The Center for the Advancement of Rights and Democracy (CARD) published a study entitled (GADAA SYSTEM AND WOMEN’S RIGHTS: The Role of the Ordinary Institutions of Oromoo Women in Ensuring the Protection of Women’s Rights) . The study was conducted by , an assistant professor of law at Mettu University. Muluken holds an LLB in Law from Jimma University, an LLM in Comparative Public Law and Good Governance (ECSU) and a Ph.D. Human rights student at Addis Ababa University. He is certified by the Oromia Justice Sector Professionals Training and Research Institute (2011) for competency as a judge and prosecutor. Muluken served as a prosecutor in the regional state of Oromia from June 2010 to September 2016. He then moved to Mettu University as a lecturer in 2016, became Vice Dean in 2017 and Dean of the University’s School of Law in 2019. Addis Standards sat down with him to discuss his latest study and more.
: The selection began as part of the study. There were thematic areas of study in which the Center for the Advancement of Rights and Democracy (CARD) announced the research grant. According to the criteria, the subject areas included indigenous knowledge and women’s rights issues. So my original title was Atette and Sinqee: The Role of Atette and Sinqee for Women’s Rights. My focus was on women’s rights within the indigenous Gedda system. Which was not as well researched as the Gadda system itself. Even in public we see Abba Gaddas more most of the time, the role of women and their rights were unknown. In the Gedda system, the age category ranges from eight to one hundred and twelve and up to eighty for those who have served. This category is for the men from which we must examine the role of women. There are some places where the Sinqee system is very actively practiced for women’s rights, apparently by the Gedda system. So I picked this title to learn more. Sinqee is known in the southern parts of Oromia in Borena, Bale and Arsii, while Attete was known in Showaa and Western Oromia with a slightly different concept. Example: In Arsii they work on both spiritual and human rights issues, while in the West they focus more on spiritual activities. After a while, in our research in different parts of the country, we observed that such activities were carried out with different names. In Wollo Oromo they called it Ruffo Mereba, they practiced it similarly with Sinqee while the name is different, I have to change the name. The other reason is the respondents’ answer. They answer questions from the Gadda perspective, as derived from the Gadda system.
: I know about a female Abba Gadda that there was none, but about Example in Jimma There was a woman named Mako. She was either an Abba Gadda or her adviser, or she was a queen who is still debated. For some, she was employed as the administrative director of the Gedda system by the five Oromo tribes who settled around Jimma. In their various institutions, the participation of the opposite sex is very limited. Aba Gaddas only have a moderation role in Sinqee and Attete institutions. The separation of powers does not only take place according to power and age category, but also according to gender.
: Basically from the right perspective of women, the Ethiopian Women’s Rights Lawyers Association, Setawit and the Network of Ethiopian Women are institutions based on Western ideologies. Its goals are to safeguard women’s rights, but its standard is country-signed international law and treaties.
Basically, most laws have similarities in terms of gender-based violence and women’s rights, even if they do they are practiced in different ways. They work to avoid gender-based violence and other harmful acts in society. The approach is different in indigenous knowledge. One of the parameters of the effectiveness of international law is the way in which it is practiced from a local context. Contextualization was effective in some places, while others ignored it. In general, both western and indigenous knowledge share similar goals, but the approach is different when it comes to women’s rights. Indigenous knowledge focuses more on win-win solutions while maintaining the patriarch. In every society there is pressure from men. In some areas there are points where they do not agree with modern streams of thought.
As an example, the question of virginity from the point of view of indigenous knowledge is accepted as a criterion for a marriage. In addition, bigamy / polygamy and monogamy are accepted in some contexts. Society will argue that the issue of shared ownership, especially in the case of having vast wealth and if the first woman does not give birth naturally, the family will continue with the second woman. Such issues are not accepted in modern human rights and women’s rights perspectives, so there are contradictions between modern and indigenous knowledge. In order to absorb indigenous knowledge, the movements should penetrate society and its culture in just a few steps. That means from formal to cultural.
