The Guji-Oromo Women Places in Polio-Economic and Socio-Cultural Spheres. In reference to the Gadaa System, South Ethiopia

Term Paper, 2021

35 Pages

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Table of content

1. Historical Overview on the Status Back Ground of Women in Ethiopia:
2. Historical and Geographical Backgrounds of the the Gujii Oromo Society




The Guji-Oromo Women Places in Polio-Economic and Socio-Cultural Spheres: In reference to the Gadaa System, South Ethiopia

By Mengesha Robso Wodajo (M.A)

Department of History and Heritage Managment, Bule Hora University


The endeavor of this world cannot be achieved without the help of others. So, I would like to express my heart-felt and most gratitude to the Collge of Social Science and Humanities dean and vice-dean (Haile Chuluke and Dereje Biru) and Bule Hora University History and Heritage Management staff members (Gemchu Kenea and Kefale Getnet), University community, especially Second year History department students, and the CSSH teachers for their irreplaceable encouragement, good humor, and for their willingness (to give essential information) to run-up this research from the beginning to the end. Had it not been for their help, this paper would not have been attained its present form.

I owe special thanks of gratitude to my friends Awol Mohammed, Sofian Ahmed, and Nasir Aliyi for their continuous encouragement towards the success of my research which is unforgettable throughout my life.

My deepest heart–felt thanks also extend to my sweet-heart Semira S. and sister 2S2 for their boundless moral support and provision of relevant materials used for the accomplishment of this paper.

Finally, I would like to express my profound thanks to Nefisa A., who took the trouble of writing the scripts within a short time


1. Historical Overview on the Status Back Ground of Women in Ethiopia:

This chapter starts with the historical review of Ethiopian women’s roles and status analyzed from a feminist perspective. The aim is to find out whether there were feminist tendencies among the actions of women in the past and what forms those had. What has to be kept in mind is that women’s right, question and other related issues, in the past and at present, were strongly influenced by the political and religious culture of society that continues unabated. Taking this into consideration, the aim of this study is to discuss women’s household positions, property rights, and leadership status, Famine and NGOs among the Gujii peoples in particular and in the history of Ethiopia, in general.

In many African societies, women’s problems are compounded as compared to other marginalized categories. Because of their political and economic position in their society, women constitute what Jemjem (2004: 12) calls “the most marginalized of the marginalized.” As members of society, they experience unfair treatment; they have to bear the burdens of daily life that patriarchy imposes. The discrimination of women as a lived reality represents something larger than simply a lack of income or a state of financial need for women, which is created by gender inequality in various socio-economical and political affairs. In addition to this, sex segregation in the labor market creates much of the wage gap visible between men and women’s work. Even those, occupation which have traditionally been occupied by women and generally involve lower prestige and less-skills, are usually lower paying occupations.

But, those occupations which were dominated by men’s typically pay more than womens’ are paid, even though their educational requirements are roughly the same. Among lower- skill, lower paying occupations, woman‘s earn approximately 60 % of men’s wages for comparable work. Enduring inequality in pay structures, the target of “Equal pay for Equal work” campaigns from years past, present, persist, ultimately contributing to a devaluation of women’s work.

In support of this, Barbar B. Conable Jr., President of the World Bank in 1986, spoken that, ‘women do two thirds of the word’s work.yet they earn only one tenth of income and own less than one percent of the world‘s property. There are among the poorest of the world’s poor.’ Their underprivileged positions are maintained and perpetuated by strong national and cultural discourses as well as by customary and statutory laws.

Some feminists and women’s groups on the African continent proclaim that women in Ethiopian are the most advanced in terms of the conduciveness towards women’s rights of their eco-political status, legal and policy environment. But the reality in the country reveals otherwise. For instance, in the area of women’s equality and rights, numerous legislative measure and policies appear to be transformed into symbolic instruments and used as political decorations. There is no effort to assert their implementation as postulated. Moreover, there is a tremendous inconsistency between laws on paper and the reality of practice where, often, they even end up competing against each other.

When we see the status of women from the time of the last emperor until the present in order to illustrate how they have been faring through these times. Ironically, the emperor initiated the country’s revised constitution in 1955 and civil code in 1951 that proclaimed women’s equality at all levels, including granting them voting rights. Pankhurst discussed how women’s lives were remote from the changes that were sweeping the country at the level of the polity. This was mainly due to the monarchal ideology of the time that had remained relatively stable for centuries.

But, when the monarchy was overthrown in 1974 and a new regime came to power (Derg). This gesture was further taken up by the Derg regime that expanded the areas of women’s rights, some changes were finally observed in women’s ancient roles and status on a decorated paper form. Regrettably, these gestures were merely symbolic. Both rulers did not know how to make those rights practical. A little bit during the times of Derg a few women’s affair offices and organizations were set up at the capital to give answer for their unresolved gender touch and other discriminatory and equality questions and to solve their all rounded problems which was imposed and not solved by the prior 1974 Ethiopia emperors and kings. But that was not enough or we can say it was nothing compared to the age-old women’s question and discriminatory practice from all spheres.

Historically, Ethiopian women have played prominent roles in the country’s political, economic and social spheres. Regrettably, not much had been documented on this and other women’s lives or issues in historical times. This paucity of data, however, is not only a product of the past. Even at present the critical shortage of data on women is glaring. The little documentation which does emerge is often influenced by international actors and remains invisible or out of reach and unpublished. One positive development is that more students at the academic level have started to conduct research on gender issues. Most of these, however, remain unpublished and many do not reflect a critical and in-depth analysis of gender issues in the country.

The first scholar to document anything on women was Pankhurst (1990). He is a remarkable scholar with great insight. He recorded the status and roles of women through the different historical time periods in the country covering the time from the Gondarine Period (approximately,1636) through the Middle Ages up to the nineteenth century. Within these time frames he noted that the position of women remained basically unchanged even though several interesting developments took place at court. He described women’s traditional gender roles, mainly those related to their domestic responsibilities as static, barely touched by the modernization processes at court.

It is only recently that women’s issues in Ethiopia are gaining prominence among scholars. Issues that were considered insignificant in historical times are currently subjected to detailed analytical scrutiny. This is the reason why in the past, the documentation of women’s issues was very limited while at present there seems to be no end to it. Increased education and awareness is adding more in identifying many of the issues that are seen as a problem to women. Many of these are found to be closely related to the cultural and religious fabric of society that has been taken for granted as the norm for centuries.

That is why intervention in them was treated as taboo. The cultural and religious fabric of society includes issues such as child marriage, female genital mutilation, abduction, rape, domestic violence, marital rape and so forth. In early history though, these were not considered problems due to lack of education and awareness. Ethiopian historical education had its base in religion. This means that in the Christian areas education was controlled by the church and in the Muslim areas by the mosque. In both, education was a lengthy process and extremely biased against women to the extent of their complete exclusion. The country’s highest book on the laws of the kings, the Fetha Negest, clearly stipulated that women shall not teach nor be made members of the clergy and none but clergy can act as judges, and, nuns, pious widows and virgins must not raise their voices when they speak, or quarrel or sue someone for worldly objects.

Some of the Fetha Negist articles which discriminated womens’ were:-

- The husband is the head of the family
- The husband can demand obedience from his wife
- The husband has control over his own and his wife’s salary
- He establishes a common residence and administers common property
- Property is registered in the name of the husband
- If he is unable to provide servants then the wife must do all household duties herself
- He guides family management
- He protects and guides his wife’s conduct and restricts her choice of occupation
- The wife obeys him in all lawful things which he orders
- Injuries inflicted on the wife which render her companionship less useful or less agreeable to the husband entitle him to claim damages against the accused.

The scarcity of available recorded data on women in Ethiopian clearly illustrates the bias is male–centered recording. The historical collection of data portrays the one sided images data recording of only a few elite women whom at one time or another in Ethiopian history, have played such prominent roles that the history of the country could not be written without their inclusion. The historical documentation of the country starts with a legendary female ruler, the Queen of Sheba (who is also claimed by Yemenis) and the myth of her union with Solomon (king of Israel).

The legend attached to the Queen is one of the major sources of pride in the countries 3000 years of history. There were numerous other prominent elite women on the political scene in Ethiopia vying for control and power in historical times. Many of these women were privileged due to their status as wives or mothers of powerful men. Some became rulers either through direct placement by men, or through indirect linkages of being married to a ruler, or as regents. There were also women who became famous in their roles as warriors such as Queen Yodit and Bati Dil Wenbera.

Queen Yodit (Judith) was the daughter of the leader of the Falasha. Yodit is said to have ruled for 40 years. She was a strong woman who combined her forces and brought utter destruction to the Aksumite kingdom. Even though Christian writers deliberately try to omit this daring female ruler from history, labeling her as a rebel and evil against Christianity, her saga could not be ignored for it almost destroyed Christianity in Ethiopia.

Bati Dil Wenbera was another famous woman. Upon the death of her husband, the Muslim leader Imam Ahmed Ibn Ibrahim Al Ghazi or “Gragn Muhammad” (the left-handed) in 1516, who is also said to have almost destroyed Christianity in Ethiopia, she took over his army. Christianity was saved with the help of Portugal, but Dil Wenbera continued the struggle against the Christian campaigns of the then ruler Gelawdeos. Gelawdeos (1540-1559) ruled together with the queen mother, Seble Wengel. These two women made history by braving each other and fighting for their own cause. A well-known example of female rule came from Emperor Zara Yacob (1434-1468) who appointed his son-in-law as his principal courtier. But, believing him to be disloyal, he placed the government of almost the entire country in the hands of his daughters and other female relatives. Nine of his daughters were appointed as governors at that time. And there were many more such elite women who at one time or another, either directly or indirectly (as regents of their minor sons or grandsons), ruled parts of the country or led armies to fight in the continuous conflicts of the country. They were described in male-centred language as able rulers, influential, knowledgeable on political and military affairs, brave and often commanding their own armies. For instance, Minale (1996: 6) states that “During the first Italian invasion (1895-1896) Empress Taytu was described as a ‘valiant warrior’ and appraised to have done a task ‘not usually that of a woman’ and ‘She was seen as an excellent diplomat dealing with foreigners on her own”. The clear details of Empress Taytu provide some useful insights into how elite women exercised their roles and responsibilities and what those entailed in their kingdom.

Taytu was the wife of Emperor Menelik II and while Menelik was her fifth husband, she was his second wife. She was noted to have received some religious education, was very conservative and a strict follower of the Orthodox Christian religion. Given her status, she possessed her own property (i.e. Empress Taytu Hotel) and controlled her own army (i.e. Commanding her own troops and female camp followers, she was also actively engaged in encouraging men to go and fight. Not only did she command her own troops on the battlefields, she also provided leadership to the thousands of women camp followers, supervising their tasks, and she proposed the sieges of Mekelle plan during that war which enable Ethiopian troops their Italians counterpart without any blood). Prouty(1986:142) also stated that, the parade of groups going to the Battle of Adwa was described by an Italian, Antonelli, in 1887 as follows:-

Imagine 70000–80000 mules and 20000–30000 women burdened like the beasts themselves with utensils to grind flour, make bread and cooking jars of liquid strapped by two leather thongs to their shoulders and waists. These women, bent under their loads, dressed in torn clothing, go along singing, laughing and frolicking as if they were at a party.

Taytu’s active engagement in this war earned her the title of “valiant warrior”. In fact, it is this documentation of Taytu’s life and her consequent role during this war with the Italians in 1896 that is credited with having brought visibility and recognition to women’s roles in wars.

Of great interest was her role in the arrangement of dynastic marriages for clear political purposes. Having no children of her own, she gathered her relatives, cousins and nieces around her, using them to create alliances with other rulers through the arrangement of their marriages. She would not hesitate to force the dissolution of a stable marriage or to force her relatives to divorce and re-marry women or men of her choice. As child marriage was a common practice at the time, some of her nieces as young as seven years old were married off to men as old as in their fifties. Empress Taytu thus used her relatives as peons in a power game of building loyalty around her. However, since she was a product of her time, given her status this was considered a normal practice.

