Contesting Images of Womanhood: The Narrative Construction of Gender Relations in Ethiopia

by Tadesse Jaleta Jirata

Abstract

This article deals with continuities and changes in the conceptualization of womanhood among the Guji-Oromo of Ethiopia. Drawing on adults’ and children’s interpretation of gendered folk narratives, the article discusses the traditional conceptualization of womanhood and the emerging voices that disapprove of it. It argues that adults and children construct contesting images of womanhood through interpreting gendered folk narratives. In explicating the interplay between gender, folk narratives, and intergenerational difference, it looks into the dynamics driving the conceptualization of womanhood in Ethiopia. It shows how individuals’ and groups’ socio-cultural orientation plays a crucial role in the understanding of gender to which children are introducing new perspectives. It also argues that the role of cultural expression is not only to validate customary perceptions but also reflects the present and emerging changes in the construction of gender. This scenario echoes an emerging resistance that the present generation of children has imposed on the established gender stereotypical views of adults. The article is based on data collected through ethnographic fieldworks done among the Guji-Oromo for ten months in 2015.

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Tadesse Jaleta Jirata is an associate professor at Dilla University, Ethiopia. He obtained his PhD in Interdisciplinary Child Research from Norwegian University of Science and Technology in 2013. He has participated in international and national research projects and has published more than fourteen articles and has presented research papers at national and international conferences.