Shabe Sheko Narso

Shabe Sheko Narso

Shabe Sheko Narso was born in 1961 and raised in the Bale region of central Ethiopia. She is a member of the Oromo ethnic group that, despite being a significant portion of the population of Ethiopia, has long been persecuted by the post-colonial governments of that country. She loves music, especially Oromo music and has been singing since the age of thirteen. As a successful folk singer in Oromo Ethiopia, she herself has suffered significantly when her music addressed issues of injustice and human rights.

In February 1996 Shabe was detained and imprisoned in Ethiopia, enduring two years in detention centres without ever being charged. On her release, and faced with further threats from authorities, she and her eldest son Sultan, fled Ethiopia to relative safety in Kenya. They then lived as refugees in a United Nations protected-custody safe refugee camp in Nairobi for two years.

Shabe and Sultan came to Winnipeg in 2000, sponsored as refugees by the Government of Canada and the United Church in Meadowood. When Shabe was in prison and subsequently while in the refugee process in Kenya, her five other children ranging in age from ten to eighteen years were in hiding in Ethiopia. Her husband had been imprisoned at the same time as Shabe, but his whereabouts remained unknown. Once in Canada, she was able to locate her children and eventually speak to them by telephone. With the knowledge that she was now safe in Canada, they in turn were able to flee Ethiopia, spending nearly a year in Nairobi before joining her here in Winnipeg.

Shabe now lives modestly but comfortably in a housing authority townhouse in St Vital, supporting herself by working days in a restaurant and evenings as an office cleaner. The now-adult children are also self-sufficient, and have relocated to Brooks Alberta working in packing houses there. Her youngest child, son Mohammed, still lives with her in Winnipeg, having graduated from Dakota Collegiate.

On February 14th, 2006 Jubilee Fund representatives were pleased to attend a Citizenship Court ceremony to see Shabe, Mohammed and older daughter Sena become citizens of Canada.

Shabe Sheko Narso

Even while struggling to re-establish herself in a new life, a new language, a new culture, a new climate and uncertain finances, Shabe felt more poetry and music wanting to come out of her. When she had enough songs assembled to fill a new CD, she then had to face the business costs of studio recording and reproduction before realizing the revenue from sales of the CD. John Schwandt, a United Church member involved in refugee support and incidentally a Jubilee Fund board member, suggested she approach the Fund and its partner the Assiniboine Credit Union for a loan to assist her with production costs. the Jubilee Fund was pleased to guarantee the funding for her. The CDs will be sold most largely in the Oromo Diaspora, at a major Ethiopian gathering in July in Minneapolis, in the significant Horn of Africa population in Toronto and elsewhere across Canada and even around the world.