Dual Realities Behind Gilded Gates

Mar 9 , 2024
By Eden Sahle

Living in a secure, affluent neighbourhood, I am surrounded by the outward signs of comfort where most of our neighbours are proprietors of thriving businesses. Yet, just beyond the confines of our gated community lies a glaringly different reality. Confined to meagre one-room dwellings, families struggle to meet their basic needs, their daily activities unfolding within plain sight from my bedroom window.

Early each morning, the faint glow of wood fires illuminates their dwellings as women begin baking injera, the staple flatbread, in traditional clay ovens. Smoke blows into the air, painting a picture of arduous labour, often undertaken while pregnant. Their husbands and children join them later, sharing a meagre breakfast of injera seasoned with salt or paprika.

While some fortunate children head off to school, others remain at home, their laughter echoing amidst the plastic bottles they collect for recycling. The day progresses with a relentless cycle of work – fetching water from neighbours' wells, grinding grain, washing clothes by hand – tasks that expose them to harsh conditions and leave them visibly exhausted.

Despite their hardships, these individuals exude an unwavering spirit. Even as they face the threat of eviction and navigate a life devoid of basic amenities like running water and electricity, their faces reveal a remarkable resilience. Their smiles speak volumes about their strength in the face of adversity.

I particularly focused on the pregnant women who were doing activities that doctors advised me to stay away from, while I was carrying my child. They haul substantial bundles of firewood, splitting them into smaller pieces with an axe. In the haze of wood smoke, they prepare injera and meals, carry kilograms of ground grain on their backs, and laboriously handwash clothes, their thin frames indicative of their meagre sustenance.

Despite living in the capital city, basic services such as running water, electricity, or sanitation are lacking. They usually rely on our gated community's "generosity" for water and sustenance.

Through personal interactions, I have gained a deeper understanding of their struggles – the traumas they have endured, and the constant fight for survival. Yet, they have not succumbed to despair. Instead, they instil in their children a strong work ethic, teaching them the value of self-reliance. The children who come to our doors, offering to work for food and water, are a testament to this ingrained discipline.

According to estimations done by UNDP in 2021, 68.7pc of Ethiopia's population is multidimensionally poor, with an additional 18.4pc vulnerable to multidimensional poverty. While poverty is pervasive in Ethiopia, it is not solely a narrative of despair. For many, like the families I have come to know, it becomes a crucible that forges resilience. It fosters a profound appreciation for even the most necessities, strengthens familial bonds, and ignites hope for a brighter future.

Their ability to thrive in the face of adversity is not simply a product of physical strength, but rather a testament to the power of the mind. By cultivating a positive outlook and crafting a narrative of hope, they transcend their circumstances, demonstrating the profound impact our thoughts have on our lives. These individuals are not just surviving; they are setting an example of resilience and unwavering optimism in the face of unimaginable challenges.

PUBLISHED ON Mar 09,2024 [ VOL 24 , NO 1245]

Eden Sahle is founder and CEO of Yada Technology Plc. She has studied law with a focus on international economic law. She can be reached at edensah2000@gmail.com.

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