Women who own the Sinqee call them the “Godanssa Sinqee” or the “Sinqee” movement. If a woman is attacked, she will call for help, women will gather and demonstrate for them and themselves. After they start the demonstration, they will not return home without finding a solution for them. This action forces men in the community to step in and solve the problem immediately. So the decision will be made on site. The attacker either publicly apologizes for all the demonstrators or he compensates by slaughtering something for everyone. It is common knowledge that the abuse of one woman is the abuse of everyone in the community. With modernization and organized religious pressure in some places, such cultures are on the way to extinction.
The continuation of such institutions will depend on society. Even the government worked to eradicate the harmful cultural practices while failing to promote the valuable and useful cultural practices. We will only deliver harmful practices by enabling useful ones. In this way, such cultural practices can be promoted for tourism purposes.
Interest groups should work together to legally institutionalize them. The judicial system in some countries will be a prime example. Giving them recognition will be a path of continuation. Some practices should be recognized in the judicial system. The others should be formally integrated into different institutions in the general context of Ethiopia. As an example, we have recognized religious courts at regional and federal levels on the basis of the constitution. Likewise, there are common courts within society, and although they are not officially recognized, they have proven to be excellent conflict resolution mechanisms. Good examples are Shemegelena (Amhara region), Jaresauma (Oromia region), and Yejoka (Gurage zone), while Sharia courts are an example of religious dishes. With the exception of Sharia law, the other examples are not officially recognized. For example, if Sinqee is formally institutionalized, it helps empower women and guarantee their rights. With more than 80 percent of the population living in rural areas of the country with no access to formal courts, the usual recognized courts will address many issues, including women’s rights.
The media will play a very important role in this strengthening play and encouraging the continuation of useful cultural practices such as Sinqee. Recognition by the United Nations Educational Science and Culture Organization (UNESCO) is also a way of promoting culture, but not the only solution.
We’re almost done with both the Afaan Oromoo and Amharic language versions and only remains with the graphic design to publish the versions online. To further promote the topic it will be a process. Since cultures are known as identity pride, stakeholders need to work together. The tourism industry must work tirelessly to create awareness. In addition, the Oromia Education Bureau added Gadda as a lesson subject, since according to the African Union’s Agenda 2063, 60 percent of the primary school curriculum should be based on indigenous knowledge by 2060. This is an opportunity to advance culture.
I have tried to observe the role of women in peace building in my research. Sinqee and other institutions like “ErfoMerba” not only work on women’s rights, but also for the entire community. For example, when a son beats his father, the women gather and stand on the father’s behalf. If there is a conflict in society, they will interfere with Sinqee and resolve it or lead to the elders and Abba Gaddas. Perhaps conflicts that are currently occurring in the country would have been resolved if we had a strong indigenous system.
There are several factors that hinder such practices. Religious pressure – in some places, for example, different religions influence culture and treat indigenous knowledge in a negative light. There is also modernization, globalization and subsequent Western cultural influences; These are also factors that call into question indigenous practices and knowledge. Urbanization is also another factor that weakens cultural practices.
In the case of the government, they are working to eradicate harmful cultural practices rather than promote useful ones. In tourist offices, women’s and children’s affairs offices, and attorneys general offices, we need to repair and legalize the knowledge of the indigenous people. During the data collection process, the interviewers preferred Native American knowledge and the usual dishes over the modern dishes. The knowledge gap about the modern judicial system that has traveled widely to find such courts and these courts believed to be dominated by men and corruption are the reasons to reject the modern court model.
There was not enough time to work more on theoretical and conceptual theories. On the ethnographic side, I did not include any vocabulary that would provide depth and expand my reach. We have covered more than 50 areas and each of them can be a research topic in itself. So my research will be a backdrop for further study. We need to work more on the practicability of research in consultation with society and stakeholders. We don’t need to do any research for the shelf.
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