June 2023: Ethiopia southwestern part: PBF encounters mission for the Manja tribe

Among the marginalized Manja tribe in southwestern Ethiopia, PBF encounters its core mission

The Manja people live partly in the southern geographical zones of Kafa, Sheka, Bench Maji, Dawro as well as in Konta. Here they live their own life as an ethnic group, with specific habits and customs, occupational activities, economic enclosures, state supervision and control.  They belong to a certain tribe, which is completely excluded from society, and can only accept subordinate jobs as day laborers, e.g., in agriculture. They live apart from the rest of society, isolated and discriminated against in every respect. This is reflected, for example, in the prejudice that is based solely on their outward appearance. Social circles claim that the Manja have a so-called “evil eye”, which naturally implies that they also have an evil, even hostile attitude. For this and many other reasons, the Manja can hardly send their children to school. They are a danger to society, leading to risk and insecurity.  These humiliations and degradations lead to indescribable poverty.

From the daily experience of the Manjas of being despised by others, they have to avoid any social proximity, for example when eating at the same table.  They are also mostly shunned in the worship space and therefore do not come to worship celebrations at all. Difficulties in establishing a sense of community include lack of hygiene or noticeable illnesses such as the very common elephantiasis (swollen legs and feet).

In case of illnesses, it is neither possible to visit a doctor nor to get medicine. Dying is the natural consequence and the body is buried somewhere.

As mentioned above, ignorance, lack of education is a cause of the desperate situation of this tribe. Basic survival strategies and skills are lacking, and with them the confidence to regulate and change their own circumstances. For example, people marry very young, but even these unions are hardly stable and cannot contribute to an improvement. Illness and impoverishment threaten in every area and lead to isolation. This defenselessness, this being exposed and this helplessness is shown, for example, in the fact that no fence around their dwellings can keep wild animals out.  The roof of branches and grass does not provide sufficient protection from rain. Inside there is nothing but a fireplace, consisting of three stones, for cooking coffee and baking bread.  Sheep, animals and people sleep next to each other on bare floor.

The Manja are on the move to often distant places, even as far as the city. They carry up to twenty kilos on their heads or on their backs. They carry charcoal or other goods for sale, eat and drink, and return very late at night. In this way, they provide for their family, their children – at a totally inadequate income. Above all, it is women, mothers and children, who usually walk long distances without shoes.  In their hands they each hold a small piece of coal.  They cannot afford pack animals like donkeys or mules.

There are many reasons why the Manja are socially ostracized and excluded. The effects are especially evident in the upbringing of the children. Bringing about change seems almost impossible, even hopeless. Planning for the future is also very difficult and requires a lot of courage and perseverance.

As a first step towards improving life, PBF supports the purchase of donkeys as Abba Mathewos, a Capuchin priest and long-time friend of Peter Bachmann, has successfully done much earlier in other places of his work. The donkeys are used for transportation to the market. In this way the income can be expanded.

From now on Getachew is committed to take care of the Manja as it does successfully for the Fuga, another tribe with similar circumstances in southern Ethiopia. Many things can be done today and in future to improve the standard of living and above all to respect human dignity. We will report on this here on the website in a timely manner.

Here is the link to the video on YouTube:


Abba Mathewos Shemsu and Getachew Sale

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