Ethiopia is home to more than 80 nations and nationalities with distinct cultural and linguistic characteristics. These cultural, social and religious practices have been sources of tourist attractions along with the natural endowment and historical attractions of the state. Among these, the Awramba community is one of the communities that have unique cultural aspects.
Awramba is a community guided by its own unique principles, namely, respecting women’s rights to equality, respecting children’s rights; helping people who are unable to work due to physical limitations; avoiding negative speeches and deeds while promoting cooperation, peace, good deeds and accepting all human beings as brothers and sisters. The community has unique characteristics that make them different from the surrounding society. This society’s social fabric promotes strict work ethics, gender equality, division of labor, marriage and divorce based on free will, old age protection, social solidarity, less ceremonial funeral, and managed internal conflicts and others. There are two types of membership in Awramba community, which are members of the association or union known in Amharic as Yemaheber Abal and full honorary membership, or in Amharic, Yemahberesebu Abal. Their culture is practice-oriented. It has been described by some members of the community as a movement which aims not mainly to convince, but to act, and build a new society.
The foundation of Awramba community can be traced back to 1972 when the community was established. The community was established by a philosophy of one visionary man called Zumra Nuru Muhammad. Capital caught up the visionary Zumra for insights on their utopia community which recently celebrated its half a century anniversary. Excerpts;
Capital: Tell us about the Awramba community and how you founded it?
Zumra Nuru: The foundational base draws back even to my earlier years. When I was a child, I was not satisfied by the existing social structure that divided members of the community based on sex, occupation and other related philosophical issues though relatives and neighbors considered me as a mad person.
Moreover, around 1950 when I was a four year old boy, I started evaluating the existing relationship and activities which are considered as evil things such as stealing, telling lies, robbery, and violation of human rights including the rights of children which attracted my attention. Following these, I started fighting against such acts which sparked the thought of a sustainable solution to these societal problems.
At the time, I was nurtured under my mother’s care up until I became 13. At that juncture of my life, my mother had taken me to be evaluated at many places so as to find a supposed cure, because no one in my community was able to understand my ideas.
After I became a teenager, I started moving from place to place including Gojam, Wollo and Gonder provinces to find people who can understand me and finally I found residence at Wojina Awramba Kebele of Fogera Woreda 75 km far from Bahirdar, after getting some people who were at least voluntarily and willing to listen to my thoughts.
All my beliefs and also the value of Awramba about equality, humanity and brotherhood are extended to universal brotherhood. Black and white, all are equal by nature.
Of course society divides us by gender, even in our society today when it comes to work, females are associated with fetching water and making Injera whilst men go to the fields to plough and hunt. Awramba strives for equality not only between men and women, but also between adults and children, and more generally between human beings in general.
Capital: What were the challenges you faced whilst founding the community?
Zumra Nuru: Neighboring people were and are not happy by the Awramba’s new belief, culture and way of life; especially by the conditions of their strong belief in working hard and equality between men and women which contradicts with the existing working tradition, religious doctrines and other cultural values of such neighboring people.
Because of our different belief and indiscriminate working tradition and equal treatment of the whole society we developed, neighboring people continued blaming and alleging us for not only anti existing religious values and beliefs but also as I became anti Derg regime, we also faced ridicule on that front though i had no any relationship with political organizations. As a result, it was difficult to live at our place so we moved to the southern part of the country to a place called Bonga in 1988, where we stayed for five years after which we returned after the fall of the Derg regime in 1993.
Capital: What is the total population or following of the Awramba now?
Zumra Nuru: Currently, Awramba has 560 members. There are two types of membership in the Awramba community. These are the member of the association or union known in Amharic as Yemaheber Abal and full honorary membership or in Amharic, Yemahberesebu Abal. Furthermore, there are unknown huge numbers of followers around the world who share Awramba’s principle.
Capital: What makes the Awramba community different from other communities?
Zumra Nuru: The community of Awramba shares a strong culture and ideals with each other, and above all we share common values. To live in Awramba means to share and to defend our values. Among those unique characteristics which are; work ethics, equality especially gender equality, division of labor, religion, marriage and divorce, old age protection, solidarity, funeral, house building design /style/, management of internal conflicts and others.
Capital: Tell us about the overall lifestyle, work, education and marriage cultures in Awramba?
Zumra Nuru: The work ethics of our community can be assessed based on how members feel about their job and how they share the responsibility of their task, that they perform. The whole community works hard without gender discrimination and shares the profits they earn at the end of the year. Members of the community have good work ethics, mainly their value and attitude for work, their internal motive for hard work and proper time management as well as honesty and accountability.
Regarding education, our parents didn’t give us a chance to study, which has affected our lives. We as a community strive hard not to repeat the same. The adults in our community work hard to give their children a bright future. Children in our community start school at around the age of three to four, where they go to close by schools to obtain their education. Furthermore, they grow up knowing their rights as well as the respect of the said rights. Once they finish school it’s our belief that they ought to be given work based on their capability. But if children are forced to work beyond their capability that means they are insulted, cursed at, and beaten; which shouldn’t be the case or norm.
Regarding marriage, anyone can marry any one as long as it is mankind marriage which is based on the full consent of the couple. There is no limit in religion, ethnicity or belief. After marriage, the husband shouldn’t have any other sexual partner except his wife and the wife shouldn’t have any other sexual partner except her husband as marriage is a sacred union.
Capital: Tell us about your five principles that shape the community?
Zumra Nuru: My five basic principles with the community as to how to put these principles in-to practice in a way that would be relevant for their lives are: respecting the right to the equality of women, respecting children‘s rights, helping people who are unable to work due to old age and health problems, avoiding bad speech and bad deeds, such as theft, dishonesty, insulting, cursing, quarrelling, killing, conflict, etc, and instead improving practices of cooperation, peace, love, and good deeds in general and accepting all human beings as brothers and sisters, regardless of their differences.
Capital: Are there special holidays celebrated by the community? What is the work culture like within the community?
Zumra Nuru: We all make sure to reap the benefits of each and every day by working accordingly in all sets of activities during the week. As a community we do not have holidays that we celebrate except that of the New Year. Except the New Year, we are engaged in work every day and do not observe any other public or religious holiday. In addition, our Members of the community have good work ethics, mainly our value and attitude for work, their internal motive for hard work and proper time management as well as honesty and accountability.
Capital: It’s been 50 years since Awramba’s founding, and the whole community has passed through a lot to be here. Do you think your vision has been successful? Do you believe your vision has become true?
Zumra Nuru: In the flight of stairs of life, I believe over the years we have gone steps higher. Initially, it was hard to express my idea to many people and to get their attention and heart up until I found the community at Fogera. Now many people from all over the world come to our place to see and to learn and to share our principles and beliefs which really makes me happy and when we celebrated our 50th year anniversary, our members in Addis Ababa did a lot to spread our principles to the world which I would say is one notch higher in the overall dream and vision. And when this sprit of love, work and equality spreads to the world, I would happily say the dream has been successfully accomplished.