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News: Ethiopian women participation in politics up but a lot needs to be done

Partial view of today’s national conference on Women’s Political Participation and Election in Ethiopia

Mahlet Fasil

Addis Abeba, December 19/2019– The number of Ethiopian women in the national legislative and executive branches has grown significantly since Ethiopia conducted its first parliamentary election in 1995. However a lot more needs to be done to make sure women are proportionally represented in political decision making.

This was highlighted at a daylong national conference under the theme: “Women’s Political Participation and Election in Ethiopia: Envisioning 2020 and Beyond for generation Equality.” The conference was organized by UN Women Ethiopia, in collaboration with Addis Abeba University’s Center for Human Rights.

“Women politicians face unique forms of online and offline attacks and deliberate actions to discourage their participation in politics. This reflects how patriarchal [our] society is in its functions,” said Daniel Bekele (PhD), Commissioner of Ethiopia Human Rights Commissioner, during his keynote speech. He also said that women face particular challenges in times of elections that seriously impact and discourage their participation.

According to UN women Ethiopia. after Ethiopia’s transition to a federal democratic republic in 1991, the share of seats held by women in parliament has climbed from under three percent in 1991 to 38 percent today. The gender gap in the cabinet has also been upped to 50 percent since Prime Minister came to office.

However the figures are not a match when it comes to women in leadership and strong presence in politics. “Ethiopian women constitute 51% of the country’s population and they represent more numbers than the proportion of all nations and religions. Questions should be asked as to why they [women] are not the mainstream considerations of elections and leadership positions,” said Dr. Sehin Teferra, Founder of Setaweet Movement, a movement working to create “a space for dialogue, research and activism by Ethiopian women and men.” Dr. Sehin presented a panel on women political participation.

“According to a 2019 report by world economic forum Ethiopia holds 16th place in world on women political participation” said Yelfigne Abegaz National program Coordinator, UN Women.

But for Dr. Sehin, bringing women to politics by itself is not the only thing that matter, but “the policies these women bring” and the actual implementations of these polices is.

Yelfigne said realizing such gaps, under its women in leadership and governance program UN women is collaborating with various entities to amplify a meaningful participation of women in decision making venues. Similar collaboration with the Ethiopian Broadcasting Authority (EBA) aimed to provide capacity building training for 151 women print and broadcasting media professionals including volunteer journalist from community radios participants came from public and private media houses across the country.

In 2017 UN women’s current program on women in leadership and governance supported women’s effective participation and equal representation in leadership and decision making. “It focuses on the national and regional legislative and executive branches while also seeking change in communities,” according to a document.

UN Women also collaborates nationally with the ministry of women, children and youth and regionally with Amhara regional state bureau of women, children and youth affairs. It also engages with the house of peoples representatives, particularly  the parliamentary women’s caucus and  parliamentary  standing committees and their counterparts at the regional level. Other partners include education institutions such as Addis Abeba University and Bahir Dar University the center for human rights and community organization. AS

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