Toltu Tuffa, an Oromo Australian woman has just created the first comprehensive children's resources to learn the Oromo language.
Despite Oromo being spoken by at least 30 million people, making it the fourth most widely spoken African language after Arabic, Hausa and Swahili, Oromo language resources for children are extremely limited. The Oromo people are the largest indigenous ethnic group in Ethiopia but they’ve historically been marginalized and suffered discrimination by successive Ethiopian governments. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have long documented widespread discrimination, violence, and arbitrary arrests against the Oromo people.
Growing up in Australia as part of the Oromo diaspora, Toltu realised how important it was for her own identity to learn the language of her heritage and connect with her culture. This inspired her to help other children in the diaspora to connect with the language, heritage, culture and identity.
Being largely an oral language, published texts in Oromo were extremely limited prior to the 1970s. The language also has come under attack by successive Ethiopian governments, which saw it banned under Abyssinian colonial from the late 19th century, speaking the Oromo language could amount to 10 years imprisionment. The ban on the language was only lifted in 1991. Toltu's own father experienced persecution for speaking the Oromo language before migrating to Australia in the 1970s.
In Ethiopia, protests lead by the Oromo population continue as the ethnic Tigrayan-led Ethiopian government attempt to displace them from their land and use disproportionate force on peaceful demonstrations. The recent unrest has prompted unprecedented response from the Oromo diaspora and human rights organizations around the world.