Gumii Paarlaamaa Oromoo (GPO)
Oromo Parliamentarians Council (OPC)
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The Role of Women in the Oromo National Liberation Movement.
By Na’amat Isa
The Oromo women constitute nearly 50 per cent of the total Oromo population. Therefore, we cannot talk of a genuine national liberation struggle if we ignore or marginalize half of the Oromo population. For the Oromo women, it is their national duty as well as their right to take part in the national liberation movement and in the socio-cultural, political, and economic developments of future democratic Oromia.
Since their fate is related to the fate of their nationality, the Oromo women share all the political persecutions, economic oppressions and human rights abuses perpetrated against the Oromo people by the Abyssinian regimes. Therefore, the Oromo women also have great desire for freedom. But, the potential has neither been fully exploited by the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) nor consciously and systematically interpreted into practice by the Oromo women themselves.
In addition to national oppression, the Oromo women face gender discrimination. However nominal for the Oromo as a whole, Oromo women are denied equal access as men to political, economic and social rights. Even the Gadaa system, the most democratic system of its time, has not given equal opportunities to men and women in its political and military structure. But in the traditional Oromo society, Oromo women still had quite significant authorities on their administrative domains, particularly on family matters.
The Abyssinian occupation, which imposed its language and culture on the Oromo people, totally raped the Oromo women of the rights they had in the traditional Oromo society. Cultural barriers, combined with the most oppressive Abyssinian colonial rule, have curtailed the political participation of the Oromo women in the Oromo liberation struggle. However, even under such an oppressive Abyssinian colonial rule, many Oromo women have still made considerable contributions to the struggle.
Contribution of Oromo Women to the National Liberation Movement
I mentioned the contributions of the above few Oromo women, because I personally know them and I worked with some of them. In the last two decades, there have been many Oromo women who joined the OLF, particularly the Oromo Liberation Army. They have made great contributions and sacrifices, including their precious lives, to the independence of their country and for the freedom of their people.
There are also many other Oromo women in the diaspora who have played active roles in the Oromo students Unions, like TBOA, and others in North America and Canada, which are the integral parts of the Oromo national liberation movement. Some active Oromo women have also devoted their knowledge, time and energy for Oromo humanitarian works.
for liberation is not confined only to politically structured
hierarchy. Under a dictatorial regime like in
Most of the Oromo women, whose family members have been arrested, have suffered equally as those in the prison. They had to provide the prisoners with food, clothes and other necessities. During their visits to their relatives in prisons, they faced all the arrogance of the Abyssinian colonial security forces, verbal and physical abuses like touching their private parts and the like. But rather than being discouraged, they became more and more conscious of the just causes that their relatives were detained for. Instead of abandoning them, they gave them full support.
Obstacles to Women’s Participation
Cultural and Political Problems
Lack of Organisation
The OLF fully recognises the Oromo women’s equal rights and the importance of their political participation in the national liberation movement. I interviewed a person who had field knowledge to know if Oromo women’s role is different there than we generally know here.
According to my source, the OLF seems more effective in encouraging and mobilising Oromo women to participate in the struggle. Women and men have equal rights in the armed struggle. Women participate in military medical and communication sectors. There are also women combatants. Promotion depends, both for men and women, upon individual merits. However, the OLF still did not form or encourage the formation of Oromo women’s organisation.
At home, it is difficult to think of an independent Oromo women’s organisation under the current repressive Tigrean dominated regime. But there are still a good number of active Oromo women in the Diaspora who could form such an organisation. But they did not make efforts to organise themselves, and therefore, they have no common voice. Their efforts are individualistic and scattered.
Without organisation, the individual efforts cannot be effective to liberate us from the Abyssinian colonial rule. Without national liberation, there cannot be women’s emancipation. Without women’s emancipation, there will not be effective contribution of women to the socio-political, economic, and cultural development of our country. Therefore, it is high time that we have recognised the importance of women’s organisation to play an important role in the national liberation Movement as well as in building our country in the future.
Ways to Improve Oromo Women’s Participation
1. The Gadaa System must be upgraded in a way to include women in its political and military structure. Otherwise, under the guise of division of labour based on gender, housekeeping and child upbringing remain women’s domain whereas politics and military matters are reserved for men. I think this is a fundamental question which should be addressed.
Another important point is that Oromo men must free themselves from the occupiers alien culture, which has low-esteem for women, and which allows men to treat women as their personal effects or objects.
2. Within the family structure equal education opportunity should be given to members of both sexes. This would enable women to continue higher education, exploit their talents and practice their skills, and participate in the building up of their country.
3. The Oromo women in the Diaspora should organise themselves to make a fruitful contribution to the struggle for freedom and to the abolishment of discrimination based on gender in the future democratic Oromia. Without organisation, we cannot undertake any collective action. Without collective action, we cannot be effective. It is only in an organised manner that we can co-ordinate our work with Oromo women in the armed wing and also be voices of the majority of the voiceless Oromo women at home.
The OLF foreign office has the responsibility to organise, politicise and mobilise the Oromo women in a way that they could be more effective in their contributions to the Oromo national liberation movement. Also from TBOA and other OLF mass organisations, more efforts are expected to help the formation of such an organisation.
“The battle for democracy and liberation can only be won when women, mothers of the nation – half of the whole population – can take their rightful place as free and equal partners with men.” (Anonym, My spirit is not banned, Zimbabwe Publishing House, 1986)
Conference to promote women’s rights: ‘My spirit is not banned’,
Asafa Jalata. 1998. Oromo nationalism and the Ethiopian discourse: the search for freedom and democracy, Red Sea Press
Legesse. (1977?) Oromo Democracy – Gada Oromo (Unpublished paper)
P.T.W., Hultin, Jan, Truilzi. 1996 Being and Becoming Oromo:
Historical and Anthropological Enquiries.
Arlene, 1981. Women and Revolution in
An interview with a member of an OLF who has field experience on the participation of Oromo women in the Liberation Army.
Source: Sidama Concern
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