Ethiopia: Women's Role in Battlefield From Adwa to Law Enforcement Operations


Though women have been part of course of the wars for years, their participation and contribution in battlefield have always been less narrated or overlooked. For many reasons, their roles have only been taken as duties of non-combatant missions.

However, in the real sense of battlefield their participation has opened a new door and has allowed them to take part in areas where previously dominated by men.

Apart from taking combat missions, globally, most women used to take roles in nursing, doing laundry, preparing foods, intelligence and the like services. As most women had stepped in the battlefields, they were able to serve in various roles. They are reported to have played a significant role in the course of war.

The women had also greater role in warfronts in encouraging the soldiers. They were able to save countless lives and contributed hugely to the victory.

A study conducted by Minale Adugna on the role of women during the campaign of Adwa 1895/96 and in the Italo-Ethiopian War, 1935-41, revealed the major role of some women.

As to him, some of the women were guarding the camp along with some soldiers so that it would not fall into the hands of the enemy. Some have helped their combatant men folks by gathering information on the whereabouts of their enemy's lines of combat.

Similarly, a band of women served their men folks in misleading the enemies by displaying themselves from top of the hill, shouting but disappearing suddenly from the site so that the site would be falsely targeted by the enemy, as to the same source.

Apart from facilitating the burials of soldiers, with the absence of proper transportation, these women had to carry the wounded to camps on their back (Tekle Tsadiq 1983E.C227-29).

It goes without saying that the Victory of Adwa would not be a full story without mentioning Empress Taytu Betul who is known as the mastermind lady behind Emperor Menelik II. She was one of the legendary women who had a great contribution for the Victory of Adwa.

For her role in securing Ethiopia's historic victory at the Battle of Adwa, Empress Taytu was honored by the African Union on Africa's Women's Day marked in July 31st 2020.

Tweeting on tribute and recognition given to Empress Taytu, Minister of Health Dr. Lia Tadesse said that Empress Taytu was amongst the few black women who in the continent have left their fingerprints and made immense impacts on Africa.

Major General Tiruye Assefe, Director of Women Affairs with in the National Defence Force on her part said that even though their participation in the battle field and leadership position has been undervalued, they have been in the forefront over the past years.

"Women in the battlefield, besides taking the frontline positions, they have involved in supporting the military with cooking, nursing, doing laundry and encouraging soldiers."

The legendary Empress Taytu Betul is among these women who won the victory of Adwa along with her husband. She had led a huge army during the battle. There are also numbers of other women who have done legendary activities in their fields, she stated.

Such exemplary women could signify the capacity of women both in the battle field and in the leadership positions. It is essential for women to draw lessons from such women and be able to competitive in their fields.

Even these days, there are number of brave women who have the guts to defend their country and uphold the sovereignty of the nation. The law enforcement operation that has taken place in the Tigray State could be the best showcase in this regard. Amongst these women, Tiringo Demelash is the first.

It was only two years since Tiringo Demelash joined the National Defense Force. She was one of the female soldiers who took part in the operation. At the front, she got wounded badly during the exchanges of fires with the junta. However, with a mixed feeling of pain and anger, she tried to continue fighting back and to serve her country.

She was very determined, enthusiastic and decided to defend her country from the junta though she had to be taken to the hospital. As to her, what is painful for her was not the state she was in, but the fact that junta's orchestrated treachery act.

As far as she knows, they have been serving and willing to die for the same people and one country. But now, something she had never dreamt of has happened and her own colleagues are fighting with them. This is totally unexpected and embarrassing for her and the whole army.

Another strong woman who has been devoted in the law enforcement operation from the beginning and played a role is Soldier Asdesach Takele.

She took part in the national heroic endeavor of the defense force in identifying the TPLF junta without any possible damage on the society in Akere and its surroundings. Her fellow comrades had strived to put the rebelling group before justice, as to her.

However, few meters away from the city, Asdesach was slipped and broke her right hand around one of the mountainous areas. Even with the pain, she refused to give away her weapons, being ready to defend herself. Fortunately, when the defense force takes full control over the area, she was able to be taken to the hospital.

Even while following her medical treatment in Bahir Dar City, she was desperately asking for her weapons and determined to return to the law enforcement operation. Now, she has fully recovered, and is requesting to be returned.

Mentioning that female's participation in the army was one of its kind, she noted that there were higher officials and females who carried around 150 bullets and completed their duties bravely. These females could be example for others, she stressed.

Maritu Hagos who was a command janitor at the 8th Mechanized Brigade of Northern Command was amongst the three women who survived from the team that was heading to Shire Town.

"The next day after the attack on the northern command, we were told to move to Shire. So, we started our journey by car. We were ten soldiers," she reminded.

Unfortunately, members of the junta were waiting for us and started firing heavy weapons. That is where we lost most of our comrades. Once we were reaching to the junta, the driver purposely drove the track to cliff and jumped off.

"We were only three women who got out of there alive. I was saddened that I lost my fellows, but I felt like we were lucky that we made it out alive though I lost my right arm at that situation."

Still, there are plenty female soldiers who are taking a mission and engaged in hunting the remnant of TPLF junta in different areas. And they have proved that just like their male counterparts are willing and capable of protecting and keeping the sovereignty of the country.

More From: Ethiopian Herald

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