Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Female Patriots and their Shining Contribution to Ethiopia’s Freedom


Apart from being the lengthy fasting season (Lent) which made many of us “hibernate” from k’urt’, t’ibs and kitfo (raw, roasted and minced meat), which are the majority’s favorites, (not to mention alcoholic beverages, in some instances), March is a historic month not only for Ethiopia but for the whole of Africa, too. And certainly equally momentous for women all over the world…hope you know what I’m getting at…the International Women’s Day. So, if now and then I wander from one of these thoughts to the other in this article, I hope you’ll forgive my lack of focus as I have already confessed. Besides, you must have noticed that I was pooped from the long fasting…and perhaps busy work … and needed to have a break…just kidding.
Almost a week before the Int’l women’s day, Ethiopians always honor their triumph against a foreign aggression at Adwa. Stunning as it was, the anniversary of the battle of Adwa, is a commemoration of THE greatest victory against foreign belligerence in the African continent - in which the only African, Ethiopian, army defeated the invading and the then unimaginably powerful European, Italian, army on March 1, 1896. March 2 is, therefore, the day we honor to our flag-wavers, who were led by Emperor Menelik II and his clever wife, Empress Taitu, who drove out this superpower, the invading Italian army, from the northern Ethiopia after the decisive battle at a small town called Adwa. Since then, this victory became an icon of independence of a nation and pride for all black people around the World. Later, the colors of Ethiopia's flag - green, yellow, and red have been adopted by many African countries after their independence as Pan-African colors. Furthermore, school children across the continent started to learn in schools about the significance of the Battle of Adwa. One vital fact we shouldn’t forget from the Battle of Adawa is the decisive role played by women. According to historians, Empress Taitu, the wife of Emperor Menelik, has herself gone to the warfront leading her own army, made of 500 infantry and 600 cavalrymen. Besides, the Empress was accompanied by thousands of women who were armed with spears, shields, and swords to participate in the actual fight. Hence, one could see that such a dramatic outcome of the warfront was possible only because women fought in the same way, as their counterpart men. And that’s why we observe as many women patriots as men on any year anniversary of the battle of Adwa. On March 4, 1896, the New York Times had stated about the Battle of Adwa under the heading, Italy’s Terrible Defeat, “The present campaign against the Abyssinians [former name of Ethiopians] threatens to become one of the most disastrous in which the Italians arms have ever taken part… the latest defeat of the Italians by King Menelik had compelled Ministry to resign, owing to the popular disapproval of the Government's policy..”

In conclusion, the battle of Adwa is emblematic to Africa and the fact that International Women’s day is in March makes the month even more symbolic and “double” anniversary for Ethiopian women, if you may. Despite the Lent season which weakens most people, the commemoration of the Battle of Adwa always boosts the morale of Ethiopians. In particular, once again let’s pay tribute to our women who have sacrificed, along with men, for the country’s freedom.

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