Beyond numbers. Promoting women's meaningful political participation in Ethiopia

Academic Paper, 2016

26 Pages, Grade: A



I. Over view of the problem
A. Religious Dogma and Culture
B. Economic Factors
C. Reproductive Burden and Time Constraint
D. International, Regional and National Legal Frameworkson Meaningful Political Participation
1. International Legal Frameworks
2. Regional Legal Frameworks
3. National Legal Frameworks

II.Why Aaddress Meaningful Participation in Politics in Ethiopia: the Role in the US Foreign Policy on Gender
A. Enhancing Women's Political Participation not only a Rght Thing to Do but a Smart Thing to Do
B. United States National Security Strategy
C. The 2010 Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR)
D. USAID’s Revised Policy on Gender Equality and Female Empowerment
E. United States National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security
F. The US Women in Public Service Project Announcement

III. Mechanisms/Tools in US Disposal Towards Accelerating Women's Political Participation
A. Multi Lateral Tool: Using the Fifth Sustainable Development Goal on Ensuring Full and Effective Participation and Equal Opportunities for Leadership in Politics
B. Bilateral Tools
1. USAID Country Development Program for Ethiopia
2. The US Human Rights Reports on Ethiopia as a Bilateral Tool

C. Foreign Assistance Programs through Capacity BuildingTraining to Women in Decision-Making

D. Engaging the Ethiopian Government on Quota Implementation and Diplomacy


I. Overview of the Problem

Women’s low position in Ethiopia, as anywhere else, is expressed in decision-making areas at different forums. In Ethiopia, there is a traditional belief that women are created to raise children and engage at household level instead of being part of a public life. What is so challenging is women will have more work to do and will not have an extra time to participate in different components of civic life other than those, which have significance to issues at household level. In addition to the prevailing role division between men and women, women in Ethiopia also face stereotypes that position them in a subordinate place and only as being led by men rather than being a leader on their own. Such stereotypical values are found for example in myths as "women cannot be speaking before their husband; Women cannot go ahead of their husband but can only follow their husband." Due to the cultural and societal stereotypes, women tend to be less confident to share their views including political agendas in public. This is much worse in rural areas of the country, where women's subordinate role in politics is also related to other intersectional factors including but not limited to poverty, illiteracy and religious dogmas.

Despite the prevailing challenges, the level of women’s representation in politics is increasing in number in Ethiopia. For example, in the FDRE House of People’s Representative, women’s representation grew from 21.4 percent to 27.9 percent in 2005 and 2010 legislative election.[1] In the legislative 2015 election, the number reached up to 38.8%.[2] There is also a slight increase in the number of women’s representation in the executive organ. In the executive,women's representation reached34% in 2013.[3]

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 1: Women's representation in parliament for 2015 election reached up to 38.8 % (

A. Religious Dogma and Culture

In Ethiopia, where religions followed by the majority of the society are long established and intertwined with culture, women in most communities are not included in leadership positions. Universally, there is acceptance that power and leadership belong to men as divine order and that women are subordinate to this authority. Women have long accepted these religious beliefs and have lived accepting the fact that "politics is a dirty game thus a preserve for men."[4]

B. Economic Factors

For a woman to be politically active and engage in effective campaigning her being economically empowered is an essential component. This is mainly because financial independence has always boosted women's self-confidence and further empowered to raise their voices and actively involved in political platforms. The absence of schemes that can enable girls in this area could have an adverse effect on women's role in political participation; particularly women who are living in poor countries will face a significant hurdle. Here it needs to be noted that the economic empowerment of women is a significant step to assist women join the productive force, which will provide women both financial independence and self-motivation to engage in politics.[5]

Despite the existence of legal frameworks and polices to economically empower women, women still have no right to decide over their matrimonial property. Unfortunately, even when women can be employed they are not capable of deciding what to do with their income, which will as a result affect their involvement in politics.[6] Hence, a woman who is not equally protected at household level including in terms of fair distribution of resources will be negatively impacted when she attempts to be politically active.

C. Reproductive burden and time constraint

As been said in the previous sections, most of the activities at household level in Ethiopia are conducted by women. This is by far the major reason for women's low involvement in politics.[7] Moreover, low perception of women's role outside of home; low literacy rates and the non-existence of role models have negatively affected the position of women in politics. Particularly, the reproductive burden women are carrying in their lifetime has precluded them from participating meaningfully in politics.[8]

The absence of time incentive support systems including systematized childcare services has hindered the role Ethiopian women can play to positively impact decision-making in politics. Furthermore, although there is a general increase in women’s representation in decision-making, special attention has not been given to areas where women’s representation is still inadequate.[9]

D. International, Regional and National Legal Frameworks on Meaningful Political Participation

1. International Legal Frameworks

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) enshrines women’s equal right to partaking in political and public life, including the right to vote.[10] The Convention underlines the need to take all the required measures to eradicate discrimination against women in the political and public life of the country, including through temporary affirmative measures that positively contribute to boosting women's political participation.[11] What is clear from this is that Article 7[12] of the CEDAW when read together with Article 1 leads to the understanding that non-discrimination in the context of participation in politics also includes affirmative measures such as quota has to be effective.[13]

Article 1of CEDAW while focusing on women's place in public affairs does also recognize the practical challenges women have faced in the context of their private life. It underlines that women's low representation in public life has a lot to do with what happens in their private sphere including through deep-rooted cultural barriers to women's political participation and stereotyping that creates division of labor between men and women based up on their perception in their society.[14]

The Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA) underlined that women’s unremitting isolation from being engaged in politics, and involvement in leadership in particular has a detrimental result on the general process of democratization.[15] It also raised the issue of well-organized and just representation as an essential factor for women’s issues to be taken through a preferable policy plan setting and accountability and not just the increase in number of women in the legislative and leadership functions.[16] The BPFA also underlined that the goals of equal opportunity and advancement in every sector can only be achieved through women’s representation and leadership.[17]

The BPFA also targeted the establishment of the goal of gender balance and women's participation in government institutions including within the judiciary. As also highlighted under CEDAW, the BPFA is a major mechanism to pressure governments to promote temporary special measures including quotas to enhance women's political participation.[18] Likewise, under resolution 1325(2000), the UN Security Council pushed member states to guarantee augmented representation of women at all levels of decision-making. The resolution also underscored the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and in peace building.[19] This resolution is effective as it is locally implemented through, National Action Plan for implementation.

At the time the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)were developed, Equality and poverty alleviation have been used as important strategies within the United Nations Millennium Declaration. Ethiopia was one of the countries in Africa to prioritize acceleration for the implementation of the MDGs.[20] Most important in the development of the MDGs is the fact that Gender Equality is also reflected as an instrument to the achievement of all the other goals and all other goals were expected to mainstream Gender Equality in their during implementation.[21] Gender equality is defined in the Millennium Development Goals Report, as “…human rights that also include both equal control over resources and equal representation in public and political life.”[22]

Moreover, the MDGs recognize that “having an equal voice in the decisions that affect their lives – from within the family highest places such as in government" is an important component of the empowerment of women.[23] One of the critics however of the MDGs is the fact that Gender Equality is not as such considered as a standalone goal.[24] The follow up to the MDGs, the recently endorsed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) also include targets towards women's effective representation at all levels including in politics.[25] The SDGs also consist of the adoption of relevant polices and laws towards gender equality and women empowerment.[26]

2. Regional Legal Frameworks

The Maputo Protocol or the Women's Protocol of Africa is grounded on the doctrines of equality between the sexes as well as the eradication of prejudice against women. For instance, Article 2, of the protocol underlines that state party's implement legislative, and other appropriate measures to eradicate all forms of bias against women. States are also obliged to adhere themselves and adopt a fitting strategy/policy to address social and cultural trends and improve existing stereotypes through public education campaigns.[27]

In addition, Article 3 of the protocol enshrines that "every women has the right to dignity inherent in a human being and to respect as a person and to the free development of her personality."[28] The Maputo Protocol also sanctioned affirmative action and positive measures through advancing the equal involvement of women, including equal participation of women in government office, and their participation in other branches of the government such as the Judiciary and the Executive.[29]


[1] Ethiopia, Beijing+20 Country Report, at 10 (2013).

[2] Inter-Parliamentary Union, women in National Parliaments (2016), Available at http ://

[3] Supra note 1.

[4] Kassa Shimeles, Challenges and Opportunities of Women Political Participation in Ethiopia, 3J.Glob Econ 162, 2375(2015)(discussing challenges of women's political participation in Ethiopia).

[5] See KassaShimelis, supra note 4.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] See KassaShimelis, supra note 4

[9] Supra note 3, at 12.

[10] Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, art.7, G.A. res.34/180, U.N. GARO Supp. (No. 46) at 193, U.N. Doc A/34/180, entered in to force September 3, 1981,Available at CEDAW).

[11] Id.

[12] Article 7 of the CEDAW extends to women's meaningful political participation in the nongovernmental sector. It is the writer's view that the coming into force of Ethiopia's Civil Society Proclamation in 2009 created a limitation on women's political participation, which requires a relationship between women's organizations and their representatives to contribute to a better policy on gender equality.

[13] Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, art.1, G.A. res.34/180, U.N. GARO Supp. (No. 46) at 193, U.N. Doc A/34/180, entered in to force September 3, 1981,Available at CEDAW).

[14] Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, General Recommendation No. 23, Political and Public Life (6th session, 1997), 4-12, U.N. Doc. A/49/38 at 1 (12 April 1994) [hereinafter CEDAW General Rec. 23 ] available at down to “General recommendation No. 23”).

[15] The Fourth World Conference on Women, Sept.4-15, 1995, Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action,U.N.Doc A/CONF.177/20/Rev.1 (1996), ¶181 available at

[16] Id.

[17] Id.

[18] Id.

[19] S.C.Res1325,¶4,U.N.Doc.S/RES/1325 (Oct 31, 2000).

[20] Id.

[21] United Nations Millennium Declaration (2000),

[22] United Nations Millennium Development Report (2005), http:/unmillennium

[23] Id.

[24] United Nations Department of Economic and Social AFFAIRS, BEIJING background REPORT (2005). Available at

[25] See for full report on goal five of SDGs

[26] See for full report on goal five of SDGs

[27] Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, art 2, July 11, 2003, O.A.U. Doc. CAB/LEG/66.6 (entered into force in 2005).

[28] Id. at 3.

[29] Id . at 9.

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Beyond numbers. Promoting women's meaningful political participation in Ethiopia
Georgetown University
Gender and foreign Policy
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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Women in Politics
Quote paper
Dunia Tegegn (Author), 2016, Beyond numbers. Promoting women's meaningful political participation in Ethiopia, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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