Puberty Rites for Girls (Ke Gehaja) Among the Gumuz of Northwestern Ethiopia: Practices, Developmental and Psychosocial Contributions

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Addis Ababa University


This study was an investigation of Girls‟ puberty rites (Ke Gehaja) of the Gumuz and explored its developmental and psychosocial contributions. The study was conducted in three selected sites of Dibate District of Metekel Zone by using ethnographic qualitative design and data were collected from fifty-five participants through in-depth interviews, focus groups and participant observation. Samples for the study were adolescent schoolgirls, mothers, elderly men and experts from Governmental and non-governmental Organizations. Participants for the study were selected by using non-probability sampling techniques and data were collected through thirty-two in-depth interviews and six focus group discussions. The following developmental and psychosocial themes emerged from data analysis: Ke Gehaja rite practices; phases of Ke Gehaja ;perceived meanings and contributions of Ke Gehaja rite; pubertal development and menarche; emotional reaction to menarche; stages in the Gumuz female life cycle; developmental cues for the transition from Didea to Daguna stage; developmental tasks of a pre-menarcheal Gumuz girl; purposes of Ke Gehaja; the development of identity and intimacy by a Gumuz female; psychosocial benefits of Ke Gehaja rite; lessons of morality, sexuality and life skills; menstrual hygiene and taboos; and future prospects of Ke Gehaja. In general, the study explored that Ke Gehaja is perceived to have positive developmental and psychosocial contributions by initiated girls and mothers. Nevertheless, non-initiated girls perceived the ritual as a harmful traditional practice. The findings of the study have implication for the development of identity, marriage and psychosocial wellbeing. It has also implication for the development of indigenous theories of development



Psychosocial contributions