Tadelech’s bar.

Boricha Woreda is located in Sidama Zone, in the Southern National and Nationalities Peoples’ Region (SNNPR). The livelihoods in Boricha are mixed farming that encompasses crop production and livestock rearing, and the major crops grow in the area according to its priority is maize, haricot bean, and root crop. Boricha is one of the most food insecure Woreda of Sidama Zone. In the focus group discussions carried out by GOAL Ethiopia, women commented that they ate meals around the other chores they have to carry out, and that they eat the leftover food from the husband and children. In some instances there are no leftovers. According to a nutrition survey carried out in Boricha, 71% of households gave priority to men at mealtimes, 17% to the elderly and 9% to children. Reasons given for this were initially cultural / traditional and as the husband is carrying out a lot of physical labour he should have the choice food in the HH! Incidentally women are acknowledged as working up to 16 hours a day in rural areas of Ethiopia and men working considerably less hours.

Rural life in Sidama is demanding and women tend to face the greater challenges here. For example, access to education is often considered an indicator of well-being and development; in Sidama 21% of females are literate and 50% of males are literate. If the converse figures of illiteracy are considered, it is shocking that 79% of females in SNNPR are illiterate. Female enrolment rates in all levels of education are low; 82 % of males and 61% of females attend primary school; The figures drop considerably by secondary school, with only a 22% male and 7% female enrolment rate; and rates are lower in Boricha with 14% male and 3% female enrolment. Apart from the typical reasons for not educating females, in Sidama, many girls are taken out of school when they reach puberty as it is a common practice to abduct and rape young girls with the intention of having her as a wife.

In Boricha Woreda, 48% of women are of child bearing age, and there are no midwives available. There are however Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) who would assist on occasion at births and should recognise complications and refer the mother to a health facility. According to a baseline study carried out by Goal Sidama in the 3 operational Woredas (including Boricha), from 360 respondents 87% delivered their baby at home with no assistance; TBA assisted at 9% of births and only 4% were referred to a health facility.


Tadelech was born in a town in Gurage Zone (approx 250 km from Sidama), where she grew up. She has 3 sisters and one brother, who now lives in Addis Ababa. When she was 16 she married a local boy. The conditions in their native town were really terrible and as a young couple they decided to set off to look for a better place to start their life together. Approximately 25 years ago they moved as far as Leku in Shebedino (a market town the capital of the district). Today, Tadelech has two sons, 25 and 14 years old, and two daughters, 22 and 18 years old; all the family are Orthodox Christians, with the exception of one daughter who is Protestant.

Twenty five years ago, when the family first settled in Leku, in order to survive, Tadelech was forced to work; baking injera for a local hotel. She made between 100 and 150 injera per day, and earned approx 90 birr per month. Of that pay, her actual costs for producing the injera were approx 60 birr so that she was in fact only making approx 30 birr per month.

Tadelech’s husband became ill and died twelve years ago, leaving her the sole parent of 4 children. The income from injera making was the only source of income for the family, and as it was inadequate, the family decided to move again to a neighbouring district. Seven years ago, she settled in the district of Boricha, where she opened a room of her house up as a bar. Her brother, who lives in Addis Ababa, provided the initial finance in order for her to carry out the project.

The “bar” is not luxurious; just a small room where rats are seen scavenging among the Coca-Cola bottles. As local people do not have much money, and indeed there are not many customers, the prices Tadelech charges are relatively cheap. A plate of injera and shiro costs 2.5 birr and a glass of arake, a local strong alcohol, costs 1 birr. Her daily profit from the bar is about 5 birr, which means per month about 150 birr. In order to supplement this income, when Tadelech goes to fetch water for her house, she takes along some soft drinks to sell to people on the way. All in all her monthly income is not more than around 200 birr per month. For a few years Tadelech also brewed farso, another local alcohol; however she had to give up brewing it as the time spent over the steam and the fire, inhaling the alcohol fumes led to respiratory problems.

The household is an extended family; Tadelech’s eldest son is married and works; he and his wife and their son live with her. The household survive on the income from the eldest son and the profits from the bar. As the bar is in the house and there are a number of people living in the household, Tadelech is responsible for all the household duties and chores.

Tadelech wakes up around 6 am, and starts her day by cleaning the house and the bar. She then prepares breakfast, which consists of kocho or injera with shiro or cabbage. On a rare occasion they consume some milk; it is in fact a luxury. At approx 9am she goes to the water point, around 2 kms away, where she fills a 25 litre gerry can which she carries home on her back. The water is for consumption of the family and for baking injera with.

At around 11am Tadelech prepares the lunch, generally the same food items that the family consumed for breakfast (kocho, injera, shiro and cabbage). Meat is a complete luxury, one the family seldom indulges in. On very rare occasions they may have a chicken. While Tadelech is carrying out these domestic activities she also takes care of the bar and the food she prepares is for the family and also for sale in the bar.

Lunch is eaten at around 1pm and then Tadelech sets off to the water point again to fetch another 25 litres of water. She takes advantage of the fact that people gather at the water point and will sell some refreshments there. So not only is she carrying water she is also carrying the bottles of soft drink with her.

In late afternoon, Tadelech prepares the food for dinner (the same food items as for breakfast and lunch) and continues her work in the bar. The family will eat dinner together at around 7pm and may sit over a coffee or tea, while Tadelech may tend to customers in the bar. At around 10pm Tadelech will go to bed. This means that Tadelech has worked for approx 16 hours a day

Tadelech generally has not had very good health; up to the age of 33 she suffered from tuberculosis and at one stage over a period of two months she was really seriously ill; finally she sought treatment and is in fact well now. Her husband also suffered form tuberculosis and it was in fact what led to his death. Tadelech also suffers from pulmonary problems associated with smoke and alcohol inhalation during the process of brewing farso. She says that whenever there is bad weather she has flu like symptoms and wonders if it is the ill effects of malaria that was not completely cured. In her house she does sleep under a mosquito net at night, so that should provide her with some protection against malaria in the future. When she has suffered form malaria, she has obtained medication from the local health facility. However, when she feels flu like symptoms, she does not seek medical attention; it is not very serious in comparison with malaria and therefore does not need treatment.

Tadelech is aware of HIV/AIDS and considers that she free of it, as since the death of her husband 12 years ago, she has not had any relations with a man; however she has not been tested. She teaches her younger son about HIV/AIDS and its consequences.

Injera is a staple food in Ethiopia; a large flat pancake made from fermented grain, used to eat sauce with by hand

1 Euro = 23 birr

Shiro is also a staple, generally of poor households; a sauce made from ground chick peas, chilli and onion and eaten with injera.

Local foodstuff made from the enset plant, a type of bread cooked on a griddle

During focus group discussions with men and women in the areas, a daily activity timetable for each sex was compiled. Women commence work at 6am and complete household, family and agricultural tasks at 10.30 pm, carrying out sixteen and a half hours labour in the day. In comparison men work a total of 9 hours.

In Boricha District, malaria is the major illness at 39% (women making up 47% of those who sought treatment). TB is the 4th most common illness and upper respiratory infections are more prevalent among women cooking over an open fire in the confined space of the tukul (SNNPR, Medical Service Annual Report 2005).

Javier Acebal

About the author: Javier Acebal

I'm a photographer based in Dakar (West Africa). I love to document cultures and people! (but also working for tourism industry).

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