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Makida Abdulahi

Makida Abdulahi

Oromo-Jawi Elder and First Woman to Graduate High School In Her City

Born: Ethiopia
Heritage: Jawi, Oromo

Get an education and work hard. Then there is a benefit. If you work hard now you’ll get rewarded later for it. Even I am lucky. Getting an education over there is the main reason my husband married me and brought me to this wonderful country. If I didn’t go to school he might have chosen another with knowledge.

Makida Abdulahi

Oromo-Jawi Elder and First Woman to Graduate High School In Her City

My name is Makida Abdulahi. I am Oromo and my tribe is Jawi. I was born in Ethiopia. I grew up and I graduated there. I came to the United States in 1997 due to marriage and a wonderful father. My mother, father and family are still in East Africa. It is very tough to be separated from them. But I am proud to be in the United States.

My father’s name is Johar Abdulahi and he is a farmer. As a child, I helped my father on the farm. Our life depends on farm work. It is not like here where you get a job. You have to work the farm. Everything you would find in a market, you could find in our garden. We would grow plants and crops and raise animals. It was my job to look after the cows when I came home from school. I also helped my mother cleaning and cooking. We start cooking at a young age so we can learn everything we need to know. My father gave me some part of his land to plant my own tomatoes and he called it the Kids' Farm.

The city I lived in had school up to 6th grade. Then starting from 7th grade you move to the bigger city to continue education. A lot of children don’t want to separate from the family to continue school. The family also has a hard time making the children live over there. My father knew the benefit of education so he supported me when I moved away to continue school.

I’m the only female to graduate from high school from my city. Being the first woman to be educated was a big thing. Where I grew up people don’t want their kids to go to the big city, because of the culture and they can’t afford it. It was not normal for a girl to go far away from the family. I had to walk three hours to get to school. My father really supported me. He knows that education helps people learn how to work hard. He would buy newspapers and make me read to him.

In Ethiopia, fifty percent of the population practices Islam and the other fifty percent is Christian. We celebrated each other’s holidays by sharing food together. We got along very well. I still call my Christian friends and they are all good people. I choose to be Islam. We had a Mosque in the village where we believe in one God. We start to pray with our families from the age of seven. When I was ten, my parents would push me to pray on my own. At age 15 it is enforced. I find this is a good thing.

I was twenty when I was married. Our culture asks for a lot of things when we get married. I didn’t know my husband. We met through our family. We are from the same tribe. His father came to my father and asked him if his son could marry me. The family made arrangements and then he came to meet me. Before I met him in person, we talked on the phone and sent letters to each other.

Our religion says to love each other and to give what you can. Our culture asks for 12 cows to be given to the bride’s family. My husband gave $1,000 instead of cows.

After we married, I came to the United States. It’s a long journey coming here. I rode on a plane from the capital city of Adis Abada, which means New Flower. It was exciting and a good journey. I was excited and didn’t have any difficulty because my husband was with me. I didn’t worry about anything. I knew he was going to help me all the way to Minnesota. There were challenges. The hardest was winter, the language and the culture.

I wear a Hijab, which is a veil. The language is the hardest part of the United States. When I first came, I couldn’t speak English. I couldn’t ask for help. Now I read and write, have gotten used to the winter, and I have begun my life here. My husband is going to school. He’s working on a master’s degree in criminal justice, and is working as a nursing assistant. He wants to help his people. I don’t want to stop him. There a lot of things to change in Ethiopia.

We have three children - Lulua, Juwayria, and Mustriha. I will also have a new baby in two weeks.

Notation: Download PDF

If You Work Hard

Honoring Makida Abdulahi

If You Work Hard

If you work hard you'll be rewarded
Later On!

My Name is Makida Abdulahi
I am proud to be Jawi.
Ethiopia, East Africa

Where mother, father, and family
Still live out in the country
On a farm, where I was raised

With lots of water, plants don't die
Always fresh, seldom dry.
Tomatoes, lettuce, corn, cabbage, barley!

Out in the fields they do grow
Then to the market we would go.
On a horse from Oda Roda, we would ride.

My father gave me space to till
Of my own out in the field
That little space, I called my farm

Grew tomatoes on my own
just like them, I have grown
Away from my, family on the farm

The only girl to ever leave
My village and family
To pursue an education, was me

Because my father he did know
The benefits, if I would go
Into the city, to get, my degree.

Then from across the seas
Came the man who married me.
His family talked to mine before we met

Fell in love on the phone
Then he came to my home
Now we share this wonderful country

Words & music by Larry Long with Lauren Robison’s 4th Grade Class from Birchview Elementary School in Wayzata, Minnesota.

© Larry Long 2009 / BMI