Gender Inequality in Ethiopia

Traditionally, Ethiopian women and girls have suffered economic and socio-cultural discrimination. Just like in other traditional societies, the worth of a woman in Ethiopia is measured based on the role she plays as a wife and mother, and in some tribes women and girls have next to no value. Women’s rights are unheard of for most people. In Ethiopia, women are often assumed to simply have no rights.

More than 85% of Ethiopian women live in rural areas. They experience extreme hardship throughout their lives, doing everything from carrying heavy loads over long distances, cooking, raising children, working at home, and manually grinding corn. They have far fewer opportunities for education, employment, and personal growth when compared to men.

Some changes in the way women in Ethiopia are treated can be noticed in urban areas, where they can access healthcare, employment, and education. However, even when women are employed, they still hold jobs with extremely poor pay.

Around 40% of Ethiopian women who are employed are part of the low-paying service sector, which consists of bars, restaurants, and hotels. Several surveys also showed that female factory workers only earn a quarter of what men usually earn for similar work.

There is still significant gender inequality in education. Generally, girl students have no access to remedial tutorial classes or strong girls’ clubs to engage them in peer education and social empowerment. There are few female teachers to set good role models, help girls improve their academic performances, and tackle the generations-long discrimination. Age-old traditions and attitudes of discrimination account for an ongoing disparity in skills, abilities, potential income generation opportunities, representation, and decision-making ability regarding issues that affect the lives of families, communities, and regions. Of course, many girls never get the opportunity to reach secondary school, ending their education around Grade 5. They may drop out due to sexual harassment and assault, and/or their parents may need them at home. Even if they make it to secondary school, the chance that their parents will be able or willing to pay fees for girls is slim. They may then be forced into early marriages, sometimes when they are as young as 10, and they too often experience domestic violence in their marriages as well as vulnerability to HIV.

The following statistics illustrate the gender discrimination in Ethiopia;

- Less than 1 in every 5 girls get the chance to enroll in secondary education,
- About 41% of Ethiopian females get married before they reach 18 years old,
- About 49% of Ethiopian women experience physical violence in their marriages,
- About 59% of Ethiopian women suffer from sexual violence from their spouses.

Based on studies conducted by Oxfam America, the following are some of the findings which showed that while women contribute significantly to the agricultural sector, there is uneven terrain between men and women in terms of access to production input, credit services, and training, education, and extension services.

• The contribution of women to agricultural sector is considerable. In the case studies, women spent about 14 hours in a day doing domestic and productive activities compared to 10 hours spent by men. The contribution of women is higher in irrigation based farming systems than in rain-fed crops farming.

• Women have low access to productive resources: women, especially those in female headed households, posses smaller land holding and fewer livestock than their male counterparts. The average size of farm land owned by males (MHHs) 1.1 ha is higher than female owned land (FHHs) 0.8ha.

• Women’s productivity is lower than that of men: the finding of the study suggests that the gap in women’s access to productive inputs and services affects their productivity.

• Women have limited access to extension and educational training services. Because of cultural and other barriers, women have lower participation in extension trainings and experience sharing visits. In the case studies conducted, about 87% of the men had access to agricultural extension services while the corresponding figures were 64% and 61% for married women and female headed household heads respectively. In terms of literacy level, only 19% of the women were literate as compared to 70% of men.

• Although a policy on Ethiopian women and other gender sensitive public policies exist in the country, these have not been adequately translated into action due to lack of implementation strategies. Even though women make significant contributions to the agricultural sector of the country, a wide gap exists in access to agricultural extension, training, information, financial and educational services. They are unable to reap benefits from their hard labor. The situation is disadvantaging for women.