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Zumra Nuru

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Community Leader

After a hard day working in the farm, his father would put his feet up, while his mother continued working at home, until the early hours of the morning.  

Zumra was born in 1947 and grew up in the Ethiopian countryside. After a hard day working on the farm, his father would put his feet up, while his mother continued working at home, until the early hours of the morning. Zumra was sent to work on the farm at an early age, and was never able to go to school. He grew up being told that Muslims and Christians were different, but he change. He could not read nor write, but he was very much able to think, and above all, dream. And he dreamt of a world where men and women were equal and where people together actively sought to build harmony. His inspiration came from his childhood: He was sent to the fields instead of to school and beaten for eating meat at his Christian neighbor's home. His mother had to work much more than his father.

 Armed only with big ideas, he gathered nineteen like-minded young people and together they created a manifesto for a new way of life and founded Awra Amba. Today the village has nearly five-hundred inhabitants, work is distributed according to skills rather than gender, women’s and maternal health is respected and protected, marriage below the age of nineteen is not allowed and girls are encouraged and supported to go to school. Decision-making, work and profit are distributed equally and progressive democratic values underpin the community’s day-to-day life. had no idea why. Despite questioning many traditional practices and what he saw as injustices around him, the answers he received from his mother and father never satisfied him.Awra Amba, which roughly means ‘city above a hill’, was created forty years ago by Zumra Nuru, a visionary farmer who since childhood had questioned why men abused power against women. When Nuru founded Awra Amba, he was led by the simple conviction that things needed to As one might expect, the journey has not been easy. Challenging deeply engrained traditions in a patriarchal society, Zumra Nuru and his friends quickly became unpopular with surrounding villages and the government. They’ve been subject to attacks, driven out from their village and Nuru has been imprisoned. Despite these challenges, he remains committed to fulfilling his dream and forty years later the progressive ideas that started as the product of his wildest imagination now form the foundations of a thriving community. One where women are viewed as equal to men and are involved in every element of decision making both in the home, work and the community. The Awra Amba documentary is being finalized but when it launches it will be of much value. People around the world can learn a lot from this small yet revolutionary community where education, healthcare, elderly care and equality are actively encouraged. Its interactive format brings you as close to the village as you can get virtually. You can ‘enter’ huts and meet some of the residents of the village, chat with them and learn about the community’s way of life through clips, interviews and info graphics.

The fact that its members work together, are diligent, disciplined and self-confident makes the Awra Amba community distinct from other Amharic communities. Women have equal rights as men and there is no distinction in divisions of labor between men and women. All people in the community have no religion as distinct from most communities in Ethiopia. They believe in hard work and being good to people. They keep their houses and their surrounding clean. Theft is seen as very obscene. The community is ostracized, as it does not belong to either of the two primary religious groupings — Islam or Christianity. Members of the Awra Amba community therefore were not given agricultural land to cultivate, but instead were pushed into the most infertile and malaria infested corner of the district. As they cannot live on farm activities, they have diversified into the weaving business, using both traditional and modern weaving machines. The village hopes to earn more money in order to build potable water and sewage systems, pave the road, and create an education fund for the children. The village is unique not only for its attitudes toward gender, religion, and education, but for the social security it provides its members in need. There are formal committees to provide services which include: education, to receive guests, to take care of patients, the elderly and children, and community health. They have established a literacy campaign for adults, a library, and a preschool. Despite living in a culture which practice early marriage, the people of Awra Amba have decided girls should marry only after reaching the age of 18, and boys at or above 22.

Today Awra Amba has some 400 members and is lauded as a model to alleviate poverty and promote gender equality in a country where women generally hold a subservient status. 


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