Intergenerational Siiqqee Conversations, Ep. 02

by Elella Daba

In this installment of Intergenerational Siiqqee Conversations, Kuwee, Elella and Ayantu continue exploring the theme of silencing in general and the silencing of women’s voices in particular. The purpose of this segment is to lay out the general framework informing this project and to clarify the intentions of the speakers.

We invite listeners to share their perspectives on this theme.


Aaddee Kuwee Kumsa is a lifelong activist, former political prisoner and social work scholar who has spent a lifetime thinking and writing about issues of liberation within a local and global context.

Ayantu Ayana is a researcher and organizer interested in the theoretical and practical processes of building inclusive transnational and intersectional grassroots movements. She is co-founder and producer at Odaacity, a podcast committed to promoting meaningful conversations regarding sociopolitical affairs of the Horn of Africa.

Elella Daba has always been curious about the role of Oromo women in their community, both at home and abroad. She hopes that this Intergenerational Siiqqee Conversation project will help in building multiple platforms where Oromo women’s voices are fully heard.

 

Intergenerational Siiqqee Conversations, Ep. 01

by Elella Daba

This conversation was recorded during a preliminary meeting between Aaddee Kuwee Kumsa, Ayantu Ayana and I. We recorded our conversation in order to prepare and reflect on the issues we would like to address in the Oromo community both at home and abroad, based on our experiences and perspectives.

Upon listening to the recorded meeting, we felt that it would be ideal to release it as a form of introduction to herald the beginning of a series of conversations we would like to have. Our hope is that having in-depth and candid conversations among Oromo women will help in building multiple platforms where their voices are fully heard.

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As we start our Intergenerational Siiqqee Conversations, it is our sincerest hope you will join us in this journey!

Check out the link below:


Aaddee Kuwee Kumsa is a lifelong activist, former political prisoner and social work scholar who has spent a lifetime thinking and writing about issues of liberation within a local and global context.

Ayantu Ayana is a researcher and organizer interested in the theoretical and practical processes of building inclusive transnational and intersectional grassroots movements. She is co-founder and producer at Odaacity, a podcast committed to promoting meaningful conversations regarding sociopolitical affairs of the Horn of Africa.

Elella Daba has always been curious about the role of Oromo women in their community, both at home and abroad. She hopes that this Intergenerational Siiqqee Conversation project will help in building multiple platforms where Oromo women’s voices are fully heard.

 

Food for thought, from an Oromo woman

by Elella Daba

I have been examining the role women have had in our community for a long time, especially when it comes to the ongoing struggle for self-determination. For many years, I have wondered how Oromo women, both at home and abroad, have contributed to the struggle. I have wondered about who these women are, what their contributions were, and what their thoughts, visions and values are. Quite often, there seemed to be no lack of names to drop when it came to mentioning the heroes of the Oromo, but the heroines are almost never talked about. At times, it seemed that people even struggled to remember their names, let alone their contributions. As if the community is made up of only men, half of the population is forgotten, unless we are trying to score political points based on their plight.

What led me to writing this commentary was actually an interview I watched a couple of days ago, where a well-known person, who has played a crucial part in the struggle, was asked if he had any children. Afterwards, the journalist moved on to asking other questions. Now maybe only a few noticed that, but I bet every woman who watched that interview was a bit offended. To the defense of the interviewee, he mentioned his wife and even called her his unwavering partner in the struggle without being asked. But this isn’t the first and only time such things have happened, and not every man has cared to correct such errors. There seems to be a somewhat collective notion that the men in our community go through all of this alone, but most of us know that this is not the case.

 

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The women in our community have been the rock of the struggle. They, too, have been arbitrarily arrested, tortured and murdered for taking a prominent part in it. Those who escaped such fate have braved being single mothers when their better half was imprisoned, forced to be a refugee, and in worse cases, when he was murdered. They have willingly sacrificed the home and family they wanted to build for the sake of the struggle that they too believed in, fully understanding that their children could grow up without a father and that they could also grow old without their partner. If that is not sheer determination that needs to be recognized and celebrated, I don’t know what is. Still, no matter the role that women in our communities are playing, credit is usually given elsewhere or used as a backdrop to tell other stories. I believe that the time has come for our community to have an open and honest conversation about how we can change this pattern.

I want to encourage each and every man and woman in our community, including myself, to look around us. We need to purposefully and consciously ask and learn about the story of every heroine of our people. We need to learn about what this struggle means to them and what can be done from now on to fully integrate their vision and opinion into the cause. We have to be vigilant in making room for our women so that their voices are fully heard. Such actions should not be for show, but in order to build a strong sense of community from within.