After the death of Emperor Menelik, Empress Zewditu, his daughter, was placed in charge of the government, holding the title of Empress for 14 years. She was the first woman to be crowned in her own right in Ethiopian history. But, beside this, there was nothing during her rule that could have been attributed to her. She was found to be more concerned with religion than politics.

Empress Zewditu was followed by Ras Tefari Mekonnen, the son of Menelik’s cousin, Ras Mekonnen, in 1930. He was married to Empress Menen, who had already married several times before marrying him. Not much is known about Empress Menen, except that she had an equally traditional upbringing and was extremely devoted to the Orthodox Church. These two followers of Empress Taytu grossly failed to show the same type of affiliation or concern for women’s issues that Taytu had.

But, unlike the previous regimes, during the second Emperorship periods of Haile selassie there were, expansion of modern education in the country which brought great advantages of access to girls. By the late 1950s there were more than 500 schools offering primary education with about 56,000 students. Of these only 9,000 were girls. Secondary schools had over 1,800 students with 150 girls.

In 1968 the proportion of girls in primary schools was 29.7%, at the junior level, 26.7%; at the secondary level 18.3% and at the university level 7.0%. This was shown by the increased enrolment rate of girls in primary and secondary schools between 1955 and 1970, which rose from 18.6 to 31.4% and 10.4 to 21% respectively. By 1973/74 there were more than 6,236 primary and secondary schools in the country with an enrolment of more than three million children, coming out of the taboo sphere into the open for reflection.

Any form of political and civil organization in the country was actively discouraged before the 1930s by Emperor Haile Selassie who was extremely wary of any intention among members of society to become organized, fearing them as a competitive political force.

But this situation changed with the looming threat of the Italian invasion in 1935 and led to the formation of a few associations such as the Ethiopian Red Cross Society and the Ethiopian Patriotic Association.

Within these associations, elite women (mainly women from the court such as the daughters of Emperor Haile Selassie) took the initiative to start their own women’s branches.

Their main aim was to mobilize women for the impending Italian-Ethio war-related activities. Princess Tenagnewerq (one of the daughters of Emperor Haile Selassie) became the associations’ honorary president. Another daughter of the emperor, Princess Tsehai, was more ambitious and initiated the first nationwide women’s organization known as the “Ethiopian Women’s Volunteer Service Association” in 1935 under the patronage of her mother, Empress Menen. This association had similar goals, namely to use women and exploit them for war-related activities. And, though it was the longest surviving women’s association of the time, it did nothing to emphasizes the plight of women or strive for the improvement of women’s rights.

After the war its name was changed to the Ethiopian Women’s Work Association (EWWA). A critical review of this association reveals many shortcomings and even questions the nature of its existence. It was found to be dominated by educated and elite women who used the association to advance their own interests. Smegne (1986:27) argued that many women did not benefit from EWWA’s activities because it failed to embrace the oppressed and downtrodden and in fact only catered for a small group of women in Addis Ababa. Its members were also noted to belong to the educated group of women in the country. The association was characterized by Zenebework Tadesse (1976, p. 49) as at worst reactionary, and at best philanthropic. The leadership of this association was devoid of any political activism due to their close links to the ruling family. This means that it not only refrained from challenging the Emperor’s laws and policies, but also failed to galvanize political consciousness among women or encourage female leadership.

What was even more puzzling was that it remained reluctant to deal with sensitive issues, specifically those dealing with women’s rights, while it claimed to have achieved women’s emancipation. “This was a far cry from the reality”. The whole process of engaging female students in a conscienticization process through the male students’ actions after the fashion show in 1968 contributed immensely to radicalization among a few female students, specifically with regard to the political climate of the country.

The University Students Union of Addis Ababa (USUAA) also took up the cause of the “liberation of women” in its election campaign speeches, urging women to fight for their liberation. This led to a more active engagement of these female students in the various school and union activities. Before 1968, some female students had already been active in the student unions. These included some of the most prominent women of the time such as Martha Mebratu (killed in a failed plane hijacking in 1972), Netsannet Mengistu, and Tadelech Kidane-Mariam.

It was also actively encouraged by the emperor and integrated in the education system. However, students started to use their poetic abilities to express their discontent regarding the political rule in the country. They wrote on many social and political issues which included the lives of soldiers, the political and economic power of the state, the underprivileged position and exploitation of man by man, the Christian Orthodox Church53 and so forth. And, female students did not lag behind in this. In fact, the female poetry club survived the many years of political turmoil and is still operational. Meanwhile, among the students who were sent abroad for education, many did not return. This included some female students. Many others left the country due to the repressive political climate. Settled in American and European countries, these students formed various student unions (i.e. the Ethiopian Student Union in Europe (ESUE) and the Ethiopian Student Union in North America (ESUNA) in the 1960s (At the time, both unions followed the same ideological base, namely Marxism.

In 1968 the All-Ethiopia Socialist Movement (MEISON) was founded among some members of ESUE and ESUNA while the Ethiopian People’s Liberation Organization (EPLO) took the stage in the early seventies initiated by some radicals in Algeria recruiting members among the European, American, Ethiopian and Middle Eastern groups of Ethiopian students. Female students were represented in both MEISON and EPRP (Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party). Some of them were Genet Girma, Aster Wudneh, Hebret Agonafer, Teyint Mekonnen, Nigist Adane, Abebech Bekele, Fikirte Gebre Mariam, Tadelech Haile Mikael and Emebet Bekele. Like their male counterparts, these women were actively engaged in organizing new members abroad for their respective unions and promoting its agenda. One of the specific roles of these female students was also to mobilize women and get them organized in the women’s study groups which had emerged in the late seventies and in which the “woman question” had gained entrance. But even then, most of the female members of these unions were more active on political and party issues than on women’s issues.

During a debate on the Ethiopian Student Movement, Netsanet said that “As university students, the word 'gender' meant to us nothing more than a grammatical term. In fact, it was then known not as such but the 'Woman Question'”! When the revolution broke out in 1974, some of the members of the EPRP and MEISON decided to return to the country. And that is how they brought with them the discourse on the “woman question” into the country. Freeing of women from this domestic slavery was meticulously analyzed. Recognizing the inequalities within the family, the “woman question” targeted all other forms of inequality in society affecting women and pursuing democracy at its highest form.

The thinking was that once women start participating equally with men at all societal levels, democracy would prevail and women would be treated equally. In this regard, socialist feminism tried to address women’s oppression in its dual format of class and sex. However, there are many socialist feminists (including those adapted later on in Ethiopia by the Derg and EPRDF) that still see class oppression as the correct framework with which to understand women’s position and who feel that sexual oppression should not be allowed to interfere with class solidarity.

The women’s movement had become more comprehensive and was the first of its kind in the country, albeit initiated abroad. Being exposed to the many emerging schools of thoughts on feminism at the time, these female students consciously pushed their members to take a correct stand on the Ethiopian “woman question”, stating: “We have to understand the present world situation and the concrete experiences within progressive movements in the struggle for the emancipation and equality of women. We have to understand the correct handling of the woman question and wage a resolute struggle against male supremacy”.

This radical and rather innovative stance of female students represented a unique high level of consciousness. And in 1991 the socialist regime of Derg was overthrown by the waves of Ethiopian people’s protest.

The EPRDF/TPLF began its rule in a more promising vein in 1991. It allocated women their own departments and offices in the form of Women’s Affairs and even drafted a policy framework of operations. However, as a result of the radical changes at the polity, these were obviously by-products, executed in a paternalistic and tokenish manner. Radical changes have never been envisaged by the regime. Its only aim is to exert maximum control. It is disappointing to admit that somehow “women” have been left behind. The discussions below will emphasize the visibility of women’s status and roles and their cultural rights cross-culturally (particularly the Gujii-Oromo womens socio-cultural and eco-political rights and positions) in reference to the changes that might have emerged through the last six decades and analyze these in the context of the Gujii-Oromo pastoral women traditional administration of Gadaa system.

2. Historical and Geographical Backgrounds of the the Gujii Oromo Society

Gujii, the community which the theme of this study is centered at, is one of the majorities among the communities residing in a large territory found in the southern part of Ethiopia, approximately 470k.m far away from Addis Ababa .The Gujii people belong to the Oromo ethnic group. They speak Oromo language and practice the original Oromo culture. They are, even, considered to be the ones who have sustained the original Oromo traditions. In other orders, the original Oromo traditions are still active in practices of the Gujii society. In their ways of life and dialect, the Gujii Oromo seem to be distinct from other parts of the country with the exception of the Borena Oromo. With the Borena Oromo, they share some ways of life and speak a relatively similar dialect.

The Gujii society lives in the heart of the previous Sidamo province, mostly in the Jamjam highland between Galana and Genale valleys. They were called “Jemjemtu peoples” both by their neigh boring peoples and Christian high land kingdom kings. Under the administrative systems of the previous regimes, the society inhabited extensively in almost all Awrajas and Woredas in Sidamo region, in Gedio, Bule, Fesehagenet, Yirga chaffe and Wondo Woredas, to the north eastern part of Lake Chamo and east of Lake Abbaya bordering Kore down to Segen and Galana valleys reaching to Burjii and Arero Awaraja. Out of Sidamo province in the previous, the Gujii community also lives in the eastern part of Bale in Bedire and Oborso Woredas in Dollo Awaraja up to Nan-Sabo Woreda in Genale aweraja. Under the current political administrative structure, Gujii peoples inhabit in 15 districts of Oromia Regional State namely, Shakiso, Hamballa, Girja, Goro dolla, Dama, Anna sorra, Wadera, Adola, Liben, Negele, Bore, Dudda, Qarcha and others.

The areas of Gujii is bordering with Borena in the south ,Somali /Gurra, Garri, Digodi and Marrihana/ in the south and south eastern, Walayta and Gamo gofa in the west, Sidamo and Gedio in the north and Bale and Arsi in the East. In sum, the main Gujii land stretches from west up to Lake Abbaya (and beyond up to Arba Minchi), to the north up to southern Hagere selam, to the east up to Genale (and far beyond up to Iyya River in Bale), and to the south up to the south west of Negele town (currently, the center and seat of the Gujii Administrative Zone). The Gujii have not been restricted to Gujii territory, but have been diffused in the adjacent areas occupied by other ethnic groups. Some of them live mixed with the Gedeo, and Sidamo people in Gedio, Arsi, Bale and Sidamo Woredas (districts) and kebeles (villages). In the same way, they live with the Borena people in Borena dominated areas.

Therefore, the Gujii are neighbors with the Borena, the Walayeta, and the Gamo, the Gedeo, the Sidamo, the Arsi and the Bale people. However, they sometimes, came into conflict with their neighbours such as Walayeta, Gedeo and Borena peoples mainly on accounts of the passion of farmland. According to the 1999 Central Statically Authority (CSA), the total population of the Gujii community was estimated to be more than 1, 412, 972, of whom713,872 are men and 699,100 females; with an area of 18,577,055 square kilometers. Geographically the residence area of the Guji society is situated approximately between 36043’’--410 40” east longitude and 4030”--6038” north of latitude. The whole Gujii-areas’ has mainly three climatic zones; Qola, Waina-Dega and Dega. The highest area is Mount Dara Tiniro. The lowland areas’ of Gujii has highly hot and humid climatic conditions, where as the highland areas of the Gujii gets a maximum rain fall throughout the year. The hottest months run from January to March, followed by the rainy season, while the average yearly temperature ranges from 24--270c.The average annual rainfall amounts to 21.65.

The Gujii area has adverse ecology with wide-ranging altitudes and climatic conditions as stated by Jemjem (2011:56) and Gujii informants, the northern mountain ridges rise from 2600-3000 meters above sea level where as the moderate-central part which consists of vast highland pastures occasionally broken by hills and stands of upland trees range from 1700-2200 meters above sea level. The western part in the rift valley which consists hot lowland and the southernmost where the land descends in gradual stages the high land large forests and moderate up land trees become increasing common which drop away to hot grass land rise from 800-1600 meters elevation . And, the areas of Gujii have also various natural resources (various types of minerals, plants and animal species). Studies indicated that among the precious ones include Gold, Mercury, Gypsum, Potash, Tantalum, Mica and other ores.

