Women in Ethiopia

By Ciara, Fiona and Michelle

In this page we hope to discover what it is like to be a woman in Ethiopia. We hope to find out if there are equal rights and opportunities for men and women.

The Status of Women in Ethiopia

Ethiopian women are involved in all aspects of their society's life. However the varied and important roles they play have not always been recognised. Without equal opportunities, they have been left behind men in all fields of self-advancement.

Women have fought for equal rights in many parts of Africa. But as in other regions of the globe, a woman’s status differs by country and region.

Ethiopians speak more than 250 different dialects, which displays the country's remarkable diversity. In the north, women used to be able serve in the army and inherit property, having more power than in many societies. In other areas men controlled land but needed women's labour to maintain the household.

After the 1930s, the move toward modernization and Europeanization made women's position even worse. The government, acting on British advice, banned women from the army and they set up sex-segregated schools, as well as passing laws making women legal minors and restricting land inheritance. The socialist revolution of 1974 returned some rights, but widows, single women, and those in polygamous households still had to fight for access to land.

Several million women learned to read during the government's literacy campaign, but less than 40 % of girls are currently enrolled in school. Two famines in the 1980s left thousands homeless, with economically vulnerable women hit the hardest. Many moved to cities, taking mostly low- paying, low-status jobs. In rural areas, women continue to do the bulk of the nation's work without getting paid for it, while men typically work less and are paid more.  

Women's Microfinance Initiative

The Women's Microfinance Initiative (WMI) helps African women build or expand small businesses so that they are able to stabilize their income and raise their standard of living. Various charities such as "The Hunger Project" and "Aid for Africa" give small loans to help bring big changes to the lives of women. Borrowers use their loan money to grow and sell their produce, open small shops and beauty salons and grow coffee. Economic empowerment is key for enabling women to lead a fulfilled, productive and prosperous life. Empowerment is a process by which women take control of their lives through expansion of their choices and that self-help programmes combined with micro finance can be one of the ways to transform women's lives.



An Interview with a Husband and Wife Living In Ethiopia

Do your children help with housework during the day?                                                           
My daughter Like cleans the house, fetches water and makes me coffee when I am busy, when I am weaving, or when I am making injera.

What about Getu? (her husband) Does he make coffee?                                                                                    
No, no. He does not make any coffee.

When you have some free time, what do you do? 
It rarely happens. I do not do anything except cleaning, washing children, or combing hair.

Will your children marry? 
My daughter Like does not even want husbands to be mentioned in front of her. If we make a joke about marriage, she cries. She does not want to get married. In our culture girls never mention marriage. It is parents who arrange the match.

How did you meet her? 
Getu: I kidnapped her.

What!? You stole her heart away, is that what you mean? 

Getu: I saw her on the street, and I fell in love and wanted her to be my wife and that is why I kidnapped her.

Did you go to her parents and ask? 
Getu: You do not need any prior arrangements to kidnap a girl. You just do it on your own and then people negotiate after.

How did you negotiate to marry her? 

Getu: Traditionally, old men are selected to be sent to the woman's family to work this out.

Did you know her name when you married her or had you just seen her? 

Getu. I knew her name. I'd seen her once or twice when she was coming to visit her sister.

What did Zenebu think about becoming your wife? 

Getu: I loved her. I had no idea whether she loved me or not. It was my decision. 

Do you want your daughters to have this kind of marriage? 
Getu: I don't want any of my daughters to be kidnapped. I did that out of ignorance. I am an illiterate person. That is why I decided to do things without permission. But I want my daughters to be educated and to have an office job. I want them to get married to someone who has an office job. I don't want them to have the kind of life I am experiencing.

Within the community here, are women respected as much as men? 

No. When a girl is born, people are not very happy. They think it is much better when a woman gives birth to a son. When a girl is born, people do not celebrate like they do with a boy.

Is this also the way it was during your mother's time? 

It is the same. I want women to be equal, but it is our culture for them not to be and I accept that.

Do you think it is different for women in other countries? 

I've heard that women are treated as equals in many foreign countries, but I do not know it for a fact. For myself I want to stay as I am. I want to fit in this society, with this culture.

From the information we have found we conclude that in Ethiopia men and women are not treated equally. We have discovered that women do as much work as men but are not recognized for it. However there are advancements made to  empower women such as the Wome's Microfinance Intiative.

1 comment:

  1. Great work Ciara, Fiona and Michelle. Well researched and presented.
    Mrs L :)