If you have been to Oromo land probably you saw their women, especially married type, carrying long wooden stick and wondered the role it plays in their lives.
Culture, as they proudly say, is an identity of a person, a community or even a nation.
Rich custom is commonly found in Africa, the cradle of humankind. For instance, the Kenyan Maasai are globally known for their garment ‘shuka’.
Every Ethiopian-Oromo woman, who is married, owns and carries a wooden stick that is locally called ‘Siinque’ for the sole purpose of personal safety and protection of her family members.
The Oromo, one of the largest ethnic group inhabiting Ethiopia and speak the Oromo language, are majorly found in the Oromia region.
The stick, having been in use for centuries, is provided to woman when she is getting married and starting a life of her own. It indicates a transition from childhood to adulthood and motherhood.
As Sara Dube, Oromo Cultural Expert, reveals to BBC world service, Oromo women, culturally, shouldn’t be insulted or beaten whatever the circumstance.
“Traditional law says a married woman cannot be insulted or harassed, let alone beaten. It is a crime”.
When, for instance, the husband becomes violent and tries to attack her, she holds her Siinque and cry out loud for help from her neighbouring women.
In such scenario, the women will put her inside a protective circle until her safety is confirmed and the issue solved.
“When the Gada system, an ancient system of governance of Ethiopia’s Oromo people, was established men were given tools to hunt and fight off the enemy. The women were given Siinque to fight for their right”, explains Sara.
Part of the initial resolution involves elders gathering outside the affected wife’s house to make a sound mind judgment after the woman notifies the rest of the immediate community neighbours. For the female colleagues, they ensure the verdict is heard fairly without which they will never rest owing to the fact that among them may be affected tomorrow.
Revered elders will hear and listen carefully to the two sides of the story before reaching a consensus on who should be punished. Fortunately, in most cases, the husband apologies and coerced to take promise never to repeat such act again.
However, failure by the man to fulfill the promise of enabling peaceful environment will attract heavy and severe punishment but community members reveal that the promise is rarely broken.
“And God is always on the side of those who do not lie”, says G Amlak, a community elder who is well versed with the cultural stick way of resolving domestic issues.
It is the responsibility of the father who should cut the Siinque and give it to his wife who in turn offers it to their daughter getting married as part of the community’s custom.
A tradition which the elders would like to see being taken in centuries to come, community members also want to pass the culture to their children. One such mother, Garibe Tafesse, want to ensure that her daughter gets one when she is mature enough to be married.
“I received mine from my mother and I’ll make sure my daughter gets one”.