassa was born in Debre Berhan, a town 129 km far away from the capital Addis Ababa. Like most Ethiopian girls, gender based stereotypes had tried to prevent her from achieving her goals. However, thanks to her decisiveness and boldness she nurtured starting from her childhood, she is able to follow her dreams and achieve her goal.

Dina grew up in a society that gives more value to herbals (traditional medicines) than the one that are manufactured in industries. For this reason, she had a strong attachment to nature. The herbals, her grandmother used to use to heal various diseases or wounds, have a special place in her future career. As the saying goes “Necessity is the mother of invention” Dina was able to explore a new way of utilizing medicinal herbs for detoxification which has the importance of removing toxins from the environment and addressing public health concerns.

Dina received her B.Sc degree in Chemistry from Adigrat University where the courses she took inspired her to know more about her environment and the danger it faced. This is especially true for courses she took in second year that inspired her to know more about the environment and health related challenges humankind has faced over the past decades because of pollution.

After holding her first degree, Dina came to Addis Ababa seeking a better life and to pursue her Master’s degree. However, life was not as simple as she thought it to be. This is especially true until she got a job to cover her daily expenses. Finally, Dina got a job as a teacher that let her to cover her expenses but not to pursue her second degree. For this reason, she started tutoring students in her part time and saved some money to pursue her MSc degree. Gradually, Dina left her full time career as a teacher and continued tutoring students to get enrolled at Addis Ababa University with the money she saved.

Fortunately, as she was preparing to pay all the sacrifices to attend her second degree program, she won a Women’s Scholarship at the Center for Environmental Science at Addis Ababa University, which was her area of interest. This gave her more chances to know better about environmental challenges and ways to overcome the threats.

At the time she was attending her second degree program at the Center for Environmental Science, Dina was advocating for plant-based solutions to tackle environmental issues exacerbated by climate change. Through rigorous experimentation, she was able to obtain promising results showcasing the effectiveness of her research against selected bacteria that were isolated from water sources in Addis Ababa and from humans and animals.

Dina excelled in her thesis defense and the research has paved the way for her ultimate goal: innovating plant-based water treatment mechanisms. Presently, she is working on a proposal to revolutionize water treatment methods beyond chlorination, addressing the scarcity of clean water in rural areas and combating antimicrobial drug resistance exacerbated by environmental pollution and global warming.

This research, spanning seven months, provided her with profound insights about microbiology and phytochemical analysis. This led her to propose the significance of utilizing the antimicrobial properties of medicinal plants to combat waterborne diseases prevalent in developing countries like Ethiopia; and her research that focused on evaluating the antimicrobial potential of traditionally used medicinal plants to treat diarrheal and infectious diseases has caught the attention of her teachers and advisors. The promising result she got from the plant gave her more energy to treat water and she graduated with excellent results.

According to Dina, due to urbanization and other related causes, water pollution is becoming a serious threat to public health. This is not only in urban areas where population density is high. Those areas which once were sparsely populated and their rivers were clean and potable have now become a threat to human health. This includes the groundwater.

“Due to the environmental pollution, public health is being seriously affected by it. The toxic substances that are found in the environment are primary causes for such challenges. Detoxifying those environmental challenges need not wait; they should be dealt with or minimized by combined efforts of human kinds.”

During his stay with Dina this reporter had asked if there is any secret behind her achievements. According to her, passion is the reason behind every success she achieved within the past years. There is peer pressure and responsibilities at home but the passion deep-rooted in her heart is a driving force to realize her dream. As Ethiopian women burdened with a number of responsibilities at home, she too had faced lots of challenges. This is especially true in rural parts of the country where early marriage is more acceptable than sending females to pursue education in higher education institutes.

“Even after graduating from the university, I encountered several challenges at the time I tried to pursue my second degree. But the passion and the dream I had since my childhood to become a scientist did not let me give up, but kept me motivated. It is a driving force behind all my achievements. The more I pursue my dream the more my challenges have become easier.”

As to her, every Ethiopian woman face challenges and multidimensional responsibilities but giving an excuse will not take any one any step. What makes a difference in our life is paying the necessary price, following our dreams and achieving goals that can make a difference to society. We should not forget the fact that enjoying our comfort zone or not taking risks is our deadly enemy.”

When asked how she perceives this generation`s attitude towards achieving goals in a shortcut instead of taking risks she said: “This is especially true for most “Tik Tokers” who do not want to exert any effort or transfer knowledge to shape the society; but trading their moral integrity for the sake of financial gains.”

According to Dina, there are times where shortcuts bring better life. There are moments where they [shortcuts] can bring some economic freedom. But, it is not always possible and it does not work for all. What is more, it won’t bring a lasting solution. Whenever we take responsibility for our lives, we are also responsible to others. In this regard, we should take paths that bring sustainable results. Shortcuts cannot do this. People who prefer shortcuts are fragile and aspire to be involved in criminal or immoral activities. In this regard, we should learn to do our level best.

When asked what her life philosophy is, Diana said, “My life principle is selfless love. Whenever we learn to live for others, we will see the generous hands of God. Whenever we learn to share with others, life will share its blessings to us. In this respect, my purpose in life is not different from my philosophy. To be a water scientist was my childhood dream and I am realizing it. The more I give my time and energy to it, the more I can realize my dream and treat polluted water which in turn will help millions of people who might be victims of waterborne diseases.

While winding up his questions, this journalist had asked Dina to define women. “Being a woman is a gift. The creator has given women lots of advantages over nature that enable us to see things from different perspectives. If we properly utilize our blessing and support this unique identity through education, women can make a difference in the whole world. Every woman is born with wisdom. If this wisdom is supplemented by formal education, we can avert most of global challenges.”



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