Women in Ethiopia have been facing a number of challenges for centuries.They were neither being offered equal opportunities nor received fair share of the nation's wealth. They rather lagged behind men in all aspects of self advancement. Usually, little girls care of the whole family at home. Women have not been recognized as role –players although they are active participants in the political, social, economical, and cultural activities of their communities.
As some research findings indicate, prior to the 1974 Ethiopian Revolution, women-related activities were run mainly by non-governmental bodies such as the Ethiopian Women's Welfare Association, the Ethiopian Officer's Wives Association, and the Ethiopian Female Students' Association. After 1974, the Revolutionary Ethiopian Women's Association (REWA) was established by proclamation; but it was used as a means to propagate socialist regime. It was basically aimed at consolidating Derg's power. Promoting the interests of women was not high on its agenda nor was it intended to influence government policies or help women benefit from development programs. As a result, there was little improvement in the lives of Ethiopian women in all aspects: social, economic and political.
The present government of Ethiopia recognizes the fact that human development will be very difficult when half of the nation’s population comprising women, is marginalized and discriminated upon. Hence, the government has taken various measures to mainstream gender perspectives into the development process. It has intended to realize equality between men and women to eradicate poverty.
In this context, it should be noted that gender equality does not mean that women and men will be the same. Equality is about women’s and men’s rights, responsibilities and opportunities. It should not depend on whether they are born male or female. This equality includes the rights to own property, land, shelter, food, mobility, worship, education and employment opportunities. Besides, women have the rights of getting legal protection so that they could manage, control and care for their own bodies. Their democratic and human rights must be respected so that their public functions and decision making power could be promoted.
Nowadays, actions to enhance gender equality have boosted at national levels. It defines what constitutes discrimination against women and suggests an agenda for national action to end such discrimination. This along with the empowerment of women is one of the concerns of the Millennium Development Goals. Each activity has got special attention by the government of Ethiopia. One of the major steps to curb gender related problems is the inclusion of these rights in the constitution. Accordingly, the National Ministry of Women’s Affair has established. One of its missions is building up the capacity of women empowerment by strengthening the network between the federal and regional state governments.
At the moment the Ministry of Women’s Affair has been doing various both at federal and regional levels. One of these activities is preparing trainings and workshops on Gender Mainstreaming, Community Mobilization, Leadership and Participatory Approaches for Head of Zonal Women Affair Department. Such workshops is provide leaders at the grassroots to play their roles in the implementing gender equality being equipped with the skills and techniques necessary to be engaged in gender perspective planning, implementing, monitoring and evaluating.
State Minster of Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Frenesh Mekuriya, said the Ministry of Women’s Affairs as well as the Regional Women’s Affairs Bureaus have insufficient skills, mechanisms and tools necessary to identify and mainstream areas for intervention to address gender disparities and gaps. In addition to these they have lack of specific monitoring and evaluation systems and methodologies to report on gender disaggregated information and follow up on such results with relevant activities. Hence, institutional and capacity building support mechanisms need to be developed and enhanced.
Strengthening the Federal and Regional Women’s Affairs and the capacities of leaders at all levels in mainstreaming, monitoring, designing and implementing policies and strategies has a greater contribution in achieving the millennium and to hasten the process of achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), ensuring sustainable economic development and eradication of poverty.
Gender mainstreaming is an issue of development effectiveness. It is not just a matter of kindness to women. A growing body of evidence confirms that the inclusion of women’s perspectives into various economic activities results in greater equality between men and women. When this happened, economies tend to grow faster, the poor of which a majority of them are women move more quickly out of poverty, and the well being of men, women and children is greatly enhanced.
Our country is undergoing a number of positive changes in terms of refocusing on sustainable development, through increased emphasis on equal resources for men and women, increased participation of women and men in economic development planning, improved identification needs, increased focus on women’s inadequate access to opportunities in the economic sector, and strengthening of delivery mechanisms mandated with mainstreaming gender and development issues. As such the Government of Ethiopia is keen to see that gender issues are properly handled, both at federal and regional levels with a more comprehensive approach in speeding up the process of achieving gender equity targets set in the MDGs and gender mainstreaming process stated in Sustainable Development and Poverty Reduction Program (SDPRP).
Gender analysis has to be systematically used as the basis for policy and development. All key actors have to commit to gender mainstreaming in a sustainable manner. Thus, to ensure the effectiveness of gender equality and women empowerment, conducting training workshops on various gender related issues is a critical priority so as to strengthen the human resource capacity to effectively address and mainstream gender issues in their respective policy, program and activities that could promote the empowerment of women which is key to ensure an overall sustainable development.
By Etsegent Tesfaye