#inTheirVoice: “About Girls Unapologetically Outspoken.”

Tangut Zenebe Degfay

“ Where I am from, a girl outspoken, is a girl looked down upon.” –Tangut Zenebe Degfay, IDP ’18

My name is Tangut and I am from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. An aspect of my social life I absolutely admire is the opportunity to tell and learn from honest stories. I love conversations. I love listening to others’ stories. I love telling stories because I feel empowered by the fact that people learn about me through my own choice of words, my intonations, and my own hyper-excited expressive ways.

Where I am from, a girl outspoken, is a girl looked down upon. We have many phrases in the language used to belittle a girl strong and outspoken, a girl who stands up for herself and for what she believes. Leflafi. Mutti. Woregna. That belittling comes not only from strangers but from people very close. Because you see, culturally and socially, a girl is – and has been for centuries – expected to be dependent on her male counterparts not only economically and socially, but emotionally and mentally. A girl ought to listen but not speak. A girl ought to follow orders and never object or question why. A girl’s intelligence is looked down upon, a girl’s opinions are often dismissed from decision making in her home and in her society.

Enjoying the sun and enjoying the company. Stephanie V, Tangut, Eunice, Castelline, & Thabo (from left-to-right)

I love my culture and everything it has to offer. But growing up, it was very difficult for me to live by the rules especially when it comes to expressing my opinion. In school, I had fingers pointed at me because I had a lot to say about things and I said them. During informal conversations, I find myself being interrupted mostly by my male peers or reminded that I’ve spoken too much. The thing is, I don’t particularly like to dwell on gender disparities and societies fear of a girl with voice, but there is something about the dismissiveness of people that gets me. It is Okay for boys to say whatever they want and whenever they wanted. They can freely and nonchalantly insert their opinions even when a girl is speaking without the need to wait for her to finish her thoughts yet a girl cannot even speak her mind?

It is the same in my country. It is the same in your country. It is the same in Japan. It is the same in India. It is the same in the United States…….. It feels as though society has for centuries marched against a girl strong and outspoken. What is it really about a girl’s voice that bothers society?

Tangut taking a selfie with Chara

This year, I found myself surrounded by some of the most outstanding, strong, and unapologetically outspoken girls through school activities and projects or just pure friendship. Elea, Ashley, Celina, Ianthe, Tran. And the perks of being surrounded by unapologetically outspoken and strong girls is that you feed off of their energy and find yourself growing mentally and intellectually. But most importantly, it helps validate that being a girl strong and outspoken is something to be absolutely proud of because change never comes from those who live by the rule but from those who challenge the rule.

Society may never be ready for girls with voice but I have always known myself to be, and will continue to be outspoken and stand for what I believe.


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