Finally, to the Oromo women who have contributed to this struggle and are still doing so in any shape or form, I want to encourage you to come out and tell your stories, for it is only then that your sisters and daughters can truly inherit your courage and determination. To all my known and unknown heroines: baga dhalattan, baga keenya taatan, baga ilmaan Oromoo deessanii guddiftan, baga qabsoo keenya keessatti hirmaattan. Galanni keessan ammayyuu bilisummaa haa ta’u.


Elella Daba is a university student living in Norway. Her hope is to see the day where Oromos will be able to determine the future of Oromia without any preconditions imposed by outsiders. As the saying goes in Afaan Oromo,  “alagaan alaguma, Oromo dammaqi”.

Intal Caaltuu – Almaaz Tafarraa

This song, originally written by Abdii Qophee and sang by Almaaz Tafarraa, is about a teenage grief-ridden girl named Caaltuu (Chaltu) who is recounting the series of events leading up to her pregnancy. She speaks to the attitude of the era, in which pregnancy out of wedlock was detrimental to a family’s name and legacy, and is apologetic in tone as she addresses her father in the lyrics.

This was an early form of social commentary in modern Oromo music, and was part of a wave of Oromo songs which aimed to educate and warn their audience about various issues in the community. “Intal Caaltuu” was part of a collaborative cassette released in the 1980’s by four legendary Oromo artists: Almaaz Tafarraa, Halloo Daawwee, Kadiir Sa’id and Aadam Haaruun.

Gaddi khoo dachaa dha
If qofattin oolle
Tiyya fafaaweetiin
Maqaa kheeysan falee
Ija teeysan dura
Daddeemuu 
waa hin malle

Enjoy!

The Siiqqee Chronicles Team

My Seat at the Table

by Najat Hamza

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It is an indisputable fact that patriarchy is in charge of the world, regardless of its failure as a system. It is also equally important to note that women all around the world have fought this unjust system to bring about real change and equality. My argument will not be about falling victim to this political, cultural, social and religious system of unfairness set by men for men and fueled by women, but about how I define it. As women, most of us have asked men to include us in one closed group or another as if they hold the key to our freedom, but how many of us stop and think “why do we need to ask men for inclusiveness?”

Patriarchy is experienced and practiced all over the world and it is too broad to cover it in this piece. However, I can speak about my experience as an Oromo woman of Muslim faith. In a society like that of the Oromo, culture plays an important role in gender role assignments and how men and women define themselves. If we look at religion – specifically my religion, Islam – we find that the first believer of our faith was a woman. We also know that the first martyr of Islam was also a woman, not to mention the courageous warriors and defenders of the faith from the beginning to date.

Even though this is the reality, we are made to feel like the contribution offered by women is secondary to that of men, and the honor and respect our faith gives us is presented as a gift from men when it is from God/Allah. If we look at the organic Oromo culture before the pollution of the colonizers, we see the balance it had in handling both genders, the roles each in respect to one another. What we witness and live now as culture, however, is the hybrid of men’s injections of patriarchal ideologies and some borrowed bad practices that give men the unfair advantage of using these pillars as a means to an end.

With respect to religion, if any woman questions any part of these clusters of systems of oppression to call attention to the frame of patriarchy operating from behind the curtain, she could get accused of heresy or falsifying the word of God/Allah. If one questions the culturally-infused system of patriarchy, she could be accused of disrespecting her identity, or worse, her ancestors. We are left in a paralyzing space where we walk on eggshells all of our lives in order to not upset or cause a stir in the honey’s jar that is patriarchy. As women, when we fear to speak out and correct the wrong, not only do we fail ourselves, but we fail men as well. Men benefit from an equal and balanced world as much as women do; it is time to save us both.

We usually talk about a glass ceiling being shattered or cracked when measuring women’s achievements here in the West, but what if we no longer need the limited distance between the floor that is patriarchy and the ceiling as an achievement to roam over it? What if we roamed in galaxies instead? What if sky was no longer the limit? It is not the limit. What if we stop accepting limitations patriarchy sets for us as women and define our own distance with or without limits? We can and we are.

If our goal as women is to crack or shatter the glass ceiling, we are not ambitious enough. Our goal as women should be to let men know: we do not need your glass ceiling to shatter or crack; we already have the most coveted seat at the table. We birthed humanity, we nurtured it, we educated it, we taught it to walk, we taught it to speak, and we unleashed it on the world. It has no place to come back and tell us we have limits as women. If we are still sitting around for men to open a door of opportunity for us, give us space and a seat at the table, it is like asking our own child permission to sit in our own home.

Men may like or dislike who I am, men could agree or disagree with my ideas, men could learn or unlearn from me and I could do the same, but what men cannot do is give me a voice, space or a seat. Because I already have my chair at the table of existence. I am here for a purpose, my purpose is defined for me and I am the master of it. It is hard to complain about a system while we are fueling and empowering it, so for all my women, I say this: put down the fuel pump.