The Gujii lands suitability for various crops and livestock types also varies across ecological differences. In the lowland areas pastoralism and tobacco, and food and cereals crops such as maize, finger millet, teff (Eragrostics teff), edulis (enset or locally called ‘Worqicha’), barley, wheat etc... Areas with altitudes above 1800m a.s.l mostly grow these crops while the lowland areas grow them to a lesser extent but mainly practice pastorailism. To strengthen this, Mohammed Hassen (1994) explains that,

The main sections of the tribe lives the highlands and practices agriculture while the young man hood looks after the herds in the lowlands. Each group follow its distinct way of life and thus the cultural elements associated with cattle rearing come more strongly to the fore in the low lands. There are plenty of cases where whole groups settled down for long periods in the lowlands and later became separated tribes.

Favorable grazing conditions had to settle in the lowlands in order to live exclusively by cattle rearing /pastorialism/. Pastorialism is a production system that is adapted to an environment where there is limited rain fall…one that does not fully support settled agriculture. Mobility particularly enables pastoralists to opportunistically exploit diverse ecologies. In the past a common herd management strategy among the Gujii was the seasonal movement of herds between lowland and highland area. The opportunity to move between different geographically landscape is reaffirmed by a complex set of social relations between residents of the different zones.

These socialites are based on kinship (and clanship), marriage and friend ship relations. As many indigenous people around the world, the Gujii believe that they are physically connected to their natural environment. They believe, in the interdependence of people and their environmental for their harmonious symbiotic unity. The Gujii tradition also supports the wise use of the land, water and forests for a sustainable existence. The Gujiians relatively green landscape can be attributed to this traditional culture that values the physical environment for sustainable coexistence.

2.1 Origin

In historical perspective, the Gujii society is one of the main branches of the Oromo nation. As it was written by OCTB (1998) that collected Gujii oral traditions, Adola had been the Origin and center of the Gujii Oromo. Oral legends of the Guji people also indicate that the Gujiis originated from the place called Girja. The Gujis’ center of original land is known to be Adola, the area around today’s Kebire-Mengist and ultimately the whole area in which this society dwells at present. As evidence, Girja is established in the mind of every Gujii and also believed by the entire society as the original home land and place of origin for all Gujiis in particular but human kind in general.

They say “Waaqi durtii biyyee Girjaarraa nama loobe”, meaning ‘the God originally molded human kind from the soil of Girja’. That is why the collective name of the community is usually suffixed by the name Girja (said Gujii-Girja) to indicate the person is typical or original Gujii.

All informants during this study also confirmed that the origin of Guji is around the upper stream of Genale River, the place called Girja, which is situated at about 30k.m north east of Adola town of Guji zone and some 40kms north west of Madda Walabu of Bale zone. In support of this, OCTB (1998) explained that, “A Gujii founding fathers named Gujo is said to have settled with his three children--Uraga, Mati and Hokku--at a place named Girja moving east wards from Adola. Having stayed at Girja for long years, Gujo and his children had returned west wards and settled over their present area through the expansion of Urago to the west, Mati to the north and Hokku to the south directions”.

Later on they widened their abode by pushing the neighboring peoples; legends from the western Oromiyaa ascertained that, “Ummoo (the father of all western Oromo) came from Haroo Walabu. This indicates that in the old times Oromo lived together at Haroo Walabu----having two clans; Borena and Bareentuma. The extent of Haroo Walabu is estimated to be 9000kms.sq. area of land starting east of Bidre town in the Bale Zone up to the Haroo Walabu of Uraga Woreda of Gujii zone”.

Gujii and northern Borena land---Both the oral tradition and historical documents indicates that the Guji-Borena region was roughly the area from which the Oromo launched their massive invasion in the sixteenth century. The Gujii sub-tribes could also be further divided in to clans (Balbala). For example, the Uraga sub-tribe consists of seven clans: Gola, Sorbortu, Agamtu, Hallo, Darartu, Zoysut, and Galalcha. The Hoku sub-tribe includes Obborra, Bala, Buditu, Micille and Kino; whereas the Mati sub-tribe comprises only there clans: Hirkatu, Insale and Hando.

All the clans live scattered on the large territory of the Gujii as well as adjoining lands. There are no cultural and dialectical elements that distinguish one clan from another. All members of the tribe live mixed and scattered on the large territory without any conflict and cultural or political differences among them. They consider each other brothers and sisters, act together in times of war and practice ritual together.

Generally, all historical and living evidences (some of them have been cited throughout the chapter of this study) proof that the Gujii people are one of the proto-dynastic Oromo group while Gujii lands is the cradle land of the Oromo nation.

2.2 The Gadaa System

The Gujii people, as common among all Oromo sub-groups, were organized under the old aged and peculiar Oromo democratic tradition called the Gadaa system. Gujii people practices the democratic system of Gadaa institution that addresses their judicial, legislative and executive needs, and assured participation of individuals and communities at the grassroots level before their invasion by Emperor Menilik of Ethiopia. According to Asebe (2007) and Gujii informants, the Gadaa system is a very comprehensive institution of the Oromo people. No Oromo cultural and historical concepts would be understood without understanding the role of Gadaa system and the value attached to it by the community.

Now a day the Oromo Gadaa system seems to be uncommon (especially, the young peoples preferred modern legal system than the traditional Gadaa system rules and orders, and even they are not in a position to abide by it) among in other parts of the country. However, the Gadaa system or institution and its rituals have been kept fresh with its flavor by the Gujii and Borena Oromo peoples. In these people, it has been serving as an institution that regulates the social-political, cultural and economic norms and events. The Gadaa institution of the Gujii people involves a system of age-set and generation-set that form and enforce the social, political and cultural norms by which individuals and their collective lives are ordered and governed, by creating sets of ritual status based on age and generation. Thus, it is possible to note that the Gadaa institution of the Gujii people is a complex system of ranking, authorizing and decision making for the people. It is made up of ten successive classes that rotate every eight years.

These classes are called:-Dabballe, Qarre, Kussa Raaba, Doori, Gadaa, Baatuu, Yuba, Jaarsa-Guduru and Jaarsa-Qulullu. The classes contain two series of five successive grades. Each grade is again supposed to go through eight years of activity. The system assigns special rights and duties for each grade or class in the period of its activity. In the system, each male members of the society is promoted to next grade once in every eight years. In the Gadaa system of administration, elders were given a great responsibility. They (elders) resolve local deputies, disapprove mal-practices, advice and guide the youth and mobilize the people to strengthen their solidarity.

A man’s transition from one Gadaa grade to the next has implication that person is assuming new social responsibilities for the coming eight years. Within each stage, activities and social roles are duly defined interims of rights and obligations to which members would be accountable. For instance, the Gadaa grade which Abba Gadaa and his advisory officials are elected, had political leadership and ritual responsibilities during its time in office. Among the Gujii, men who enter into the three consecutive Yuba grades after Gadaa remain in partial retirement but with influential ritual functions. No ritual ceremony would be practiced in the absence of a Yuba man for blessing.

Joseph Van Deloo, who made a thorough study of the Guii culture puts in his book Guji Oromo Culture in Southern Ethiopia that:- The Gadaa system forms crucial elements of Guji social life as it is able to regulate participation in diffuse governmental procedures as well as to provide for the moral integration of the entire local community and culture. It is centered on the concepts of fertility, peace, a sense of identity and religious values.

The recruitment among Gujii in to the Gadaa system is perhaps the basic element in maintaining their ‘distinctive’ group identity. Descent in to either of the Gujii sections and pastoralist life (owning as many cattle as possible) are vital criteria for recruitment. Excluded groups are the agriculturalists /Darassa/ or Gedeo, artisans and craftsmen. The mechanism used by Gujii as membership recruitment and exclusion of the other fits with the following description:-

A categorical ascription is an ethic ascription when it classifies a person interims of his basic most general identity, presumptively determined by his origin and back ground. To the extent that actors use ethnic identities to categorize themselves and others for the purpose of interaction, they form ethnic group in this organizational scene.

For the groups categorized as not eligible to membership to Gujii Gadaa system, it would be impossible to cross this ethnic boundary. The role of the Gadaa system in Gujii life manifests itself also in a legal aspect. In case of any dispute between individuals or clans conflict, the cases would be seen first by the local elders (Jarsa--Biyya) who are among the last Gadaa grades and who demonstrated ability of good leadership, tolerance, dignity (self-respect and respect for other), and commitment for peace both during and after their terms of office in Gadaa grade.

The issue of dispute settlement is intertwined both in Gadaa and spiritual institutions. Gujii believes in supernatural power called “Waqa”, which literally means both “Sky” and “God”. But it is the second meaning that is attached their belief. They assume that Waqa lives far above the earth and sent Qallu**, for the people with Gadaa, law of peace and ways of life. Therefore, it is believed that disobeying any Gadaa laws and principles of peace /Nagaa/ would create misfortunes upon the person(s) or groups. If disputes could not be resolved at Jarsa–Biyya level, the offices of Abba Gadaa and his advisors were the highest court of appeal in the traditional Gujii legal system. Then, Abba Gadaas’ and his advisors began to detect the root and immediate causes of the conflict between the two disputant groups, during their monthly meeting. After they knowing that, they would passed a punishment-resolution up on those two conflicting parties (especially, on the persons who complicated their disagreement points and began the fighting first), based on their traditional Gadaa system rule and regulations.

In short, in the Gujii people, the Gada institutions seems to be an authorized body that generates the social, cultural and political codes, and governs the day-to-day life of the people. Joseph Van Deloo (1991:35) asserts “--- that in the GujiI, the Gadaa institution is the top and authorized body that governs the spiritual and material lives of the people.” Thus, all aspects of the traditional life of the Gujii people are governed by laws of the Gadaa institution.

**Qallu institutions refer to the spiritual practice among the Oromo and it is believed to have the authority to mediate between man and God. This institution is at the apex of the Gadaa structure but none of its members assume power in Gadaa system. The role of Abba Qallu (spiritual leader) is adjudicating in inter ethnic conflicts through Gondoro tradition besides its spiritual intermediary roles.

2.3 Mootis and Akkoos in the Pre-Gadaa Administration System of Gujii

The nature of the original forms of human society was argued either to ascend to matriarchy or descend from patriarchy. In the same way, unauthorized descendance from matrilineal society where female used to be both the head of family and society which they call ‘Bara-Akkoo’, the reign of grandmothers (equivalent to queen ship).

Pursuant to the oral tradition, matriarchy-the reign of Akkoo, failed to sustain social order and stood in favor of female at pains of which ubiquitous concoction of men over turned it. The last woman of the Akkoo’s reign was known as Akkoo Mannooyyee, also called Mootii Qorkee in the east. Akkoo Mannooyyee, a very furious and tough woman many of whose deeds are focused on suppressing men used to dictate the community. On her last days, men were fed up with impossibilities of her orders improvised below the surface plan and toppled her. It was said that she was made to fall in to a clandestinely prepared enormous hole there after called Qille Akkoo Mannooyyee (meaning the deep ditch of Akkoo Manooyyee).

Although, it is not easy to assert with certainty the particularity of the Qille Akkoo Mannooyyee”s where about due to different versions by different Oromo groups, Guji and Borena, for example, say that it is found at about 30kms south of Negele town in the current Guji zone. To strengthen this idea, Dejene N., also argued that, “Akkoo Mannooyyee was a popularly well known and legendary queen who ruled the Guji people with an iron fist, even her story is also commonly told among other branches of the Oromo, such as the pastoral Borena group and other settled agriculturalists.” The legendary-queen of Akkoo Mannooyyee, previous political center, is just near by the road from Negele to Bomba, and no matter how it is difficult to visit physically due to unentertaining landscape the scene of this place can be viewed to west from distance while traveling on the road from Negele to Bomba and to the east while traveling from Negelle to Mugayo.

