A Feminist Reading in Ethiopian Philosophy as Portrayed in Treatises of Zara-Yaqob and Wolde-Hiwot


  • Dawit Girma Debre Birhan University


Ethiopian Philosophy; Feminism; Medieval Age; Traditional fender role; Feminist philosophy


This study investigates the perspectives of medieval Ethiopian philosophers, Zara-Yaqob and Wolde-Hiwot concerning women through the lens of feminist criticism. Referred to as ‘The Golden Age of Ethiopian Literature’, the medieval era in Ethiopian history witnessed the creation of numerous manuscripts covering a wide array of subjects, including the humanities and natural sciences. During this period, a diverse range of books eaturing philosophical musings, Qine (Ethiopian poetic form), and other literary works were produced both original compositions and adopted translations. The research is temporally delimited to the 17th century and concentrates on the philosophical writings of the frst Ethiopian philosophers from the town of Enfranz/Gondar. Employing a descriptive approach, the study scrutinizes how these philosophers depict women in their works, utilizing a feminist perspective as its theoretical framework. Feminism, concerned with promoting women’s equal engagement and empowerment across social, economic, and political spheres, underpins the analytical lens applied in this investigation. Feminism identifes and challenges the ways in which women are marginalized, discriminated against, and oppressed. The impetus behind this study is to explore the historical context and understanding of feminism in Ethiopia through the logical reasoning of indigenous philosophers. Prior to the emergence of the feminist movement, which has gained momentum in later years, these thinkers
delved into issues of gender equality during a time when the international community was predominantly patriarchal. The philosophers espoused positive views on various aspects of equality, including decision-making within marital life, property rights, division of labor, rejection of polygamy, and the freedoms that girls should have regarding their sexual lives and menstruation cycles. Similar to Zara-Yaqob, Wolde-Hiwot also shares feminist perspectives; however, unlike his mentor, he portrayed women as weak and emotional, aligning with the views of many pro male advocates. While his initial stance on gender equality paralleled that of Zara-Yaqob, it did not persist until the end. This study emphasizes that Ethiopian philosophers accorded signifcant
value to femininity, particularly when compared to their contemporaries who espoused misogynistic and patriarchal influences, and predating the onset of feminist movements; the treatises of Zara-Yaqob and Wolde-Hiwot provide insight into this perspective.




How to Cite

Girma, D. (2019). A Feminist Reading in Ethiopian Philosophy as Portrayed in Treatises of Zara-Yaqob and Wolde-Hiwot. Ethiopian Renaissance Journal of Social Sciences and the Humanities, 6(1), 33–41. Retrieved from https://erjssh.uog.edu.et/index.php/ERJSSH/article/view/713