New review – Awra Amba

Philippa Willitts reviews a documentary about this community in Northern Ethiopia, grounded in principles of equality between the sexes

The words Awra Amba mean ‘top of the hill’, and are the name of a small community in Northern Ethiopia which works together and believes in equal rights for men and women.

This half-hour documentary film begins with Zumra, the leader and founder of Awra Amba explaining, ““We believe that men and women are equal. They work together side by side. When it comes to decision making men and women have equal say. They are both heads of the household”.”

And that explains the philosophy of this fascinating community. The work done within the community is mainly weaving, which they can then sell, and milling which they do for neighbouring communities, because their hopes of relying on agriculture have been repeatedly dashed. Their applications for land are turned down because the community is non-religious, resulting in it being ostracised by both their Muslim and Christian neighbours.

The problems with neighbouring villagers due to Awra Amba’s lack of religion extends far beyond their inability to get approval for agricultural land: Zumra, the leader, has an armed guard due to death threats.

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