Gujii’s oral traditions narrate that, Akkoo Manooyyee, was one of the queen that ruled the Gujii societies. The reign of Akkoo Mannooyyee was also a period of inequality, despotism and stratification and sex segregation up on her follower societies. In support of this, Dejene N. Debsu, quoted the Gujii verion of Akkoo Mannooyyee’s dictator regime, as follows:-

During her rule, every task, including caring for children was performed by husbands, and every decision was made by women. One day she ordered her people to bring a bag full of fleas, as an order they were unable to carry out and, therefore, they consulted a wise poor man called Hiyyo Kulle. He told them to collect a bag full of donkey’s dung was filled with mosquitoes. The queen thought the mosquitoes were fleas and made another difficult directive, which was building a house on the air. Once again the people went to consult the poor man on how they would carry out the order. He told them to ask her to put up the door poles or pillars of the house, which customarily is done by the owner of the house. When they asked her to do so, she knew that she was out maneuvered and failed to respond to their request. The poor man continued to give advice to the people and told them to dig a deep hole, cover it with animal skin and grasses, and stand a seat on it for her. When she sat on the chair, she went down in to the hole, during her death, she uttered a message to women: ‘sobi soba dhuu buli,’ which means ‘pretend to respect male authority.’

Regarding to the depth…holes of Akkoo’s grave place, Jem jem Udessa (2011), stated that, “the concept of Qilee Akkoo Mannooyyee from its apocryphal stance has an impression of ever deepest man made pit the falling in to which has no return. As Jemjem’s Guji informants said that, it is very difficult to estimate the depth of this pit and hard to believe that it is an outcome of human labour.”

This story is remarkable in demonstrating to the Gujii how the concentration of power in the hands of men is justified. It rationalizes the view that women are ineffective for politics and administration. The corrupt practices during the queen’s rule are dramatized in the story in order to justify the marginalization of women from customary administration.

Even though, the Gujii societies new male-Mootii rulers criticized the mal administration of the Akkoo regime, till now, the Gujii womens’ are aware the potential legitimizing role of the myth and try to use it for their own empowerment in rituals and prayers. For example, when drought and famine occurs, women gather under Mokkonnisa (Croton Macrostachys) tree for prayers, known as ‘Uuddoo Afata’. They chant /invoke/ Oyoyo Garoyye, Akko Mannooyyee…the names of their legendary queens…and through them they ask their ‘Waqa’, Oromo supreme God, for rains, where as the male group prays directly to Waqa. It is said that the women make prayers under Mokkonnisa because Akko Mannooyyee was buried under that. Consistent with this, Durkheim’s (1995) explanation of religion as, “a society worshiping itself”. Gujii women’s revere their legendary queens, who are believed once to have led them and, through them, they honor women as a community. They use Akko Mannoyyee as an intermediary between them and their Waqa they find her attentive to their cause.

Elders of the Guji society also spoken that, before the reign of Akko (queens), people used to be led by Mootiis (equivalent to kings) from the very emergence of the Guji as a self administering community. It is said there were several Mootiis who were succeed by five Akkoos, after which the leadership came back to men (Mootiis). There were five popular Mootiis among the Gujiians, who were succeeded by Akkoos.

After ending the reign of Akkoos, there were two reigns of politics, which finally sean to start sharing the administrative roles by different individuals instead of power seizure by one--man as a hereditary and lifelong holding. Although the exact time cannot be specifically stated (though assumed to be some 3 millennium B.C), the last Mootii is assumed to be the time where the idea of decentralized system of administration started being exercised by the two Gujiian Mootiis, who jointly governing the period during last one system. The fact that the oral traditions of most Oromo refer to the reign of Akkoo indicates that Oromo might have been together at least during those reign of Akkoos before the joint leadership of the Mootii Annaa Sorraa and Girjaa Biilaa who are specific to Gujii. Other stories tell that the kings that replaced the queens had not preformed any better although critics are less sharp against them-triggering a transition to the Gadaa system. Similar to this, some conversant traditional elders heed that, Akkoo Manooyyee was the last among the then successive Mootiis where mal administration, social injustice and mayhem reigned up on whose death people came together and formed Hayyuu to one- man who became Abba Gadaa democratic system.

The coming of Gadaa system into function was not overnight but as a long-range aftermath of social appraisals. During this process, the mode of power sharing (Haaganaa-Baqaffata) among confederated tribes as well as among Baallii-Shanan was conjoined to found the establishment of Baallii--Shanan system which is generally known as the Gadaa system…there found the genesis of the Oromo in general, but of Gujii particular, democratic pluralism.

2.4 Gadaa System and Women

Before continuing with this study, it is necessary to draw a clear distinction between women’s differential experiences of cultural subordination and oppression. Women in Ethiopia, belonging to various religious and classes, have their own unique cultural sense of subordination and oppression. While educated middle class women may have their own impressions of their status and position, rural women in the different regions and among the different cultural group may have a completely different set of impression. For example, issues relating to societies traditional laws and constitutional laws and their implementations regarding to gender issues may vary from region to region and culture to cultural.

Like the other Oromiya regional zones, harmful traditional practices on womens’ also practiced in Gujii zone for a long period of time. Issues such as female genital mutilation, early marriage, incision, scarification, and marriage by abduction, rape and so forth, those forms of traditional practice are harmful to girls and women, and mostly impact negatively on women. The range violations of women’s right takes many forms, ranging from visible forms of physical abuse and torture to the psychological forms of deliberate discrimination, exclusion, terrorization, subjugation, subjection, subordination and exploitation. Most of these are historically closely inter wined in women’s daily lives as the norm through their cultural, religious or traditional identities to such an extent that they are not realized or recognized as violations. Anything considered part of the ancient Ethiopian and her regions traditional and customary heritage, including various forms of violations of women’s rights, is often fervently defended.

This explains how women’s rights are often used as possessions to be bargained and used at will by the patriarchy when ever convenient. However there are some reasons which made unique Gujii zone than other Oromia Regional State zones and districts, i.e Gadaa System.

The Gaddaa system broadly encompasses the social, political, economical and cultural institution of the Gujii and other Oromo branches. The term of Gadaa as a concept stands for the whole way of life of the Oromo. Before the invention of the Gadaa institution, according to the Gujii-tradition, five kings and five queens had ruled their people. The transition to the Gadaa system took place due to bad governance and wide spread lawless ness under the queens and kings. Queens and kings’ administrations were not effective to maintain peace and stability, and arbitrary measures became the rule rather than exceptions. They did not have Jaldhaba and Wamura, the two important structures for law enforcement under the Gadaa system. In addition, there was population growth and territorial expansion, but kings and queens did not have effective control over the people in their enlarged territory. As the territories under the Gujii increased, it became to delegate power to the clans and to introduce the Gadaa administration.

Since, the Gadaa traditional systems has legislative, executive and judiciary organs, in the system there are a lists of rule and regulations, which gives guarantee for womens’ right, security and freedoms from any types of hazard. For instance:-

- Husbands’ cannot be separated from his wives alive in life or during his life time or divorce is not allowed.
- Those who made abduction or any other acts of sexual harassment on females, would order to pay six cafés, and they called it “Jahan Jabbii Adabama”
- When husbands damage his wife, he will order to sleep on his back and he will hit by a lush several times, and his beloved cows will be selected and killed by his clan members, or they called it “Maal Aejjeeluu”, that means this customary laws strongly protects womens’ from their husbands mistreatment.

The Gadaa system has always made a near–continuous family supervising /following/ programmers, especially it gave a great place for womens’ or wives regarding to their peace and security.

- Guji Oromo’s does not fight by using javelin but there are two reason that javelin is allowed to them. First when females or girls are raped, and second when some ones wife is abducted.
- Husbands cannot made a divorce by his own and when he violates this rule, he will punish nine times, plus to that when he jumped (repeated) it again, he will avoid/delete/ or chase from his clan membership.
- When husbands hit his wife, elder womens’ or Akkoos’ are expected to move to the conflicting families home to resolve their disagreement points and husbands’ have an obligation to obey the Akkoos’ reconciliation questions. Because, culturally they believe that womens’ who are caring a child in her womb is highly respected and disobeying her question is considered as sin, and it is also stated in the Gadaa customary laws or traditional system as a rule to be respected.
- During the times of ethnic conflicts (for example, betweenn Gujii and Borena), not only Gujii but also Borena Oromos warriors do not target women during conflicts or raids. Because, Gujiians believes that womens’ are mothers sisters, wives, and women’s marriage has not any clan selection or choice.
- During and after ethic conflict are taken between Gujii and adjacent peoples (l,e Borena ), womens’ are sent for reconciliation, because according to the Gujii-Borena

Gadaa system, womens’ are free from any physical or mental influences or attacks from or ethnic conflicts. In support of this, the FDRE constitution (1995), article 16 and 35 sub-article 4, declares that :- “Government must work to make females free any harmful practices and discrimination. Customs, rules, and norms which may oppress womens’ either physically or mentally is highly prohibited by the constitution.

Over all, women have active roles in ritual practice of the Gujii society. Similar to the Borena (a related Oromo branch). Rituals are important elements for the transformation or integration of individuals into groups and reaffirmation of social arrangements. In these sense Gujii women are effectively integrated into their society by fully participating in Gadaa rituals. However, men control the political spheres of their society. During this study is conducted, Informants describes women’s participation in political activities among the Borena as the follows:-

Men are in control of military and political activities. Only men can engage in warfare. Only men take part in the elections of the leaders of camps or of age sets and Gadaa classes. Men lead and participate in ritual activities. However, ritual is not an exclusively masculine domain: there are several ritual performed for women. In these and a few other instances women do not take an important part.

While the Gujii women also provide logistical support to their husbands during conflict, they are not directly involved in combat or in other ‘dangerous’ activities such as hunting. Hunting, fighting, and participation in Gadaa administration, which confer prestige and status to members are dominated by male members. Nonetheless, women are marginally involved in these activities, and this is recounted in different myths and legends. There is a story told about women warriors who failed to successfully carry out their mission in the past. The story goes that women fighters went to war in group of ten. They raided animals and other belongings (waatto, used for perfume) from the enemy and headed back to their camp. However, the enemy followed them to retrieve the raided animals and the waatto. Then the commanders of the squad ordered her troops as follows:

“Waatii buusi malee, wattoo hin buusin”.

This is roughly to mean:

“You can lose the animals to the enemy but never let the Waattoo go”

The troops of women followed the order of their commander and surrendered the animals but retained the Waatoo. On their way to home, the commander suggested counting the troops to check if any of their members had died. The women took turns counting each other, but every one of them came up with only nine and reported one person is missing. Finally, they wanted to be sure about their number and sought help from a man to count them. The man asked them to sit down, counted ten of them, and reported that no members had died. It is said that because of this incomplete, women were declared unfit for fighting.

This story stresses two areas of women’s in effectiveness during the conduct of this war:- Failure in counting the exact number of troop members and in making the wrong voice for perfumes over the important asset, the live stock. After this time, according to the story, women stopped going to war, but they continue helping their husbands’ with the necessary preparations when they go to war. A wife anoints her husbands’ with butter when he goes to war, blessings, him “Waaqni Nagaan Sigalchu,” meaning ‘Waqa bring you back home safely and hands the spear over to him.’ When he comes back from the battle field she well comes him, and based on her tradition, she awards him her necklace. In the evening of that day, he sponsors a ‘Kudha ceremony,’ where he slaughters an animal and boasts of his bravery.

Generally, the Gujii Oromo womens’ have a relatively good position in their traditional Gadaa system unlike other ethnicity of Ethiopia.

