Women in Ethiopia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Women in Ethiopia
An Ethiopian woman preparing coffee at a traditional ceremony.
Gender Inequality Index
Value NR
Rank NR
Maternal mortality (per 100,000) 350 (2010)
Women in parliament 25.5% (2012)
Females over 25 with secondary education NA
Women in labour force 78.4% (2011)
Global Gender Gap Index[1]
Value 0.6198 (2013)
Rank 118th out of 136

There have been few studies concerning women in Ethiopia. Historically, elite women in Ethiopia have been visible as administrators and warriors. This never translated into any benefit to improve the rights of women, but it had meant that women could inherit and own property, and act as advisors on important communal matters. As late as the first part of the nineteenth century, Queen Menen consort of Emperor Iyassu IV had decisive role in running the empire. Workit and Mestayit regents to their minor sons have been held responsible for their provinces. They owed their rights to property because of a special type of land tenure that expected tenants to serve as militia to overlords, irrespective of gender. Women lost this possibilities during the changes in early twentieth century, notably the introduction of 'modernity' along with European notions of 'lady like' behavior. The downward trend to impoverishment has finally led many observers to comment only on physical hardships that Ethiopian women experience throughout their lives. Such hardship involves carrying loads over long distances, grinding corn manually, working in the homestead, raising children, and cooking. Female genital mutilation is also practiced by many of the ethnic groups. Ethiopian women traditionally have suffered sociocultural and economic discrimination and have had fewer opportunities than men for personal growth, education, and employment. Even the civil code affirmed the woman's inferior position, and such rights as ownership of property and inheritance varied from one ethnic group to another.[2]

As in other traditional societies, in Ethiopia a woman's worth is measured in terms of her role as a mother and wife. Over 85 percent of Ethiopian women reside in rural areas, where peasant families are engaged primarily in subsistence agriculture. Rural women are integrated into the rural economy, which is basically labor-intensive and which exacts a heavy physical toll on all, including children. The Ethiopian Revolution had little impact on the lives of rural women. Land reform did not change their subordinate status, which was based on deep-rooted traditional values and beliefs. An improvement in economic conditions would improve the standard of living of women, but real change would require a transformation of the attitudes of governments and men regarding women.[2]

An Ethiopian girl in the northern Tigray Region.

There have been some changes for women in urban areas, where education, health care, and employment outside the home have become more available. Although a few women with higher education have found professional employment, most hold low-paying jobs. About 40 percent of employed women in urban areas worked in the service sector, mainly in hotels, restaurants, and bars, according to a 1976 government survey. Employment in production and related areas (such as textiles and food processing) accounted for 25 percent of the female work force, followed by sales, which accounted for about 11 percent. The survey also showed that women factory workers in Addis Ababa earned about a quarter of the wages men earned for the same type of work. These differences existed despite a 1975 proclamation stipulating equal pay for equal work for men and women.[2]

Following the Ethiopian Revolution, women made some gains in economic and political areas. The Revolutionary Ethiopian Women's Association (REWA), which claimed a membership of over 5 million, took an active part in educating women. It encouraged the creation of women's organizations in factories, local associations, and in the civil service. Some women participated in local organizations and in peasant associations and kebeles. However, the role of women was limited at the national level. In 1984, for example, the government selected only one woman as a full member of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Ethiopia. Of the 2,000 delegates who attended the party's inaugural congress in 1984, only 6 percent were women.[2]

On a more positive note, the Derg could claim success in increasing literacy among women. The enrollment of women in primary and secondary schools increased from about 32 percent in 1974/75 to 39 percent in 1985/86, although the rate of enrollment of urban women far exceeded the rate for rural women.[2]

Following the creation of the Federal Republic in 1995, the Ministry of Women's Affairs was created. As of 30 October 2009, Muferiat Kamil is the Minister.[3]


  1. ^ "The Global Gender Gap Report 2013". World Economic Forum. pp. 12–13. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Abate, Yohannis. "The Role of Women". A Country Study: Ethiopia (Thomas P. Ofcansky and LaVerle Berry, editors). Library of Congress Federal Research Division (1991). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.[1].
  3. ^ "House Approves Appointment Of Nine Ministers" (accessed 14 April 2009)

Further reading[edit]

  • Jenny Hammond, Sweeter than Honey: Ethiopian Women and Revolution, Testimonies of Tigrayan Women (Trenton, NJ: The Red Sea Press, 1990). 
  • Tsehai Berhane-Selassie, ed., Gender Issues in Ethiopia (Addis Ababa: Addis Ababa University, 1991). 

External links[edit]