Ethiopian society is built on cooperation. It is reported that every village and town also has mutual aid societies. People make weekly contributions, and the funds pay for marriage and funeral expenses and local road repairs. Society members who are ill can receive money from the fund for treatment. Even small business loans are handled by the local society, rather than by a bank. However, due to widespread poverty in the country, many people have been moving to cities in search of work.
A typical family consists of the father, mother, children, servants, and extended family members. The families are strong and tend to be large, ranging from 6-12 family members per family. The father is the authority figure, and the mother enforces the rules for the children. The family is responsible for teaching the children cultural and religious values and the skills necessary to become self-supporting adults.
Rural families, more often than urban families, tend to have a division of labor. The mothers usually work at home, while the fathers work in the field or other outside jobs. If both parents work outside the home, the parents depend on servants and extended family members to look after the children. Although, parents discourage their children from using violence, the parents often use physical punishment and believe in its effectiveness.
The mother is often the one who chooses her children's name. This chosen name indicates what traits she wants her children to exemplify. It is a custom for children to take their father's name as their second name. Parents consider children to be dependent of them, and the children can protect the family pride by behaving well.
Different Roles of Boys and Girls
Boys and girls in Ethiopia tend to have separate roles.
- help their mothers such as sweeping the house and fetching water
- admired for their abilities in handicrafts, cooking, and cleaning
- stay under family control until they get married
- no choice in choosing a husband
- can marry at age 14 (some marry as young as age 10)
- help their fathers in gardening, preparing land, planting, weeding, and caring for cattle
- father trains son for work at age 6
- admired if they are studious and have a good character
- can choose their own wives
- can marry at age 18
Even though Ethiopian children lead hard lives, they also have fun. They play games with the children of their neighborhood. These games relieve some of their stress, and it is also a way in which children express their fears. Some examples of the games Ethiopian children enjoy are hockey, breaking grounds, hide and seek, football, and soccer.
Rules Children Must Follow
At a young age, parents teach their children certain rules, and the parents expect children to follow them. If the children break these rules, their parents and society will look down on them and they will be appropriately disciplined. Some of these rules are:
- respect the elders
- be obedient
- don't question authority
- don't interrupt their parents while they are talking
- don't call adults by names
- be disciplined