Awra Amba: Model of Social Development

Awra Amba is located in south Gondar Zone of the Amhara National Regional State, Fogera district (Woreda) and can be reached by turning right onto the Woreta Woldia road about 68 km from Bahir Dar. Following the Woldia road after the junction of Gonder road for 8km about until you look a signposted junction to the right and need to continue on the rough road for another 2km toreach the village.

Awra Amba is a small community consisting of 104 households with 388 total residents. The total land holding of the community is less than 18 hectares. They are all from Amhara Ethnic group. While they do not follow any religious denomination, they do believe in the Creator. The members of the community has been settled at Awra Amba since 1972. This community is the best workshop to demonstrate to its members and to other Ethiopians that the best escape route from poverty and hunger is not religion and prayers only but education and plain hard work.

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Ato Zumura /the founder of the community/

In the first ten years , the community lifestyle was not different from the rest of Amhara people . But after ten years, the founder of the community , Zumra Nuru , came up with a new concept of work , faith, culture and lifestyle. He persuaded the members of the community about his vision. After few years’ continuous discussion, his proposal has got acceptance by all members of the community, and then the community as a whole prepared guiding principles that they decided to follow and be governed with. Since then, the people of Awra Amba have lived according to these principles and they have thrived along.

Some Guiding principles of the community
Marriage is to be made after 18 years of birth based on the free will of the partners.
There should not be gender discrimination in the community.
Harmful and undesired traditional practices are all condemned.
Every body contribute labor according to his/her ability in material production and shares on equal terms.
The Disabled and elderly are entitled to equal sharing the community production.
Theft, Gossip, Begging and adultery are all condemned and prohibited.
Members are entitled to necessary assistance in time of need.
Mothers have the right to take maternity leave.
Polygamy is forbidden.
Lavish wedding and funeral ceremonies are condemned, and not practiced.

Community Members At Work
What makes Awra Amba community unique is that there is no gender-based division of labour. Each member of the community contributes labour according to his/her ability. Men often do what is normally considered to be women’s task , such as spinning , fetching water , baby sitting and making injera /a soft Ethiopian bread made from teff flour/. Women do works such as ploughing weaving, managing organization and presenting families at social gatherings.

Elders Dormitary
Both women and men are treated equally in Awra Amba. Neither boys nor girls marry before the age of 18 . Marriages are arranged based on the free will of the partners. The community avoids lavish wedding that can ruin the family. Polygamy is forbidden. If a divorce occurs , the case will be seen by a committee of two women and a man . This committee counsels the couple about the advantages of their marriage to try to avoid a divorce. But, if the members are against a reunion, the committee will give its final verdict on the case.

Farming
The community tills its cultivable land communally, and shares the yields equally. As land is a scarce resource , members of the community are engaged in various off-farming income generating activities. Weaving is the main source of the income and the major activity of the community.
weaving is practiced communally. Everyone contributes , and the earning goes into a fund for building houses, for the weak and the elderly. Every member take turns in caring for the weak and elderly community members.

Soveenir Shop
Begging is an activity frowned up on, the most appropriate way to contribute would be to buy some of the handspun cotton and wool items in the warehouse:- a range of “shamas”, scarps, shirts and blankets costs half what you pay in most other parts of the country.

During pregnancy women in Awra Amba are given fewer and lighter tasks in and around the house. Mothers have maternity leave for a month before giving birth and two other months after giving birth.

All the children are sent to school in Awra Amba. Their parents take care of the cattle and handle house works, though the children are expected to help their parents after school. A pre-school aimed primarily at children under the age of seven, but also attended by adults seeking to attain a basic level of literacy. The better educated community members serve as teachers in school.

Family decisions are made by the wife and husband together and children’s are also expected to have there say. Family hold a weekly decisions forum and reach agreement in , what to do if there are problems.

At the community level, various committees organized to handle different tasks such as development, health, external affairs, complaints, sanitations, home management and discipline, etc.

Making Injera
Awra Amba welcomes local and foreign visitors though it is rather quiet on Wednesdays and Saturdays when most inhabitants are at the market. The pre-school, library, the dormitories for aged members of the community, the innovative injera cookers in the adobe house and the communal weaving area with its 20 hand made looms are but few of the places worth visiting in the community.

Amhara Regional State Culture and Tourism Beaureu

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