A Letter from Mothers

Some of us wake up to the smell of chocolates. Trays full of delicious foods, fruits and drinks put on our breasts in bed.

Some of us wake to the beeping sound of a text. A message conveying how our motherhood is appreciated, adored and envied.

Some of us wake up to a kiss, on the forehead, on the cheek, on the lips. ‘We love you’ mom, they whisper to us.

Some lucky of us wake up to a coincidental day, where our birth dates collide with this special day our children call, Mother’s DAY.

Every year, our children, more than us, look forward to this day. We are championed for our never ending effort of being a mother. We often hear ‘everyday should be Mother’s day.’ We are often branded with seemingly endless superlatives, “Best Mom Ever”, “The Queen”….All these, oh how all these make our heart warm and our souls rich, you couldn’t possibly imagine. Our reward, we hope, must exceed beyond words galore and plethora of gifts.

We are in an excruciating pain when you decide to come out of our wombs. The moment you take your first breath and the air hit your lung and you start crying, we put away all the pain we just have endured and start caressing you. We become vulnerable to your smile, your tears…your everything.

As you start to toddle, we jump as if we have won a lottery. We ask you to do it again and again. As you lose you first tooth, we smile and cherish the moment. As you go to school for the first time, we worry as hell and we are happy as heaven. When you fight with your siblings we tell you to stop it (but really we love it to beats). When you’re off to your first day at the University, well, you know how we feel then.

All this, we do it with LOVE. Our reward from you is not celebrating a day in May to cherish us (don’t get us wrong, we really love it). But YOU are our reward. All of us have raised you with LOVE. Our reward is you spreading the LOVE we taught you every single day. When you go out in the world, you represent us. We need you to multiply our affection to you, to the world. You becoming successful in life, working for your dreams, living for others, showing gratitude, EVERY SINGLE DAY, that is our reward. When you do this, please know we will be filled with priceless pride, as we will know WE HAVE RAISED YOU WELL.


Subtle Tricks Gender Roles Play

I came across a singer named Joe Tex’s the other day. ‘Hold on to what you’ve got’ he sang in one of his well know works, with his rich southern blue voice. In the middle of the song, he says the following,
‘Listen Fellas,
You know it is not always a man can have a good woman.
A woman he can call his very own
A woman who will stay right there at home and mind the children while he is gone to work
A woman who will have his dinner cooked when he comes home.’ Clearly depicting what a woman is expected to do.
Now, consider how societies are constructed and organized. While doing so, try to realize the roles and responsibilities ‘given’ to women and the roles and responsibilities ‘taken’ by men.

What do you have now? Are they different? Are they proportionate? Are they acceptable?

As we live in a very diverse world, society norms are different from place to place and from country to country. Such discrepancy is created because of the so called agents of socialization. These agents (family, peers, school, work and social media) play a significant role in shaping an individual into the societal norms and values. They mold them so they can fit into the society and go along smoothly. These agents, however, being part of an ever-changing environment, will go through various and diverse changes due to discoveries, improved way of thinking, way of life, or even influence from other agents.
These agents, at some point in time, have defined and determined who will do what in a society and who will make decisions. Most societies, unfortunately have made men on decisions they consider important and necessary and most women have been at the peripheries. Gender roles, are one of the manifestations of this.

Like any other society Ethiopia have had a set of gender roles where there were distinct demarcations in which both sexes should proceed. Let ask ourselves these questions for instance. What will amaze us more, a girl who cannot cook or a boy who cannot cook? A boy who cannot change a tire or a girl who can’t do so? When you think of the things what a woman must be able to do and what a man must be able to do, we have a clear distinction.

The socialization agents then, perpetuate these distinctly put gender roles mostly without questioning them. Since childhood, boys are given ‘manly’ tasks like playing football, changing car oils or farming out in the field while girls are given ‘womanly’ tasks like making the bed, washing the dishes and combing their ‘female’ dolls’ hair. They grow with that set of mind.

Additionally, we have not long been a fan of people or groups that stray away from the norm set by the society. Thus when and if an individual or a faction within the society starts deviating or questioning from the regulations set they are considered to be abnormal and are often squashed effectively. This is one of the reasons why female genital cutting is still prevalent, as people are not willing to let go the culture that they have been raised in.
Thus, I was not surprised to hear when Joe Tex sang as such, as his words resembled the proverbial assumptions of his society, of any society. He only sang about what he saw and experienced growing in his community. Always expecting and viewing women as not more than what has been ‘given’ to them. While men can be adventurous and explorers of the world.

Yet cultures, traditions and norms exist as long as we allow them to. We must be able to choose what is good for all of us and abolish that are not. The aim must be advantage for all not advantage for some and disadvantage for others. Instead of celebrating March as the month of women, we must be concerned and show a coordinated effort that will tackle concerns for our women. That is how we celebrate them.

Ethiopia is my RELIGION

Today we celebrated Good Friday or as we Ethiopians call it, ስቅለት፡፡

Ethiopia has been a country where religion has played a huge part in the development of the society. Religion has been the driving force in many of the social institutions like education, marriage and health. It rerouted life paths for many, for better or worse, making it, along with tradition, the most influential institution in our country. As we are celebrating Good Friday today, I wanted to remind you of the importance of solidarity between the two largely followed religions of our country, Christianity and Islam.

For those who don’t know, Friday is considered by Muslims as an important day of prayer and congregation. The Holy Qur’an invokes the importance of Friday as a sacred day of worship in a chapter called “Al-Jumah,” meaning the day of congregation, which is also the word for Friday in Arabic. It states, “O you who believe! When you are called to congregational prayer, hasten to the remembrance of God and leave off business. That is much better for you, if you but know.”  And one Friday a year, here in Ethiopia, Christians also celebrate a day of prayer and congregation before Easter. The meaning of this particular Friday thus becomes significant.

As a Born and Bred Ethiopian, I have been extremely proud of how these two religions treated each other. For centuries the two communities have resided side by side with love and utmost respect. Sharing public holiday while embracing religious differences and rituals.

In the last few years however there have been tensions in different parts of our country, where churches have been burnt, followers of the respective religions barricaded and treated violently and discrimination based on religion has become increasingly evident.

Imagine being a Christian being raised in a highly Islamic community, where schools encourage you to read the Holy Qur’an. Would you be willing to send your child whom you have raised as Christian? What about if you were a Muslim, raised in a highly Christian society and have to go to a Christian dominated College? Will you be intimidated? Should you be intimidated?

What really worries me is that this is a habit that we have picked up along our growth process. May be through social institutions like school and mosques or churches. Have you ever looked at children playing together? They never see religion as a barrier to play football together, to eat lunch together, to study together, to be friends with. They never see that. But along the way we have been brainwashed to be with our own ‘kind’, to marry of our religion.  

All these defies the value our ancestors set. It is Ethiopia who gave Muslim asylum seekers in Arabia who fled from Arabia back in the 7th century. Our then Christian Kingdom ruler accepted them and gave them shelter and food. This is how our relationship began. Since then it has flourished into a mutual respect and love for each other. So why is it so hard now to follow, an example set centuries ago? It is contradictory to say that we have developed as individuals and as a community from our earlier ancestors but fail to continue the good deed they set. We must understand that we must arise beyond religion, beyond ethnicity and we must always bear in mind that we are humans first. Ethiopia has survived this long maintaining this core value. When we come to terms with that, our country will stand a little taller.