Ashenda – A festival of womanhood, sisterhood, and female joy
Ashenda (Tigrinya: ኣሸንዳ) is a festival of womanhood, sisterhood, and female joy, celebrated every August in celebrated in Tigray Region in Ethiopia, among Tigrayans and Eritreans.
The festival lasts from August 16 to August 26 of each year and it brings together physical adornment, music, and dance to honour the feminine form, where female participants are gifted food, drinks, and money by the rest of the community.
Although it has its origins in religion by commemorating the ascension of the Virgin Mary, it has long since been a space for gendered freedom and rejection of violence against women and girls.
The festival, also known as “Girls’ Day”, is awaited by Tigrayan women of all ages, girls of age await the celebration of Ashenda in the leading months.
Prior to the celebration, groups of girls make preparations for the holiday by buying new clothes, visiting hairdressers, preparing drums, and harvesting the distinctive “Ashenda” grass (which will be tied around their waist for the celebration).
This year, Ashenda has taken on new meanings as an expression of resistance and resilience after years of weaponised sexual violence, brutal siege, and hunger in the ongoing Tigray War disregarding the so-called permanent truce between the Federal Government of Ethiopia and the Tigray Regional Government.
Photo Credit: African Insider/African Press/Facebook