You can join me at the table if interested; your place is waiting if you are not there already. I am grateful for the great women before me who had to remind me to assume my place at the table as prescribed to me and for me.


Najat Hamza is an Oromo human rights activist living and working in Minnesota. Her dream is to see Oromo people and Oromia reclaim their dignity and respect in her lifetime.

Meet Me Halfway

 

In her eyes, you had it all. Perfect build, killer smile, quite easy on the eye to that sixteen-year-old tomboy. You had ambition, direction and motivation. The words she needed to hear flowed off of your tongue like the sweetest form of poetry. Words so sweet she could taste them. Words so vivid, every time you spoke she painted a masterpiece in her head. Your speech made the world around her go completely mute. You knew you were becoming the center of her world; you allowed her to surrender her heart to the palm of your hand, despite the fact that you knew you never intended on giving her yours in return.

You made her think the fantasy you created was reality. You tugged at her heart strings until she lived, breathed and bled for you only. She was quick to come to your defense; she was a one-woman militia, ready to eliminate anything and everything that threatened your well-being. Whether or not you knew it, she tied her happiness to you. She allowed you to puppet her along for years, hoping that one day you would look her in the eyes and ask her to hold your hand and run off into the sunset. Truly hoping that one day, you would put her on the same pedestal.

You deserve an Oscar for the way you played the role of her Prince Charming. You were a natural on the stage of her life. So convinced, she told her closest friends about you. So inspirational, she prayed God kept you in the shade of His protection. So implausible, she gloated about how blessed she was. So believable, your act made her fantasy a reality. So rehearsed, you even said you loved her like you truly meant it.

Every time she would ask you to take a step forward, you would blame distance. It confused her because she was conditioned to believe that there is nothing that can stop true love. Still, she didn’t lose hope.

A few years passed and time progressed around her. She heard the whispers, but you trained her to never believe what she heard unless you said it. She was beginning to feel like there was something off about it all, but you stopped her before she got carried away in thought.  Although it was evidently clear to the rest of the world that you were flawed, you were still perfect to her. She did not realize that she was asking you to give her something that you were incapable of giving. She did not realize that the distance you were referring to was not literal, but in fact, figurative. So she went the extra mile. She bridged the gap and allowed for you to break her. She allowed you to change her until she could no longer recognize herself. Before she took the leap towards you, you started off in the opposite direction.

But still, you touched her. You kissed her and held her like she was the only one. You deliberately took a piece of her, knowing that it was just another souvenir. She did not realize that she would never get that piece of her back and trusted that you would cherish it. She was rudely awakened.

It was at that moment in time she realized who she had become. She finally realized her devotion to you was stronger than her devotion to God. She realized the many things she did for you, only to find out not only did you neglect her, but she neglected herself. She wallowed in depression and looked for answers, none of which you seemed to have. She thought she was doomed and the world around her would never make sense without you. You broke her but nevertheless, she fought to keep you around – if not as her lover, at least as her friend. Although she believed it was possible, time proved otherwise. You both trotted down the paths of your lives, moving in different directions, only to become estranged.

She’s come to her own realizations now. She now can see that she was asking you to love her, not realizing that you did not know how. She now understands the distance you were referring to was the distance between how she felt about you and how you felt about her. She was light-years ahead and expected you to catch up. You taught her lessons she never expected to learn. You helped her flip the pages into a new chapter of her life and gave her the push towards the start of healing she yearned for. Although you might believe there is nothing more for her to say, there is one last thing. In case you’re reading this, she wants to say thank you for not “meeting her halfway”.


Akkoo Waree was born in Hargeisa, Somalia and was raised in Dallas, Texas. She is currently pursuing a pre-law degree and hopes to use her degree to advance the current state of the Oromo people.

Siiqqee as a Form of Resistance

“The irony is that when Oromo men trample on the rights of Oromo women, it is not considered a betrayal of the national cause. Thus Oromo women are told to “bear it” or “swallow it” and put off the struggle against sexism until after national liberation. Despite their denigration, however, Oromo women in Oromia and in the Oromo diaspora are stepping up their struggle against sexism. Some women in Oromia have formed an organization under the name of siiqqee which underlines the fight against gender oppression. Women like Likkee Waldee and Maymune Sherif have continued their revolutionary activism even in exile; they cry out for the necessity of multifarious Oromo women’s organizations and a wider scale of consciousness-raising education. Obviously gender and national consciousness assists Oromo women to correct the distorted images and prepares them for the struggle of true liberation.”

– Aaddee Kuwee Kumsa, “Oromo Women and the Oromo National Movement: Dilemmas, Problems and Prospects for True Liberation” from the text “Oromo Nationalism and the Ethiopian Discourse: The Search for Freedom and Democracy”