The Oromo people of Ethiopia

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The Oromo population occupies “Oromia,” Ethiopia’s central region with a total population of almost 30 million people (Hussein, 2004). Oromia is said to be the original motherland and they speak the language of Oromo. In addition to living their lives as nomadic pastoralists, the Oromo practice subsistence agriculture. They are focused on cosmological observations in their annual calendar. The Oromo people are widely known for their past egalitarian and democratic social system of governance referred to as “gadaa” as well as their military organization that allowed them to arise as one of the robust ethnic-nations in the northern parts of the African continent sometime in the 13th and mid-20th centuries. “Gadaa,” governance is based on age grades and gender with males and older individuals being ranked higher in the leadership cycle. They view aging and gender as a sigh of progress in wisdom. Male elders are as a result consulted in times of disputes and other issues affecting the society in general. This paper tries to examine the concept of women involvement in politics in the Oromo of Ethiopia as a cultural aspect and how it has in the past presented challenges to organizations working for diversity and inclusion.

Women’s involvement in politics is an idea that has been acknowledged globally as a key measure of the position of women in most tribal groups in a vast majority of nations. Thus, in the past couple of years, the involvement of women on issues pertaining politics and decision-making has come to receive significant attention across the globe. However, women, particularly of the Oromo group, continue to remain extremely underrepresented in policymaking positions.

Nearly 50% of the Oromo population comprises of women. They do not actively take part in all aspects of the life of the society. Being a male-controlled community, the Oromo do keep its women in lesser positions with their excuse being based on religion and culture. Such excuses have been supported by rules and legislations that uphold patriarchy as well as the subordination of the female gender. This has brought about and tried to maintain disparities between men and women on matters dealing with the division of labor, sharing of benefits, the organization of the household and the manner in which they are related. To add on, women belonging to this culture suffer from work stereotypes where labor is distributed along gender lines as they are only left to occupy economically invisible jobs. And this answers the question why they poor regarding access to resources, services, and employment.

“Participation” is a development approach that tends to recognize the need to involve any disadvantaged segment of the population with the aim of implementing policies that address their welfare. The strengthening of women’s role in leadership in every single sphere of life has turned out to be a major issue in the developmental discourses, and because of this, social and economic growth may not be fully realized minus the active participation and commitment of women in the decision-making level of the community. Alternatively, “political participation” refers to the active involvement of all genders with the policy-making processes that affect their lives.

According to past research by Hussein (2004), the subordination of women in leadership and decision-making processes is something that was inherited by human history. As far as how this very tradition has in the past affected and still affects the manner in which an individual or organization that is working for diversity and inclusion operates, it is true to argue that the fact that women are secluded in the society only means that however much efforts these organizations will be putting in their works, they might not be able to succeed as factors such as this will only act as a barrier.

First, in the Oromo tribe, traditions are in place to continue emphasizing on the primary roles of women as just mothers and homemakers and to strictly limit them to these same functions. As a result, this will only mean that they might be forced not to take part in diversity and inclusion campaigns because they have been compelled to think that their opinions and views are not needed in matters affecting the affairs of the nation in general. It is often believed that stronger traditional patriarchal value systems do favor sexually segregated duties, and “traditional cultural values” like those of the Oromo, negatively affect the advancement, progress, and participation of women in various political processes. Different communities across Ethiopia and globally are dominated by the ideology of “a woman’s place.” According to this ideology, the only role of a woman is that of a “working mother,” which is usually low-waged and apolitical. Moreover, in some cases, men go to the extent of telling women how to vote. In such an environment where particular collective images of women in traditional and apolitical roles continue to dominate, it will be very difficult to carry out diversity and inclusion works.

Furthermore, uneven distribution of family care errands only means that women spend more time as compared to their counterparts in household and child care. In the context of the Oromo, there is the conventional belief that women were created to take care of children and run kitchen errands than joining in outside home activities. Various research posit that women pay “motherhood penalties,” across any field that tends to relate to the time, efforts, and medical care of pregnancy and child birth, as well as the far wider motherly involvement required for breastfeeding, and to the tenacious propensity of women to do grander shares of childcare as the child grows. As a result, any organization working for diversity and inclusion women will only believe that they do not have the time to start questioning their position in the society as a whole since they have been made to believe that the only place where they should entirely spend most of their time is the in the homestead taking care of the family. This is an issue of great concern as it may end up preventing interaction amongst the members of the community since it is only through social interaction with others that one can get to understand the benefits that come with social diversity and inclusion in a societal setting.

In a nutshell, Ethiopia is ranked 118th out of 135 nations in the “Global Gender Gap Report 2012.” This reflects the prevalence of resilient gender tasks and stereotypes. The position and liberation of women and the female-gender as a whole in the society are mired by negative attitudes propagating inequalities that do affect every single aspect of their lives. Even though the participation of women in matters dealing with leadership has gone to increase in the recent past, negative social perceptions with regards to the leadership abilities of women, their relatively lower economic status, lower education and proficiency levels all lay roles as far as the lower involvement in leadership roles is concerned.

And this is what usually makes it very difficult for diversity and social inclusion groups to enhance these important virtues in the Oromo tribe and the rest of the world. This is because women have been made to believe that they do not have any position to hold when it comes to leadership making it very difficult to convince them otherwise.


Hussein, J. W. (2004). A cultural representation of women in the Oromo society.

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