Introduction / History The Gawwada are one of more than 140 distinct ethnic groups that can be found in Ethiopia. The Gawwada live in the Omo region around Lake Chamo. The Lower Omo region has remained one of the most inaccessible and least developed parts of East Africa. As a result, Gawwada social organization and values have changed only slightly in the last century.
Ethiopia was one of the first Christian nations, having been introduced to Christianity in the fourth century. Today, over half of the population claim to be Christians. Nevertheless, the peoples living in the southern and western parts of the country (including the Gawwada) have remained relatively untouched by the Gospel.
Traditionally ruthless warriors, the Gawwada view themselves as agriculturists. Some also keep small herds of cattle, sheep, and goats. Their native language, which is also called Gawwada, belongs to the Afro-Asiatic language family.
What are their lives like? The Gawwada economy is based on a balance between agriculture and herding. Although they seem somewhat indifferent to farming, their crops and livestock probably have equal importance. During the dry season, the Gawwada engage in some fishing to supplement their diets.
The Gawwada typically live in circular huts, or tukals, made of acacia branches covered with grass mats. The huts have cone-shaped roofs with openings that allow smoke to escape. The staple diet of the Gawwada includes durra (a cereal grain), maize, beans, rice, milk, meat, and wild fruits. Coffee and tea are both popular beverages.
The Gawwada family is headed by an authoritarian father who has the right to expect total obedience. Men usually have only one wife, and children are considered a necessity. The more children and grandchildren a man has, the greater his prestige.
Young Gawwada boys are trained to become warriors. They are taught at an early age how to use spears. Traditionally, men ready to marry were expected to present to their brides part of a man who they had killed. The killing of a man was customarily a part of becoming a full-fledged adult as well as part of certain festivals. Although this tradition survives, wild animals are now used instead of humans.
One basic value of the Gawwada is tokuma, which is identification with the group. Cooperation is central to this system, especially in work arrangements. The Gawwada have a reputation for being easygoing and sociable. They value hospitality and almsgiving, but more to relatives and friends than to strangers.
What are their beliefs? In southern Ethiopia, the traditional beliefs, rituals, and dances vary slightly with each tribe. However, all of the groups worship a supreme, masculine "sky god" that they view as being remote and inaccessible. They also believe in the existence of zar, or spirits that live near water or in various other locations. It is believed that these spirits may possess individuals.
The "masculinity cult" is a basic part of life for the peoples in this region. Initiation ceremonies, marriage proposals, raids, and inter-tribal warfare all occur within the context of the cult. To show respect for the woman's role in the traditionally male society, a man who is being initiated into adulthood spends a certain amount of time pretending to be a woman. During this period, he wears a woman's skirt and ornaments and is treated like a nursing mother.
Naming rituals for Gawwada children are commonly not held until months or even years after birth. The most important ceremony in the life of a Gawwada man occurs after his first daughter reaches adolescence. This marks his passage to the prestigious status of ma gudoha, or "big man."
What are their needs? The Gawwada have Gospel recordings available in their language. Evangelistic materials translated in Gawwada are desperately needed. Leadership development and discipleship of new believers are essential for growth among the few Gawwada believers to continue.
Prayer Points * Ask the Lord of the harvest to call Ethiopian Christians to share the Gospel with the Gawwada.
* Pray that signs and wonders will follow the Gawwada believers as they share Christ with their own people.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the spiritual soil of Ethiopia through worship and intercession.
* Ask the Lord to bring forth many fellowships of believers for the glory of His name! * Pray for completion of Bible translation in this people group's primary language.