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Netsebrak Tamene: My experience as a Werdwet Fellow

CARD Werdwet Research Fellowship is a research fellowship project created by CARD to promote indigenous knowledge to fight inequality and look for ways of protecting the rights of vulnerable and marginalized groups in Ethiopia. Werdwet Fellowship also gives the youth, especially young women, opportunities to pursue their passion for researching and promoting their ideas to bring about a just society. One of the 2022 CARD Research Werdwet Fellows, Netsebrak Tamene has launched her research report on the 4 th  of April 2022 in Hawassa city with the presence of different stakeholders. Netsebrak shares her experience as a Werdwet Fellow here below. 

Netsebrak Tamene 

On February 2022, I was preparing for a presentation at Alliance Éthio-Française in connection with the International Women’s Day (March 8) event. The content of my presentation was about how rural women in Ethiopia glorified their feminine identity and showed their agency in the patriarchal system even though they didn’t have any clue about the International Women’s Day celebrations, movements, and advocacy that prevail in the modern world. My argument on the presentation was that the fact that women in rural Ethiopia are not aware of these modern women’s rights-based movements doesn’t mean that they don’t have institutions and experiences which they use to magnify their womanhood identity.

While reviewing published materials written on the various customary institutions of women in Ethiopia, I got introduced to a customary women’s institution known as Yakka in a book entitled Ethiopian Women Challenging the Future, 2006. The book illustrates in two pages how Sidama women defend their rights and protect themselves from domestic violence in early times. It was not the first time that I heard the word Yakka (I heard about it during the Women’s March that took place in Hawassa during the Sidama people's quest for regional statehood). However I was born and raised in Hawassa, currently the capital city of Sidama National Regional State, I didn’t know that Yakka was an indigenous instrument whereby women show their agency and power in their community. Similarly, I have observed in my fieldwork as a CARD Werdwet Research Fellow that most members of the young generation in Sidama do not know much about the Yakka institution. My informants were even surprised because I know about Yakka at all since it is an abandoned practice and has not been functional recently.

I was inspired by the Yakka institution and its power. I was amazed by how this institution is not promoted and well researched, unlike other similar institutions such as the Siinqqe customary institution in the Oromo society.  I was in fact looking for opportunities to do research and disseminate to others. Meanwhile, I saw a call for application by the Center for the Advancement of Rights and Democracy (CARD) known as “Weredewet Research Fellowship 2022”. I found that the thematic areas of the call directly fit the research problem that I had in mind.

My journey as a Weredewt Research Fellow was filled with lots of experiences. Managing publishable research within a very limited time in line with other tasks and responsibilities requires its own dedication and hard work. Conducting ethnographic fieldwork, collecting data,  
and interpreting it through the people’s perspectives have their own procedures and experiences.  
During my fieldwork as a Werdwet Fellow in the rural kebeles (the smallest local administrative unit), I saw the humble, respectful, and welcoming culture of the Sidama people and their hospitability. Every household I entered for a key informant interview, has hosted me with its special dish known as Bursame with milk. The people I met often said, “the Sidama doesn’t talk with guests unless the guests eat well enough and feel comfortable first”. After completing my data collection, the tasks of transcription, translating, and writing the first draft of the research were filled with hopes and depression. My research passed through several reviews and comments, back and forth of the draft research with advisor and colleagues; these series of reviews have finally transformed my research into such meaningful readable material. Furthermore, the support and follow-up of the CARD team which consists of professional and energetic young staff have enabled me to succeed in my work. In conclusion, I am evidence of the successful achievement of the CARD Weredewt Research Fellowship, which aims to empower youth and women by facilitating opportunities to pursue their passion while contributing to community well-being. I strongly believe that the research output of the fellowship will play a great role in the revitalization and promotion of the Yakka, which is the “untold power” of the Sidama women's institution.  
You can download Netsebrak Tamene's Research titled "Yakka: The Sidama Women's Customary Institution and Its Untold Power" here.

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