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.
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”.