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Title: Begging as a Survival Strategy: Conferring with the Poor at the Orthodox Religious Ceremonial Days in Addis Ababa
Authors: Woubishet, Demewozu
Advisors: Dr. Taddesse Berisso
Copyright: 2003
Date Added: 24-Apr-2008
Publisher: Addis Ababa University
Abstract: In the absence of any means of livelihood, more and more people were driven to begging, some temporarily and some permanently. Today, as a result, begging has assumed enormous proportions and for thousands it is a means of earning livelihood in urban areas in general and in Addis Ababa in particular. It is one of the most conspicuous, readily visible social problems especially in the religious comemmorable days of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Like most of the socio-economic problems of this country, Ethiopia, the beggary problem, is of colossal magnitude, and yet we have no much knowledge of its dimensions; little has been done on the problem of beggary. Besides, the Ethiopian literature on poverty and poverty related issues shows that the ‘macro’ level approach has often been favored by researchers based on statistics and categorizations. These attempts often fail to specify the problems, relationships and processes usefully and adequately. As such, micro sociologists and/or anthropologists of an empirical bent have done little research in Ethiopia on poverty in general and the problem of beggary in particular. The objective of this research is therefore to contribute to the apparent literature gap and to compensate the in balance by utilizing qualitative and ethnographic analysis of the beggary problem in the context of the saint days of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. To this effect, participant observation, individual and focus group interviews and in depth case studies have been composed in an effort to present moving and intimate views of the poor in relation to their past and present in the framework of the dynamics of the socio- economic history of the country at large. This was done amid the complexity of the beggary problem and the diverse nature of the life experiences of each individual beggar considered in the study. As such, attempt has been made to explore matters pertaining to the overall event or scene of the beggary problem in the context of the Orthodox religious ceremonial days, precipitating causes for begging as a way of life, the beggars’ multifaceted impoverishment and modes of social interaction among others. The beggary problem has a lot to do with the country’s socio-economic and historical aspects characterized by low incomes, high unemployment rates, fast rising cost of living, high rates of population growth, inappropriate public policies and continued rural- urban migration and displacement of mass human beings to the city. Thus, the cardinal reason for most of the different vulnerable categories of beggars to earn a meager living on the streets, churchyards and other collective quarters of the city is poverty precipitated by different factors and events. The beggars, as impoverished underclass, presently find themselves in multifaceted and extreme impoverishment which can generally be characterized by chronic food shortage and insecurity, illiteracy, homelessness or poor housing often on unsuitable land, disease, in sanitary living conditions, death and above all marginalization and exclusion. Presently, there are no committed groups, including the government of The actions and reactions of the destitute beggars is largely restricted to their own habitat; in the social milieu in which they are surviving by themselves within the limits of the larger society by which they are surrounded, from which they are, in large part an outcast. Contrary to the hyperbole of the culture of poverty image, however, the poorest of the poor-beggars-are not abysmally disorganized and so hopelessly huddled on the streets. There seems to be a tacitly ongoing social existence among them. They do not lack the basic elements of organization universal among human life ways. Thus, life among these destitute is not with out sharing our culture, or at least with out major elements previously understood as necessary aspects of our culture. Social interactions, lacking depth both in the past and in present, are reflected in terms of support, competition and conflict. Among the beggars, three factors (age, gender and ethnic background) seem to be at the constant interplay in enhancing interpersonal relations.The beggars are at present very marginal to associational ties. Iqub stands out the sole important voluntary association binding the beggars. Even iqub is enjoyed by a few permanent beggars of the churchyards. The beggars go to very limited lengths to interact with the society at large through factors such as ethnic affiliation, love life, leisure and recreation In the long run, lower rates of population growth, improved living conditions in rural and urban areas and above all dealing with the situation of poverty are generally needed to reduce the problem of beggary. With out changes in poverty there will always be begging. To eliminate or at least improve the situation, with out ignoring the immediate plight of the beggars of course, multi pronged but complementary and supplementary strategies should be part of any poverty reduction programme. Nevertheless, such policies and appropriate implementation of them is rarely sufficient. In order to develop rational priorities based on cost-beneficial criteria, data on the number and the needs and conditions of the impoverished are required. The data should combine a marshaling of descriptive facts and statistics into the best comprehensive hard data and case studies on the subject around. Often, such data are scarce. This calls for broad and multi disciplinary research. A sociological and/or anthropological research into poverty needs focus on social change and therefore be a longterm one. It should have both an ‘etic’ and ‘emic’ dimension used interactively to improve future conceptual and empirical research. course, helping the beggars. Virtually all beggars live through their own efforts and depend on alms givers.
Description: A Thesis Submitted to the School of Graduate Studies, Addis Ababa University, in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for Master of Arts Degree in Social Anthropology
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/123456789/923
Appears in:Thesis - Social Anthropology

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