2.5 Gujii Households and the Place of Women

There have been few studies concerning the rural womens’ house holding activities, but , many observers commented on the physical hardship that rural Ethiopia women experience throughout their lives, such hard ship involves: caring loads over long distances, grinding corn manually, working in the home stead, raising children, cooking, fetching water and collecting fire woods from along distance. Like the rest country side Ethiopian womens’, Gujii women’s also play an important role both in the house hold and in their society. This section analysis changes in the house hold organization and function and their implications for womens’ land and other economic rights. The discussion of households can also provide a background to womens’ social, cultural and political rights. Gujii has a population density of 74.841%. While 129,852 or 14.31% are urban inhabitants, a further 5,315 or 0.38% are pastoralist. A total of 269,440 households were counted in this zone, which results in an average of 5.16 persons to a house hold, and 258,540 housing units. The Gujii social structure consists of Gosa (clan) at the highest level and extends down to Mana (lineage), Warra (extended family), and Maatii or Maaya (nuclear family). The latter consists of the husband, his wife (wives), and their children. Warra includes the brothers of the husband, his father and mother, and his brother’s children in addition to the nuclear family members.

Among the Gujian cultural, marriage is considered as an important institution through which complex relation are established with a final groups, known as ‘Sodda’, in laws. Therefore, great care is taken in arranging marriages for sons and daughters. In earlier times, a man must avoids marrying into the same man of another clan from which his father’s mother came, what now goes to three generations. Virginity for girl is valued and any sexual relationship before marriage is discouraged. Contrary to this value system, extra martial relationships, known as Garayyu, are encouraged after marriage.

The Guji family is some kind of polygamous family where the majority of people are content with one wife and very few who are economically or socially privileged live in polygamy. Actually, the motives advanced for polygamy at present are mainly five:- First, the first wife is childless; Second, a person who has many herds of cattle to look after will be requested by his wife to marry another wife; Third, the inheritance of a widow… the deceased husband’s…brother; and more recently; Fourth, cases of separation by war which the solider husband remains in the north and remains there; Five, a female (unmarried) may request a married person to take her as a second wife.

Therefore, polygamy is a common practice among Oromo in general and Gujii in particular and “it is no unusual to see a man with two or three wives….young girls or woman marries with the knowledge that their husband can marry a second, third, fourth or fifth wife. What husbands usually do is that they build houses for each wife and divide their wealth among the wives; so each wife will have her own house, cattle, farming land, utensils and tools. It is however, common to see that especially if the wives are only two they live harmoniously in one house using all their belongings commonly. The co-wives’ houses may be made in one or separately. According to the Gujii culture and tradition, when married couples wish to establish their own husband, the boy’s parents may give them some livestock in addition to marriage gifts and their personal property. These gift animals create the basic economic foundation for Gujii households. Customarily in the Gadaa house holding system, there was rarely female-headed households or locally called “Haadha-Iyyeessaa” because the widowed inheritance system provided an opportunity for remarriage for all windowed women.

Female-headed households today lack male labor for farming and herding. If they remain single, they usually do not have the sufficient number of children which agro-pastorialism requires. With expanding agriculture, households have to split labor between herding and farming. Because of the shortage of labor, female-headed households depend only on hand-hoes for farming and live in persistent food insecurity, while male–headed households use hand-hose as a supplement to ox-drawn farming.

Families who have no child can adopt from Warra members, known as Kenna, a gift. If the adopted child is a female, she marries from the adoptive parents’ house, but the husband goes to the biological father’s house for Arrara, peacemaking visits. The biological father also takes a heifer, which is given by groom’s parents. Females from Garba (slaves) and Cawwaa (craftsmen) families have not a chance to get a husband out sides her category-because, these groups are socially discriminated and out casted. With the expansion of market places in the Gujiian region since the mid-1930s, use of money and cultivation of crops, men started their sphere of control up on them, while women started selling milk and its products in a parallel development. The sale of milk is said to have expanded during the Italian occupation (1936-41)

Today, the Gujii household economy is based on the production of livestock and the sale of animals and their products (the lowlanders), in addition to cultivation of grains. Unlike the previous times, now a day, when a Gujiian husband sells any cattle, he gives the money to his wife and together they discuses on that how the money should be utilized, parts of the money would be allocated to buy a small animal as a replacement, while the remaining could be used for purchasing of grains, clothes, and animal licks. Failure to follow these conventions could result in a serious penalty from the clan court.

2.6 Women’s Property Rights and Ownership

There has been a plethora of literature on the low status of pastoral and agro-pastoral women elsewhere in Africa (Coppock, 1994; Dupire, 1963). However, an increasing number of works have also recognized that pastoral women have more subtle rights and claims to family property than is immediately apparent (Coppock, 1994: 125; Hinnant, 1984; Hodgson, 2000). These observations are consistent with conditions of women among the Gujii, where men dominate the political, economic, and social life of their society, but there is a room for negotiation for women at the same time. There are, for example, several cultural and ritual practices through which property is transferred to men and women.

Among the Gujii, birth and marriage ceremonies are important events where children are granted property and symbolically assigned their gender roles. Preference for males in the Gujii culture is apparent from the birth ceremony. Male children are preferred by parents at birth because it is believed that life is not possible without males in the pastoral system. The challenges of herding at distant places, where herders may face enemies, robbers, and raiders, can only be overcome by male members. Therefore, preference for males is expressed at birth through ululation (howling or wailing in jubilation), which is repeated four times for males and three times for females. Haberland (1963: 775) notes that:-

“Among most Ethiopian peoples the number four is the symbol for the masculine

principle, and three the symbol of the feminine principle.”

Male children are given cows, known as handhuura, at birth. Handhuura means umbilical cord, which dries up in three days after birth and is fed to a cow chosen as a gift for the child. There is no handhuura for female children, but hameessa, a cow for temporary use of its products, may be given to girls when they grow up so that they can cover their petty expenses. They do not own the hameessa cows and return them to their parents during their marriage.

In a marriage proposal, women often are seen as passive actors where requests are made only by men. Hussein (2004: 108) states that among the Oromo “a man is deemed fuudhe (married) by virtue of his taking a woman to his homestead while the woman is deemed heerumte (been wedded) since she is taken away from her parental home.” Hussein also cites Sapiro and remarks that this passiveness shows that men are possessors while women are the possessed. Among the Gujii, however, one of the four major marriage types, addibaana , empowers women and allows them to choose their partners.

Marriage among the Gujii takes several forms, the most common practice being arranged marriage. Rituals performed following such marriages stress the role assignments given to the couples. A day after their marriage, the couple is told to practice Okee , where the husband and wife go outside and return home, the husband carrying a spear and the wife carrying firewood and grass. Upon entering the house, she puts the firewood in the fire and the grass in front of calves. This symbolizes their future tasks, where the husband is responsible to protect the cattle from raiding and other enemies, and the wife is responsible for homestead tasks. After this rehearsal, the boy’s father guides the girl to the kraal and asks her to touch one of the cows with her siiqqo , ritual stick, which henceforth is called siiqqo and belongs to her. Going back to the house, the girl mixes her and the bridegroom’s miju (marriage milk) and churns it, symbolizing the union of the two unrelated persons. If she happens to be a virgin, she is also given an additional cow known as quuttoo. (11)

If a girl is of an advanced age for marriage, she is entitled to choose her marriage partner. According to the addibaana rule, any girl who is unable to find a partner can move into the house of someone she loves and claim a marriage to him. Under the customary law, such proposals have to be accepted by the boy and his family.

Marriage is an important institution among the Gujii that it is not allowed to terminate even when one of the partners dies. Dhaala , widow inheritance by the husband’s brother, known in anthropology as liverate marriage, ensures the continuation of the marriage as well as the bonds with the affinal groups. Similarly, they practice sororate marriage, where girls inherit their sisters’ husbands at their sisters’ death. The reason behind these practices is to protect the property and provide children with a social father and mother from among close kin.

Divorce is discouraged both by the wife’s and the husband’s parents and every possible measure is taken to solve their problems. Divorce occurs under two conditions, (1) if her fortune turns out to be bad; and (2) if a serious misunderstanding between the couples occurs. For example, if the woman grinds her teeth with a grating noise while sleeping, it is believed to be bad fortune because the husband would die. Once this behavior is observed or reported by the husband, her parents are informed about the mishaps and discussions for divorce take place between the kin groups of the couples. Since the parents of the girl know the likely outcome of these bad omens, they accept the divorce without any preconditions. She would then take her own cow, siiqqoo, which she was given upon marriage. No other sharing of property is involved because these behaviors are often revealed within a few months after marriage.

Misunderstanding between the wife and the husband could occur for various reasons. If the complaint comes from the wife, the husband is reprimanded as the first measure and, if he continues to mistreat her, he is flogged by his clan. If they see no improvement, the clan would put her in custody of one of the husband’s brothers to control the property. Under such conditions, the husband cannot sell any property or expect any obligation from his wife except food.

On the other hand, for alleged misconduct of a wife, a husband or the women’s group of the man’s clan might beat her. If this does not remedy the problem, divorce might be considered as the final resort.

An exception to divorce rules is when married women desert their husbands and choose to live elsewhere. In spite of the legal protection for women from the males’ clan or lineage members, sometimes women may feel mistreated by their husbands. If repeated attempts to solve the problem fail, they flee to the neighboring groups where they are more valued. There is a widely held belief by the Borana and the Gujii that children born from mothers belonging to the opposite group will be strong fighters. Widow inheritance has significantly reduced the number of female-headed households by providing widowed women with an opportunity for a second marriage. Arranged marriage also discourages divorce by allowing parents to have supervision over the couples. Among subsistence producers, female-headed households are the most disadvantaged in terms of resource and labor endowment. In fact, divorcees and widowed women are known as hadha iyyessa , poor women, among the Gujii. In recent years there has been an increase in the number of hadha iyyessa in the Gujii area as a result of the expansion of the Protestant Religion, which opposes the practice of dhaala. In this regard the influence of Protestant Religion is considerable.

Some studies indicate that couples’ bargaining position is contingent upon the resources they bring into the marriages and the divisions of assets upon divorce (e.g., Thomas, Contreras, and Frankenberg cited in Fafchamps and Quissumbing, 2004). In cases where divorce takes place, women do not share any assets from their marriage. If this is considered as criteria for determining their bargaining position, Gujii women would be the most disadvantaged. However, this is irrelevant to the situation among the Gujii since divorce, as shown above, rarely occurs and the culture does not expect women to bring assets to their marriage.

In addition, their bargaining power emerges not only from the assets they control, but also from the customary law as well as the security and protection provided by the males’ patrilineage or clan members. One of the major issues deliberated at clan meetings and tribunals’ concerns family disputes. In these contexts women are provided with a forum to expose their domestic and marital problems. Hinnant (1984: 805) reports that “quite often, the kinsmen find the husband at fault and reprimand him, even beat him if he does not heed repeated warnings.” This practice provides a powerful bargaining position for women within the context of Guji social convention. There are also other cultural practices in place to ensure that women establish their own assets in several indirect ways.

Among the Gujii, considerable energy and time is invested to ensure that customary procedures are followed during inheritance. While the father’s brother is considered a legal custody holder of the property of his deceased brother and his family, the legitimate heir is, however, the elder son, the practice known in anthropology as primogeniture.(12) The elder son inherits the livestock, farmlands, the house, and, indeed, the social and political responsibilities held by his father. He presides over his sister’s marriage negotiation, together with his paternal uncle, now his social father, and receives a heifer as other fathers do.

The youngest son is the second beneficiary. The elder son, after taking the larger share of the livestock and the farmlands, distributes the remaining to his younger brothers. Privately owned animals, such as handhuura, are not included in the sharing. What is evident from this inheritance practice is that the widowed mother and her female children are not culturally entitled to inheritance. However, the elder son is obliged to care for his mother, while the younger sons who receive the smaller share of the property are not culturally obliged to care to their mothers, unless they want to. This observation is consistent with the survey result in Table 1 that shows more mothers living with their sons than with their daughters.

After taking the bulk of the family property, the elder son disposes of the livestock in various ways for matters related to ritual slaughtering, inheritances, and bridewealth payments. With regard to bridewealth payment, three animals are given to the mother’s family as the final payment of the bridewealth. When the payment is completed, after a husband’s death or before, the woman refuses to visit or eat anything from her parental house, as part of the avoidance rule. This is because she considers that now she is completely “sold-out.” To remove the avoidance rule, the parents of the woman slaughter a bull and invite her to their house, known as harka nyachisa , which literally means eat out of the hand, and returns back with a gift of a heifer or a cow, known as gego . Meanwhile the deceased man’s sister receives a cow, known as jibbata from her nephew.

