Sidama Renaissance Initiatives
The Sidama people live in today's south central part of Ethiopia. The country's 2007 census estimates the population of the Sidama to 3.8 million or 5th largest in the country. An independent estimates, however, disputes this politically galvanized government figure and put sidamas to 3rd most populous ethnic group next to Oromo and Amhara with population number amounting more than 6 Million.
The Sidama people has distinct and diverse culture which is embodied in the identity of Sidama people for generations. The geographic territory where the Sidama people presently live is endowed with diverse and rich natural resources. It's well known fact that Sidama supplies about 40% of washed coffee to central government which the country relies heavily on to generate revenue from foreign exchange. Around 60% of the country's foreign income comes from coffee export.
Despite these facts, the people of Sidama have been marginalized from playing any meaning full role at local and national level. Sidamas haven't been able to decide on issues that matter to them and made to be mere onlookers while the successive Ethiopian regimes exploit and amass resources with no regard for local people and regional development.Infrastructures are poorly developed and among the lowest in the country. Public institutions such as schools, health centers and hospitals, are poorest in quality and require immediate intervention. As a result, poverty among the Sidama people have been a commonplace.
The pillars of indigenous system that have sustained the identity of the Sidama people have been deteriorated. Cultural and social fabrics of the society have been dismantled. The past Ethiopian governments imposed policies of one language and one culture has had adverse impact on the growth and preservation of Sidama culture and language. The Language, history and culture conservation initiatives are virtually non-extant. A few, projects that were supported by independent donors and showed some result have systematically been decimated.
In the face of lack of meaningful initiatives to create awareness, internal forces are also contributing to the loss of cultural and natural heritages. The Sidama people who have cuddled the Christianity as their new religion, wrongly, consider many cultural entities that have been passed onto them as wicked and as a result they are rejecting them. The Sidama's population density per square kilometer is the highest in the county and as a result, the environmental degradation is growing on alarming rate.
Realizing prevalence of these multifaceted problems, Sidamas around the world are now coming together to face this problem head on with a moto 'Sidamas for Sidama'. Among such initiatives are SIDAMA WORLDWIDE COMMUNITY and SIDAMA STUDIES AND DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVE.
SIDAMA WORLDWIDE COMMUNITY
This is a network based association binding Sidamas residing Abroad. It is organised by a body of individuals in diaspora joined solely out of concern for their fellow people and land. This world wide community organizations is registered in USA and have several members. For more see the organization's web site.
SIDAMA STUDIES AND DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVE
On the December 31 2017 the SIDAMA STUDIES AND DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVE(SSDI) orginizaers held the largest ever online meeting of Sidamas from around the world to form, yet another organization that will coordinate Sidamas from home and diaspora to lead development goals for betterment of the Sidama people. The meeting attendees included Betana Hamano, one of a few veteran Sidama human right defenders for past four decades, who made heart touching plea signaling he is passing the baton to the present generation of Sidama. The meeting was hugely successful in establishing another organization that will spread-head advancement of Sidama and it is also registered in US.
The grand objectives of this organization include(As mentioned in the SSDI formation document):
- To conduct research and development activities focused on poverty alleviation, environment protection, skills enhancement, culture and tourism promotion, and identity reinforcement of Sidama people in the light of Sustainable Development Goals in Ethiopia;
- To coordinate and mobilize Sidama Diaspora communities actively participate in multifaceted research endeavors and contribute for poverty alleviation efforts;
- To design strategies how (a) to improve the quality of education in primary and secondary schools, (b) to enhance the higher education enrollment level of sidama children, and (c) to find technical and material support for skills enhancement and capacity building training schemes;
- To promote the enrolment rate of girls in various level of education and raise communities’ awareness level by engaging multiple stakeholders to prevent early marriage, abduction, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), HIV/AIDS transmission and sexual assaults on the sidama girls/women at school and work environments;
- To actively engage in family empowerment and development issues pressing on children, women, gender balance, inequalities, and community consultation, dialogue and advocacy networks issues;
- To improve the quality of life of sidama people by working in collaboration with local government organs and providing support to enhance health facilities and improved housing, infrastructure, environment, water and sanitation initiatives;
- To spearhead and coordinate efforts to revive the Sidama culture, to promote tourism and to support identity reinforcement research activities undertaken by local colleges and universities;
- To facilitate the establishment of independent Sidama media outlets to promote language and culture as well as other information sharing and social-media platforms to enable community-wide faster, effective and timely communication; and
- To create development-oriented and productive Partnership and Networks with similar minded organizations or institutions such as sponsors, doners, civic associations, research and academic institutions, media institutions, governmental agencies, religious institutions,multilateral and intergovernmental organizations such as UN and its affiliates.
Besides these internationally registered organizations, many other Sidama community based groups have been flourshing. To mention a few, Washington DC metro area Sidama community which successfully organized celebration of last year's Fichchee event, Atlanta area Sidama community group and Washington DC based Sidaamu Oso Mittimma(SOM). All are also yearning to enhance Sidama's deserved place at national and international level.