40 years ago, in a poor and conservative part of Ethiopia, a young man had a dream. He wanted to live in a world where women and men are equal, and where religion doesn't dictate every aspect of life. Today, he has created something remarkable.
The Story of Awra Amba
Zumra Nuru grew up in a Muslim family in tradition-bound rural Ethiopia. While both of his parents worked all day on the farm, only his mother would do all the housework and take care of the children. Sometimes she would even get beaten by his father.
Zumra was sent to work on the farm at an early age, instead of school. He grew up being told that Muslims and Christians are different, but he had no idea why. Despite asking many questions to the people around him, the answers never satisfied him. He kept dreaming of a fairer world, where women would not be oppressed but treated equally with men. Children would be allowed to play and go to school. People would not be labelled because of their religion or race. For this reason, Zumra was labelled mentally ill and marginalised by his family and community.
In 1972, after many years of wandering and searching for like-minded people, Zumra came across a group of young people who shared his beliefs. Together, they started a new village called Awra Amba. Their ideas were strongly opposed. For many years Zumra and his friends suffered from violent attacks by neighbouring communities. Despite being chased out of their homes and even imprisoned, Zumra and his friends never gave up hope.
Zumra is now an old man, but his dream is slowly becoming a reality. His village has grown from the initial 19 members to 463 permanent inhabitants, with thousands of community members and supporters based in other villages around Ethiopia and even other countries around the world.
Awra Amba makes a living through a sustainable textile business that most of the community members are involved in. The majority of profits are invested into social services, such as building and running schools, clinics and elderly care. The rest of the income is shared equally between all members, no matter which job they do.
Decisions are made democratically through elected committees. Harmful traditional practices, such as female genital mutilation and child marriage have been abolished. Instead, discussions about human rights and peace take place daily. Religious rituals have been abandoned, and no churches or mosques can be found here. Instead, the community shows their faith through hard word, peaceful behaviour and respect towards all human beings.
Lately, Zumra has become a prominent figure in Ethiopia and his grassroots development efforts have earned him an honorary PhD and a peace ambassador status. People from all around the world make the long journey to this little village to hear his story and learn about their way of life. Awra Amba has challenged many traditions norms and managed to emerge a much better place because of it.
Join us in discovering their incredible story in The Awra Amba Experience.