If we look at the exchanges of livestock, as described above, that takes place between in-laws, we find that finally they cancel each other out. The woman’s family receives three animals— rada banti , marriage gift (a heifer given to the girl’s family for her virginity), qaraxa , a bridewealth received by the girl’s brother (a heifer), and jibicha gati , a bridewealth received by the girl’s father (a bull)--generally known as gatii hadha , bridewealth, literally mother’s price, during and long after marriage. These three animals would in the meantime be received back by the couple in different ways: as gego (a heifer or a cow), as jibbata (a cow received as a share of her father’s property), and the bull that is slaughtered as harka nyachisa . This indicates that bridewealth in Guji is symbolic and serves as an investment in long term relationships.

The Gujii say, intalti duutef soddummaan hin bahu,” meaning “the death of a wife does not end the ties with in-laws.” These six bridewealth and inheritance animals, generally known as ja’an jabbi qaraxa , are gifts and exchanges, as well as sacrificial animals that involve marriage. Gego and jibbata can also be considered as women’s inheritance of their parents’ property. The forgoing discussions have shown that there are several cultural and ritual mechanisms through which women in Gujii may acquire personal/private property. Marriage gifts such as siqqo and quuttoo , and other indirect forms of inheritance from their parents’ property, such as gego and jibbata, are a few of these mechanisms.

It is not clear to what extent animal assets and other personal possessions brought to a marriage by women contribute to their bargaining power among the Guji. Even in agricultural areas of Ethiopia where private control of resources appears a determinant of bargaining power, the relationship is weak.

For example, Fafchamps and Quissumbing (2004: 15) show that assets held in sole ownership by the wife during marriage do not raise her bargaining power since it is likely to be shared equally between spouses upon no-fault divorce. In addition, resources brought to marriages are mostly controlled by household heads, who are almost always males. Among the sedentarized communities in southern Ethiopia, statutory laws have a stronger presence than in pastoral areas, and in most areas they have almost entirely replaced customary laws. This has not necessarily improved women’s status; it might have made it worse by eliminating some important customary economic securities and customary legal protections. Gopal and Salim report that in Ethiopia “neither rape nor abduction [is] punishable by law if the victim ‘freely’ contracts a valid marriage with the abductor” (cited in Fafchamps & Quisumbing, 2002: 78). No such crimes are tolerated where customary laws still operate. For example, among the Guji the customary law protects girls against any sexual predation. Transgression against such law is punishable by a fine of 30 animals and exclusions from social relationships.

Where communal ownership is emphasized, animal gifts received during marriage or otherwise might not be more than additions to the family herd. Among the Gujii customary legal restrictions are so high that both men and women cannot easily dispose of their assets. To sell animals that they have received as gifts, wives have to obtain their husbands’ approval. Similarly, husbands cannot sell any animal belonging to their households without due discussions with their wives and their approvals. However, men have more leverage from elders and clans to break the rules than women do.

Women not only negotiate the sale of family herds but also make decisions on how the money should be allocated for different family needs, and even how herds should be managed. During seasonal food shortages, she suggests the sale of animals to buy food grains. If pastures are degraded, she suggests migration to other areas where pastures are plenty. With changes from communal ownership of land and production of livestock to exclusive land rights and agro-pastoralism, women have lost some of these rights.


The social and political history of the Gujii-Oromo society demonstrates turbulent social changes in the past until the transition to the Gadaa administration occurred. The analysis of myths and legends sheds light on the gendered politics and power struggle between men and women. The Gadaa system, albeit dominated by males, seems to have provided solutions for the problem of governance that characterized the Gujii society before its invention. The analysis of recent changes demonstrates that customary laws and institutions provided protections for women much better than statutory laws have delivered. Past academics constructed and perpetuated the image of pastoral society as essentially patriarchal. This position is misleading without considering the sociopolitical changes that have affected pastoralists. Colonialism and political incorporations into nation-states in Africa have strengthened gender gap among African societies. The Gujii case shows how women lost much of their customary rights with the increasing loss of their cultural autonomy and property rights.

Contrary to conventional expectations, settled farming, which has been encouraged by Ethiopian governments, has increased women’s work burden and eliminated their customary rights.


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A Collections of Important and Interesting Guji Oromo proverbs

1. Proverbs from Ebbisaa

1.1 Reflective functions

1.1.1 Proverbs Reflecting Customary Practices

1. Aannan ititu dhadhaa baha.

Milk that coagulates gives butter.

2. Abbaan ilma fakkaata.

A father resembles his son.

3. Abbaan kufan ilmaan ka'an.

Someone who was not helped by his father is helped by his son

4. Abban waraana dubbii waraana dubbata.

A leader of war talks about war.

5. Abbaa ofii galetuu qaalluu galata jedhan.

Someone who can lead himself can lead qallu (the priest), it was said.

6. Abbaaf ilma hangafatuu haadha wiliin deema.

It is an elder son and his father who go with a mother.

7. Aki jedhan waa tufan mamaakan waa dubbatan.

One spits by saying "aki" and speaks by saying a proverb.

8. Abbaan ofratti orma hinjaalatu.

A person doesn't like others more than himself.

9. Abbuyyaan Abbaadha

An uncle is a father.

10. Aadaan Qadaada qaddi

Custom has its own cap.

11. Ayyoon dhirra jaalattu dhaba hinjibbitu.

A mother who adores her husband doesn't hate poverty.

12. Bultii abbaatu itti yaaddata.

It is the subject who should care for his life.

13. Baraan barru horan

Prosperity comes through time

14. Beekaan afaan cufata malee balbala hincufatu.

A wise man shuts his mouth but not his door.

15. Baka ili jirtu gurri jirti.

The ear goes to the place where the eye goes.

16. Dubbiin mamaaksa hinqanne sagalee soda hinqanne.

A talk without proverb is like food without salt.

17. Dubbii kalee tarte har'a hingaafatanu.

One doesn’t ask today about a case that passed yesterday.

18. Dhaddeen ilmee ofii luucessa araabdi.

A porcupine licks its offspring deeply

19. Dubbii dheertuuf ijoolee furri abbaa qofatuu jaalata.

A long talk and an untidy child are liked by their owners only.

20. Galaannii ganamaa galgala hingu'u.

A lake that is full in the morning doesn't dry in the evening.

21. Guraaf garaan waliif nyaapha

The ear and the heart are enemies to each other.

22. Gurri abbaa dura deema.

Name goes ahead of its owner.

23. Hammaatullee dubbii jaarsaa hintufatanu.

Whether it is bad or good, elder's idea is not despised.

24. Harree barii bade kokoyni hingalchitu.

A donkey which disappeared in the morning will not be found by quick search.

25. Hanga qaban olqaban.

One shows up what he/she has.

26. Hanga ofii abbaatu beeka.

It is the subject who knows his capability.

27. Harki taa'u galata his qabu.

An idle hand has no respect.

28. Hudduun teessu wan hinbaatu.

Buttock that sits produces nothing.

29. Kan waaqaan badi jedhe ofiifu bada.

Someone who curses God will be cursed.

30. Kan waaqi godhe irriyyaan kolfa godhe.

Someone laughs at his friend because of something done to him by God.

31. Kan waaqaan bulu hagabuu hinbulu.

Someone who believes in God will not be starved.

32. Kan waaqa sodaatu waa hinsodaatu.

Someone who fears God does fear nothing.

33. Kan qocaaf kaa'e cululleen hinfudhattu.

Something reserved for a tortoise will not be taken by an eagle.

34. Karaan karaa muru beekan dubbii muru.

A road ends at another road as a case is concluded by a wise man.

35. Karkarroo biratti booyyeen nibareeda.

A pig is attractive when compared with a peccary.

36. Keessa keessa adalli bineenssa.

Internally, a cut is a beast.

37. Kennan waaqa sokossa hinqabu.

God's gift doesn’t have sound.

38. Kan loon qabu gosa qaba.

A person who has cattle has supporters.

39. Kan suuta deemu qoraattiin suuta seenti.

The thorn slowly gets into a body of a person who goes slowly.

40. Kan tufatantuu nama ulffessa.

Someone whom you despise respects you.

41. Karaan ganna bahe bona hinduudu.

A road that has been opened in a summer will not be closed in a winter.

42. Lafa yaadaan bulan bariitu deeman.

In the morning, one goes to a place he thought about in the night.

43. Lafa qalbiin deeman miillan dhaqan.

Legs go to where a mind goes.

44. Lafeen bara baddee bara galt.

A bone that disappeared before a time will be found after a time.

45. Leenci tolfatu malee hin utaalu.

A lion jumps after preparing itself.

46. Loon argan bishaann itti fuudhan.

Someone, should provide cattle with water.

47. Laga lagaan himan.

A river is labeled in terms of another river.

48. Loon abbaa miidhassa.

Cattle make their owner respected.

49. Loon tinni hingalchu gurrati galcha.

By looking, one can't keep cattle but by hearing.

50. Loon waraana, waraanatti nama geessa.

Cattle are warriors, they lead their owner into war.

51. Lafaaf lafee kee hinirraanfatiin.

Don't forget your bone and your place.

52. Malaan bishaan waadan.

Tactfully, one can fry water.

53. Malaan deeman shawaa gayan

By walking wisely, one can reach Shawa.

54. "Malaan duulan alaa galan" jette lukkuun.

"When he campaigns tactfully, one can gain victory" said a hen.

55. Mala hataan gowwa hinqabu.

Someone who steals tactic is not a fool.

56. Malli garaa sijira, bokkuun harka sijira.

Wisdom is in your mind and "bokku" is in your hand.

57. Mataa malee balbala hinbahan.

The head goes through a door before other parts of the body.

58. Mataan ila qabu lafa hinbadu.

A head that has eyes doesn’t face problems.

59. Mana offii dhakaa itti baatan.

One carries stone to his home

60. Manni waaqi ijaaree hinjigu.

A house that has been built by God will never fall down.

61. Mamaaksi beekaaf soorata dhaleef affuura.

A proverb is meal for a wise person and air for the fool one.

62. Mamaaksi tokko dubbii fida tokko dubbii fixa.

One proverb causes a topic of discussion and the other ends it.

63. Muki darban dhi'o bu'a, gurri darban fagoo bu'a.

If one throws his ear and a stick, his ear goes farther than the stick.

64. Namni dura deemu galaana waata.

A person who goes ahead is like a camel in Wataa .

65. Nama waa sodaatetu lubbuun bula.

A person who fears something can live long.

66. Nama ufata qabuti kabaja qaba.

A well-dressed person is respectable.

67. Namni qara hinqabatu.

A person doesn’t touch a tip of sword.

68. Nagaan ooluu malee nagaan buluu waaqati beeka.

Someone knows that he passes a day peacefully but only God knows that he

will pass a night peacefully.

69. Nama barii deemetuu karaa kuta.

A person who begins to walk in the morning can go far.

70. Nama dubbiin nama dhibe caldhisan dhiban.

If someone troubles you with disappointing speech you trouble him in silence.

71. Nageenna malee qabbanti duumessa malee roobni hinjiru.

There is no stable life without peace as there is no rain without cloud.

72. Nama dullometuu waahima.

An old man can tell something.

73. Nama guddaarraa gorsa fudhatan.

Have advice from an elderly person.

74. Niitii ilaan barbaadanirra kan gurraan barbaddant tara.

It is better to search for a wife by ear rather than by eye.

75. Niitii jechuun tailma deetee.

A good wife is the one who gives birth to a son.

76. Niitii nama kiyya hinjedhiin, hudduun nafa kiyya hinjedhiin.

Don't consider your wife as your person and your buttock as your body.

77. Ogeessa fardi hinbuusu.

A wise person doesn’t fall from a horse.

78. Ofumaa marti male allaatiin duut lafuma.

Even though it flies in the sky, a bird dies on the ground.

79. Olkaa'an fuudhan malee olka'an hinfuudhan.

Someone takes tomorrow what he puts up today.

