Do we treat all humans as equals? That is the question that came to my mind after reading this wonderful Amharic novel entitled ‘Yewedianesh’ written by Hailemelekot Mewael. The book tells a story of a woman called Yewedianesh who worked as a maid in a feudal family residing in Addis Ababa. In the story, a love affair develops between Yewedianesh and one of the owners’ sons without the slightest knowledge of the parents, other family members and acquaintances. Now this love affair was not the kind that is solely based on physical attractions (as Yewedianesh was a beautiful woman) but was rather the kind that is unconditional and without limits. The story takes a sad turn when Yewedianesh was kicked out of the house when her pregnancy was discovered by the mother of her lover. What follows is the struggle that the lover faces in trying to find back Yewedianesh, find a home for them to live in with their baby and face the most difficult challenge of all – bringing yewedyanesh back to his parents and convincing the latter to accept her as his beloved wife. This story was set during feudal times in which bloodlines and membership in the nobility were given much importance when making marriage decisions. But can we say for sure that this kind of mentality no longer exists today?
I believe that much has not changed today. How many of us who call ourselves educated and well-brought up would gladly and happily accept if our son fell in love with a house maid and asked her hand for marriage? To be honest, not so many. I believe it requires an open-mind to do so. People say marry your equal as you will likely have a better mutual understanding. But what is ‘your equal’? Some of the factors people use to define ‘your equal’ are issues like racial background, family financial background, whether you come from Addis Ababa or from other regions (in Amharic ‘Ye Addis Ababa Lij’ or ‘Ye Kifle Hager Lij’), the type of school you went to, your current educational and financial status, the type of job that you do, your religious affiliation, your political affiliation, your health status (for example, if one of them a physically disabled person), your looks, even your sense of style, and the list goes on. Yes, some of these factors can determine the extent to which we understand our life partner. But should the listed issues be the main factors that need to be used to define ‘our equals’? It makes you think, the simple fact that we are humans who start and finish life the exact same way does not make us treat each other as equals.
In the story of Yewedianesh, house maids are made to feel less of a human being. They are beaten up and thrown at obscenities at the will of their employers. I do not believe that much has changed in our society since the time the book was written. People are different. But I do not believe they are unequal. As human beings, I believe all deserve to be given an equal opportunity at relationships, marriages, education, and work or at life in general. They say do not judge a book by its cover. I believe issues like race, religion or financial status are only covers of the big and thick book that we human beings are.