Silpominen on vain yksi erittäin vakava epäkohta hyvin epätasa-arvoisen yhteisön kulttuurissa. On paljon muitakin asioita, joiden täytyy muuttua jotta tytöillä ja naisilla olisi turvallista elää kyseisessä kulttuurissa. Bezunesh sanoo ääneen nämä asiat, joita moni etiopialainen ei ole koskaan edes ole uskaltanut kyseenalaistaa. Tässä tuoreimmassa raportissa hän jakaa samat asiat meidänkin kanssa. Jos vain jaksat, suosittelen lukemaan loppuun asti. Jos et ehdi, lue ainakin alku ja loppu!
The 6th work report to our Partners in Finland
What are the challenges of Women in Ethiopian society?
This time we taught in Funto Lamecha Bible school. We gave a special course for first year students. They were 26, both male and female and married and unmarried and also among girls some of them uncircumcised and unmarried. All of them are from different Evangelical churches and key persons such as evangelists, churches leaders, pastors and some of them are a very educated and teachers of other persons among Kambata society. Our teaching is based on the following:
Topic: Culture as a problem for women, women’s place in the society, power imbalance, dehumanization, socio-economic oppression, the workload of women, women in education, Female Genital Mutilation, definition of FGM, and the historical origin of FGM.
Culture as a problem for Women
When culture is defined, it is the total of inherited ideas, beliefs, values and knowledge which constitute the shared bases of social action. In Ethiopia culture, inequality between male and female is seen from the beginning of their birth. Many people are not happy when female children are born. A clear difference is seen soon after their birth. Women express their joy by ululation (laud shout) when they go to congratulate the mothers of new born. This ululation is done three times for female children, but five times for male children. This is the starting point of the inequality of women in Ethiopia. Females are believed to be lower than males.
In the society many people are hesitant to accept women as full human beings. If the first born is female in one family, the parents especially father and other relatives will not be happy. Even the husband may not treat his wife and new born girl in adequate way. Other relatives and society also express their rejection and neglecting the mother in different ways.
Women’s place in the Society
The cultural and social values of the people dominate women. Culturally, they are considered as lower class. Women have no right to participate in decision making; they must be silent in every case in the society and even in the family. For example if women express some ideas courageously, she is considered as talkative and she is not honored.
Women in Ethiopia society are active in every aspect of life. For instance, in family career, in managing and keeping house, in child bearing, in nurturing and similars which are considered as their dignity. Like many other Ethiopian rural societies, women in Ethiopia have much more work to do than men. Women perform all indoor activities and most of the outdoor work too, for example, assisting their husbands in farm.
In general, even if Ethiopian women have many roles in all areas of life in the society, no credit and recognition is given to them, but through their work husbands and families are honored. Any work done by a woman cannot be appreciated openly either by her husband or by other men. This is considered to be right because a wife can do her work only in the name of her husband. Women are always considered as very important part of society but their right is not fully respected.
When the issue of power rose, many people of the Ethiopia put women under the authority of men. Women are always expected to obey their husbands in any circumstance. This creates psychologically negative impact in the minds of women to accept themselves as equal with men. Many of Ethiopian people consider women as inferior as they try to measure the power of woman in accordance with physical strength. Most husbands consider their wives as their servants who are created only to serve them. Even they do not give equal place with their male children. In other words, some wifes are given less priority than male children and they do not get a chance to get what they need in a proper time. Husbands are always the decisive persons in women’s lives. Although women are responsible for all the domestic activities, they do not have the chance to be heads of their houses. Men have the highest place in the domestic economy.
We discussed some proverbs that are known to dehumanize women in the language of our people. For example:
Meniti daggu ketechi shinichi higanoba (Women do not know beyond preparing food or beyond kitchen).
Mentichchiha haruchichiih dullu zaboa (Beating with stick is medicine for Women and donkey).
Manna hoggohu menitin hossano (Friendless be friends with women).
Meseleta illohuuo woani agamohu mexooti (Being a father to girls is like being drowned by water).
Mentichu sajohu wo.a cu’imeihu lamunku matoti (Being advised by women is the same as holding water) and so on.
The Workload of Women
The workload of women is one of the ways used to oppress women in Ethiopia society. Women have too much responsibility in household compared to men. For example they are expected to take the responsibility for all food processing, other domestic activities, budgeting the household resources for constantly furnishing the society with labor, protecting children from any sort of danger, care for them whenever they get ill, caring for the sick and older family members. When we observe women in the domestic role, they are responsible for society. The domestic tasks associated with preparation for wedding and other social meetings are always the task of women. There are other responsibilities for women which are mentioned as a workload, like fetching water from river, collecting wood, washing cloths and so on. They are overburdened by too much work during pregnancy time and expected to work even when they are sick. Men do not share these responsibilities.
Female Genital Mutilation
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is one of the most harmful traditional practices that affect the health of women. FGM is common and acceptable norm in the Ethiopian culture. FGM is causing both immediate and long-term health complication that affect women’s physical and mental being. As it has been mentioned, FGM has short and long term effect in women’s lives such as severe bleeding due to extreme pain that takes a long time to be healed.
According to Ethiopian culture, many people believe that female circumcision is a form of initiation into womanhood or to ensure social cohesion and family integration. They do this practice to reduce females’ sexual desire as a means of maintaining chastity, virginity and fidelity and as a way of increasing male’s sexual pleasure. Nowdays, although this tradition is publically discouraged, uneducated people are continuing this practice in the lives of girls in secret because they accept it as cultural norm. Even if there is teaching to avoid the practice of FGM among the Ethiopian people, it is not effectively implemented. FGM has been one the ways to oppress women in Ethiopia society as well as in the church until this day. So that we will discuss about FGM as the following with its definition.
Definition of FGM
The world health organization (WHO) defines FGM as “all activities involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs, whether for culture or other non-therapeutic reasons.” It is considered as part of a group of traditional practice of female sex organ. Its literal meaning is “to cut off an important part of human involving the whole part of the external genital organ of female.” It is one of widely practiced traditions that have been damaging on the health of women and young girls in Ethiopia and other countries. It is deeprooted practice as the value of FGM practicing society.
For Muslims, circumcision is an outward symbol of the religious process, which brings oneself under the discipline of God’s requirement. According to their understanding circumcision reflects the inner growth of reason and submission of basic passions to the higher spiritual requirements of true Islam.
Historical origin of FGM
Different writers have different suggestion about the origin of FGM. According to Sandy Willcox FGM was practiced in Egypt before 2500 B.C. Also pre-Islamic Arabia and ancient Rome are concerned countries. Gachiri signifies that the practices was practiced before thousands of years and it was originated in Egypt and Ethiopia as earliest as one century B.C. This is merely assumption without concrete evidence. A Greek papyrus from 163 B.C. mentions girls in Egypt were undergoing circumcisions and it is widely accepted to have originated in Egypt and the Nile valley at the time of pharaohs.
Many people try to link the origin of FGM with Islam. However, the significance of the earliest records of the practice of FGM had begun thousands of years in Egypt before the beginning of Islam. Considering FGM as an Islamic religion obligation is not the right attitude. FGM was carried out before Islam arrived in Africa. Also Koran does not prescribe the performance of FGM.
After our teaching we organised group discussions to connect different people with each others. For example a married women with unmarried girl, a circumcised girl with uncircumcised girl and a married male with unmarried male. We gave them different questions to discuss. Our learners were very happy and they asked for another course on these discussed issues concerning the challenges of FGM. We will continue next time with these issues and other topics.
We wish good time those who read this report support us in all!