80. Oriin abbaa malee abbeera hinqabu.

Property doesn’t have uncle but father.

81. Qoonqoon okolee waaqaati.

Stomach is a "okolee" (milking pot) for God.

82. Qaroo dura dhawi gowwaa dugda dhawi.

Hit a wise person on the face and a fool one on the back.

83. waan waaqi robe latti hindiddu.

The earth doesn't refuse to bear anything comes down form God.

84. Waan waaqa gurracharra lafarraa hinhaftu.

Something exists in God (the sky) exists on the ground.

85. Waan waaqaaf waan nyaaphaa hintufatan.

Things from God and an opponent are not despised.

86. Waaqi utubaan malee dhaabate lafa dhissa malee diririse.

God supports Himself without poles and extended the earth without pegs.

87. Waaqu Guraacha jedhan.

Even God is black, it is said.

1.1.2 Gujiians Proverbs Reflecting their Social Values of Morality

88. Abaarsiif dhugaan boodatti.

Curse and truth reveal themselves later on.

89. Abaarri nibaha maqaa hamaan hinbahu.

A curse can be cleansed but a bad name can't.

90. Ayyuuf soddaa hintufatanu.

One doesn’t condescend on his in-law and an experienced person.

91. Ani dursa jedhanii hinhimatan.

One doesn’t tell his seniority by himself.

92. Bokkaan jirreenya jireehnyaa hinquufan.

Rain is life, there is no surfeit of life.

93. Bara hinbeekinu mara hinseenu.

We should be reserved for we don't know the future.

94. Baraaf saree his yakkan.

Time and dog are not blamed.

95. Cubbuun niturit malee hinhanqattu.

Sin may stay long but it will not be erased.

96. Cubbuun dura furdistee booda qallisti.

Sin makes someone look fat first and thin later.

97. Cubbuun takka tiratti takka dhaqabdi.

Sin goes slowly but reaches timely.

98. Dhugaan ganama huqattee galgala gabbatti.

Truth looks thin in the morning but becomes fat in the evening.

99. Dhugaan niqallatti malee hincabdu.

Although it is thin, truth doesn’t break.

100. Heddu dubachuurra haqa hojechuu wayya.

Doing justice is better than talking much.

101. Kan mattaan arrii mannaa kan garaan arrii wayya.

A person whose heart is gray is better than the one whose hair is gray.

102. Kan waan qabu hinbeekne waan dhabe hinbeeku.

A person who doesn't know what he has does not know what he lacks.

103. Mataa tifkatan maqaa hinba'an.

When the head is looked after, one’s name will not be spoiled.

104. Murree balleessina jennan ejersi kudhan ta'ee late.

We cut the tree to destroy it, but it grew again being ten.

105. Nama sobtanu hinsobanu.

One doesn’t lie to the person whom he trusts.

106. Nama abbaa jedhanii obbo hinjedhan.

One doesn’t call "someone" brother "after he called him "father".

107. Oddo hinguddatiin waa hindubbatiin.

Don't speak something before you grow up.

108. Odoo hinubtaiin harkaa hingubatiin.

Before you understand, don't get your hand burnt.

109. Qaamaan du'an maqaan hindu'an.

Body dies but not name.

110. Qullaa lafa hindhossan dhugaa waaqa hindhossan.

It is impossible to hide truth form God as it is impossible to hide sex organs form ground.

111. Sa'a ta'eef nyaata hinta'u.

All cattle will not be eaten.

112. Wanti kenna tuffii hinqabdu.

A gift is not despised.

1.1.3 Gujiians Proverbs Portraying the Power of Social Laws

113. Abbaan warraa boolla, boolla guyyaa bu'an hinbeekan.

A head of a family is like a hole in which one doesn’t know the day he/she falls into it.

114. Abbaan warraa dura du'a.

Head of a family dies ahead.

115. Caba affanii dhadhaan hinfayisan.

A break of mouth is not cured by butter.

116. Dalagaan abbuma eeggata.

A task waits for a person who should do it.

117. Dubbiin mattaa hinqaddu fuula qaddi.

A case doesn't have head but face.

118. Durba qaban qabaa qaddi.

Abusing a girl is calling for a problem.

119. Dharaaf cubbuun waa hinsodaatu.

A liar and a sinful person are not afraid of anything.

120. Heega offii abbaati beeka.

It is the subject who determines his fate.

121. Herri mana qaddi, manni abbaa qaddi.

A law has its home, as a home has its owner.

122. Hidaa walgargaran malee cubbuu walhingargaaran.

One can help the other in shouldering debit but not sin.

123. Heera hamaa abbaa mursiisan.

A strong case is to be judged by the subject.

124. Karaa gabaabaan lubbuu nama gabaabsa.

A short way shortens one’s life.

125. Mukt lubbu; lubbuu hinhuban.

Trees are life, one does not hurt life.

126. Qoosaa ilaa jette ballaan.

No joke with eyes said a blind person.

127. Re'eefi qeerransa walitti hin lakkisan.

One does not keep a goat beside a tiger.

128. Seerri laafaan ba'e jabaa hinhanqatu.

A law formulated by a weak person overrules a strong person.

129. Serri yaabbi bifaati

Law is a ladder of appearance.

130. Sibiila sibiilan muran Cut a metal by a metal.

131. Wanti du'a dide jiraachuu hin didu.

Somebone who refuses to die doesn’t refuse to live.

2. Proverbs from Gumi Ganda

2.1 Corrective Functions

2.1.1 Divulging of Poverty

132. Aa'a jette sareen lukaa cabde.

"Aa" said a dog of which legs have been broken.

133. "Aa'a jedhe jaarsi tamboo dhabee.

"Aa" said an old man when he failed to get tobacco.

134. Abbaa fardaa malee lafoon garmaama hindeemu.

A person who doesn’t have horse doesn't go for a gallop.

135. Abiddiif madaan abbaa irra jirtu gubdi.

Fire and wound burns their carrier.

136. Bara leenci name nyaatu curreen nama kajeela.

When a lion attacks a person, a cut wants to do the same.

137. Bara Kaanis moye, tiitichi name sodaachisa.

When a bee becomes a king, a fly tries to follow it .

138. Bara bofi nama nyaate lootuun namaa gama.

When a snake attacks a person, a lizard attempts to do the same.

139. Baraaf malee somb kan sareet.

Unless in a bad time, liver is for dog.

140. Bara namatti jige bishaantu muka namatti darbata.

In the time of one's failure, even water throws a log to him/her.

141. Dubbiin ta waaqaa jedhe qocaan.

Everything is in the hands of God, said a tortoise.

142. Bultiin bultuma akka itti bule abbaatu beeka.

Lives appear similar, but an individual knows how he lives.

143. Garbicha lubbuuf dheechu, ormi jabina jaja.

While a slave runs to save his life, observers appreciate his strength.

144. Garaan gadde imimmaan hinqusatu.

A sad heart never lacks tear.

145. Harreen kan baattu hinnyaatu.

A donkey doesn’t eat what it carries.

146. Harreen du'e waraabessa hinsodaatu.

A dead donkey will not be afraid of a hyena.

147. Harree ganama baddee galgala hinagran.

A donkey disappeared in the morning will not be found in the evening.

148. Hantuutaaf lubbuu adurreef tapha.

It is a matter of life for a rat but a play for a cut.

149. Ila baduu geette gowwaan jabuu se'a.

A fool considers a deteriorating eye as a brave one.

150. Kan qabuttuu qabatee fincaa'a.

He who owns something can use it.

151. Kan dhabe waan argatu hinse'u.

A poor person doesn’t hope for prosperity.

152. Kan ofii quuffe, kan beelahuuf hinbeekuu.

Someone who is satisfied doesn’t sympathize with the one who is starved.

153. Kan dhibame farad, iyyumaaf harree guban.

A poor man burns a donkey, while a horse is sick .

154. Kanuma qabdi kanuma qalt.

She slaughtered the only one she has.

155. Laga darbe hinmaddifatan.

One can't drink from the past river.

156. Leenic jaare tisiisaaf tapha ta'a.

An old lion will be a seat for flies.

157. Leenci yoo ciise waan rafe fakkaata.

A lion appears asleep while it is just lying.

158. Leenca dulloome loontu ija araaba.

In its old age a lion is licked by cattle.

159. Madaan namaa nidiimatti malee hindhukubdu.

For others, one's wound appears red but doesn’t give pain.

160. Madaan hiyyeessaa madaa bineensaat.

Wound of a poor person is wound of a beast.

161. "Maal maqne" jete sareen jaamaa sagal dhalte.

"What is our sin" said a bitch after giving birth to nine blind puppies.

162. Rakkataan raada qala.

A poor person slaughters a heifer.

163. Namni iyyome takka lafa reeba takka nama reeba.

A poor person beats sometimes the ground and other times persons.

164. Okkoteen waaqa hinbeekne eelee bishanni kadhatti.

A pot that doesn't know God begs "eelee" for water.

165. Rakkataan fira hinqabu, gowwaan hiriyyaa hinqabu.

A fool doesn't have a friend and a poor person doesn't' have a relative.

166. "Reefuu natti ifa "jette jaartiin mana gubdee.

"I can see everything now " said an old woman after burning her house.

167. Qeerransa moofetti daaraa baasan.

One throws ash to an old tiger.

168. Qoree dur dirteef iyyeessi hokkola.

A poor man lames because of the thorn injured him in the past time.

169. Qoreen abbuma kessa jirtu quuqxi.

Thorn gives pain to a person whose body it is found in.

170. Quuqqaa cinaacha jalaa abbaatu beeka.

It is only the subject who senses the pain under his armpit.

171. Qurcii biratti qubni tokoo jabbadha.

For a leper, one finger is important.

172. Rakkatan malee rakkoo kessa hingalan.

A Problem pushes someone into another problem.

173. Shorus caamus ili misira lama.

Whether it rains or not lentils seeds are two.

2.1.2 Censuring of Misbehaviors

174. Ani badeen waan bade hindeebiftu.

Saying "sorry" does mean anything.

175. Badii geetee caffan ajootte.

When the date of its destruction approaches, grass gives a bad smell.

176. Badii geetu fardoon alkan baddi.

To be perished, a horse runs away in the night.

177. Dhibeen finyaan qabe hidhii hin hanqatu.

A disease that has infected the nose doesn’t fail to reach the lips.

178. Gurri abbaa ala jira.

The ear is beyond its owner.

179. Hantuunni du'a fedhe ofiin adala araaba.

A rat licks a cut when it wants to die.

180. Harreef gadheen namarra hingortu.

A wicked person and a donkey don't leave a way for people.

181. Harreen gowoomte waraabessa gegeesite.

A fool donkey accompanies a hyena.

182. Harreen gaafa Quufte sirba wearaabessa dhaqxi.

A proud donkey goes for dancing with hyena.

183. Heerumaaf bootee heerumnaan bootte.

She cried to get married, and also cried for being married.

184. Kan tikatti laaftu barbaadatti jabduu.

Someone who is weak in keeping is strong in searching.

185. Kan ormaa kan barbaadu kansaa dhaba.

A person who covets for others' property loses his own.

186. Kan tokko hinguunne lama qoraafti.

She cannot fill in one although she cleans two.

187. Kennee gaabba donnii.

A greedy person feels offended after offering something to someone.

188. Kijibaan oddo farda hinbitiin lichoo bita.

A boastful person buys carts before buying a horse.

189. Lagni hogguu baduu fedhu maddarra raammawa.

A drying river produces worms at its source.

190. Limmoon yoo jallattee dhadhaa hin waraantu.

When it is bent, a spill can't pierce butter.

191. Lukkun badii geette addi dhalti.

A deteriorating hen gives birth to white ducklings.

192. Loon lama tiksen kudha lama.

The cattle are two but their keepers are twelve.

193. Manni abbaan gube abbaa hube.

A house brunt by its owner harms the owner himself.

194. Nama of dhaadu manni karaara.

House of a boastful person is near a road.

195. Nama hamaa duuti lama.

A brute person dies twice.

196. Nama gurraan du'erra nama lubbuun du'e wayya.

A person whose soul is destroyed is better than whose name is spoiled.

197. Namni eegee laalu eegee ta'ee hafa.

A person who looks at a tail becomes a tail.

198. Namni ofiif hintolle ormaaf hintolu.

A person who cannot help himself can't help others.

199. Namini ulfina hinbenne ulfina hinfedhu.

A person who doesn't know respect doesn’t want it.

200. Namni quufe bela'a hinse'u.

A satisfied person doesn’t expect to be starved.

201. Odeessan oddu yakka dhuufuun hirriba yakka.

A talkative person distorts information as fart disrupts sleep.

202. Odoo kolfattu ulfooftee gaafaa daya booche.

She conceived while laughing and cried during delivery.

203. Of beektuun soda lagatti.

A boastful person abstains from salt.

204. Raadi harree waliin ooltu dhuufuu barti.

A heifer that lives with donkey learns farting.

205. Re'een deemsa jaalattu ilmee beneensaa kenniti.

The unsettled goat exposes its offspring to preys.

206. Sababa afaanii mataan hocame.

Head is beaten because of mouth.

207. Salphina halkanii guyyaa argu.

The shame in the night can be observed in the day.

208. Sareefi sarageen namarraa hin deebitu.

A dog and a rude person don't respect someone.

209. Saree abbaa qaallu qaallu of seet.

A dog whose master is qallu, perceives itself as qallu.

210. Surreen sagal dhuufuu hindhowwu.

Nine trousers can't block fart.

211. Tiruun lafa buutee huuba futte.

A liver dropped on the ground and picked up dust.

212. Triuun bulte hidda horte.

A liver which is kept for a longer time produced muscle.

213. Want jechaa toltu gurraa hintoltu.

Something good to speak about may not be good to hear.

214. Waraabessi guyya yuuse mana seenuun hin oolu.

A hyena that cries in the day time, will not be afraid of entering a house.

215. Warri mataan dabe milli hinqajeelu.

Someone whose head is bent will not have a straight leg.

216. Xanacha xiqaatuu foon ajjeessa.

A small gland spoils meat.

2.1.3 Reprehension of Inter-personal Disagreements

217. Aannan Okolee bada ilmi abuyaa bada.

A dirty pot spoils milk as a bad uncle misleads a son.

218. Allaatiin waan lafaaf lafatti walilolti.

Hawks quarrel on the ground for something on the ground.

219. Dubbiin dubbii fida.

A vicious word gives rise to another vicious word.

220. Hangafa doofe quxisuun kara dhaala.

A passive elder is not respected by his younger brother.

221. Harree dhufa isa hin argiin iyya isaa dhaga'u.

One hears the cry of a donkey before seeing its arrival.

222. Hareetti dammi hin miyaawu.

A donkey doesn’t like honey.

223. Harreen harreedha funyaan sii adiidha.

Donkey is donkey and its nose is white.

224. Harkaan dhaabanii barbareen nama gubdi.

Planted by a person, paper burns a person.

225. Harkaan kennanii miillan barbaadu.

One gives by hand and searches by leg.

226. Karaan fagoo mitigaraa malee.

Something is far when it is far from the heart.

227. Karaaf garaatu addaan nama baasa.

Road and heart depart people from each other.

228. Karaan annaan darban deebiin nama dhiba.

One suffers to come back on a way he goes lying.

229. Kan sangaan iyyuu malu, qacceeen iyya.

A whip cries while the ox is expected to cry.

230. Kan taa'umastti jibban kaatee ijaaji.

Someone who is dreadful in seat gets up and stands.

231. Kan taa'uuf samiin dhiho.

For an idle person, the sky is not far.

232. Kan waraane nidedha kan waraaname hindedhu.

The person who injures may forget but the one who is injured never forgets.

233. Kormi lama moonaa tokko keesa hinbulanu.

Two bulls can't live in the same burn.

234. Lafa fakkatte boft nama nyaatte.

Resembling the ground, a snake attacks a person.

235. Lafti abdatan sanyii nyaatee namni abdatan gatii nyaate.

As a trustee denies one's expectations fertile land destroys seed.

236. Loon fakkaatee gafaris nama nyaate.

Resembling cattle, buffalo attacks a person.

237. Madaa hamtuu fayyan malee jecha hamtuu hinfayan.

Evil wound does heal but evil word doesn’t

238. Manni abbaan gube aaraa hinqabu.

Smoke doesn’t come out of a house burnt by its owner.

239. "Maaf ana hintaiin" jette duuti hirribaan.

Death said sleep, "Why not me".

240. Manni abbaan gube iyya hinqabu.

No one worries for a house burnt by its owner.

241. Namni nama abaaru nam hinfaarsu.

A scoffing tongue doesn’t praise someone.

242. Raqa lafa cissu allatiin mukarra wailolt.

While the dead animal is on the ground, vultures fight with each other on trees.

243. Sossoban gaala bakkisan

By lobbing, one caresses a camel.

244. Tika diduuf aannan didan.

It is to refuse herding cattle that one refuses drinking milk.

245. "Tiyya buute" jette tan masaanuun duute.

"Mine has dropped" said a woman whose opponent is dead.

246. Tokkichi bade nama galaafata.

A spoiled person spoils others.

247. Waanihinjirre hinjirtu jedhan.

It is said, nothing is new.

248. Wanni siif lafee anaaf dhukkuba laphee.

What is bone to you is heartache to me.

249. Wanti tuffiin keessa jirut tola hintaatu.

Where there is despise, things do not go right.

250. Warra gargar bahe na baasi jedhe booranni waaqaan.

"Save me from a departed family" the Borana said to God.

251. Warra walkajeelu arabi hinqajeelu.

The discordant members of a family don't speak to each other normally.

252. Waraabessa dhessatti leenca affan bu'e.

While escaping from a hyena, he stepped on a lion.

253. Waraabessa hokkolu sareen dhugaa seeti.

Dogs believe that the hyena is lame.

254. Warraan abbaan qare abbaa qale.

A sword sharpened by its owner cuts the owner himself.

255. Warri horu wallirraa hingorus.

A concordant family cares for each other.

256. Warri badu walihinbadadu.

Members of a discordant family do not care for each other.

2.2 Reinforcing Functions

2.2.1 Self-Adjustment to Environmental Situations

257. Abbaa jaallatan ilma dhungatan.

When you love a father you kiss his son.

258. Bara baraan dabarsan.

A time is passed by a time.

259. Baraaf furgugoo gadi jedhan dabarfatan.

One lets the passage of time and "furgugoo" by bending his head down.

260. Booda nyaatan bara bahu.

By eating later, one can go through time.

261. Bubbeef bara hamaa guguufan bayani.

One goes by wind and hard time by bending his head down.

262. Hantuunni bolla lamaa daftee hinduutu.

A rat, which has two holes lives long.

263. Harreen abbaa ulfeesse fardaan jijirama.

A respectful donkey substitutes a horse.

264. Kan dhufuuf dhiyaate gaaddiduu saa dura argan.

Something near can be predicted from its shadow.

265. Kan farada dhabe harreen garmaama.

Someone who doesn't have a horse rides on a donkey.

266. Kan nyaata jaalatuuf nyaata ili, kan dubbii jaalatuuf dubbiii ili.

Leave meal to a greedy person and talk to a talkative person.

267. Kara malee deemuun laga nama bulcha.

Going without a way makes someone face a problem.

268. Karaaf dubbii arganu dhissan.

One turns back from a road and an abnormal word looking at them.

269. Keessummaan akka warri bulutti bult.

A guest sleeps in a manner the host sleeps.

270. Keennaan tissanii kiyyaan elmatan.

Ours when keeping, mine when milking.

271. Keessummaaf lukkuun yeroon galt.

A guest and a hen should go to their home on time.

272. Lafa ilaalanii muka dhaaban.

One plants a tree after looking at the ground.

273. Lafa raddaaf jibanu jibicha itti hin hidhanu.

One doesn’t keep a young bull at a place he doesn’t want to keep a heifer.

274. Lafee satawwaa lafee satawwaantiin cabsan.

It is possible to break graph's bone by graph's bone.

275. Lubbuu bara hinbaane abbaat bara baasa.

Life is protected by its owner.

276. Madda bu'anii jiidha hinlagatan.

After coming to a stream, exposing one’s self to damp is inevitable.

277. Qaroo naft ila.

The whole body of a wise person is like his eye.

278. Qocaaf qorkeen haguma danda'an deeman.

Tortoise and Qorkee (wild goat) walk up to their capability.

279. Qoraatii nama waraante qoraatumaan baasan.

Avoid thorns by thorns.

280. Sareen qaroon unte qadaaddi.

A wise dog covers a container after drinking what it contains.

281. Waraana jannatti dheessanii dubbii qarootii dheessani.

As war is prevented by a patriot, a case is solved by a wise man.

2.2.2 Tribal Solidarity

282. Abbaan iyyu Ormi dirmata.

It is when the victim cries, that others come to help him/her.

283. Ballaan fira qabu ila qaba.

A blind who has relatives has eyes.

284. Harkaan harka fuudhan.

One receives a hand by his hand.

285. Harka lamatuu walidhiqa.

Two hands wash each other.

286. Harki tokkichi waa hindhiqu.

A single hand can't wash anything.

287. Harki nyaate nama hinnyaatu.

A hand that has eaten something doesn’t eat someone.

288. Hidda malee xanach hindhiigu.

A gland doesn’t bleed but a vessel does.

289. Harki tokko ofi hindhiqu.

A single hand can't wash itself.

290. Kan xiqqoo nyaatu guddoollee abdata.

A person who uses the small can hope for the big.

291. Kan walii higalle alaa hingalu.

Discordant people can't be successful.

292. Karaa deebi'an qoree itti hincabsan.

One doesn’t put thorns on the way he is to come back.

293. Kophaa nyattuun qophaa duuti.

A person who eats alone dies alone.

294. Kophaa dhiqanii xurii hin baasan.

By washing alone, one cannot avoid dirt.

295. Lafa hiddi cite dhiiga.

It is where cell is cut that bleeds.

296. Laga malee garaan walitti hinyaa'u.

Without a course, hearts may not come to each other

297. Lama dhabuun lammii dhabuudha.

Losing two is lacking relatives.

298. Leenci ajjeesee warabessi jalaan oola.

A hyena eats when a lion kills.

299. Mana ormaa bareedarra godoo ofii wayya.

One's hut is better than others' big house

300. Marii'atan malee maratan biyya hinbulchan.

It is possible to administer people by discussion but not by force.

301. Nama manatti waligaletuu alla waliin gala.

People who are agree at home can come back home together.

302. Nama jaalatan bakka rafisan hindhaban.

One doesn’t lack a bed for a person he loves.

303. Ollaaf aduutti gadi bahan.

One comes out to sun and his neighbor.

304. Qayyi tokkichuma, urgaan addaa adda.

Qayya (kind of tree) is one but its odor varies.

305. Qottoon of hin qartu.

An ax doesn’t sharpen itself.

306. Quba iffii ajaa'e jedhanii hinkutan.

One doesn’t avoid his rotten finger.

307. Qubi tokkichi fuula hindhiqu.

A single finger can't wash a face.

308. Qubni tokko tisiisa hinqabu.

A single finger can't catch a fly.

309. Reeffa nama ofii toorba garagalchan.

One turns the corpse of his relative seven times.

310. Warri marii qabu dibicha qalatee warri marii hinqanne radda qalata.

A concordant family slaughters a young bull; while, the discordant ones Slaughter a heifer.


35 of 35 pages


The Guji-Oromo Women Places in Polio-Economic and Socio-Cultural Spheres. In reference to the Gadaa System, South Ethiopia
Gender Equality
Catalog Number
ISBN (Book)
Gender, Female, Women, Gadaa, Rights
Quote paper
Mengesha Robso (Author), 2021, The Guji-Oromo Women Places in Polio-Economic and Socio-Cultural Spheres. In reference to the Gadaa System, South Ethiopia, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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