Women parliamentarians: A
The only women parliamentarian during the issuance of the law of the land over 40 years ago had reportedly said: "Time will come when many females come to the parliament and amend this
As one of her colleagues had testified at a conference on "women and election" held about five months ago, W/ro Sinidu Gebru, the first women parliamentarian, repeatedly oppose the inclusion in the law of articles discriminating against women. Most of her gender sensitive suggestions were dumped as opposing ideas of her colleagues enjoyed higher support. It was out of total desperation that she uttered the above words.
Later seven women – two in 1957 E.C and five in 1961 E.C. were elected to parliament, according to a paper W/ro Almaz Meko, Speaker of the House of Federation presented at the a women deputies' congress held in Awassa recently. There has been no historical records showing the role these women played to ensure women's rights, according to the paper.
The speaker said that 52 of the 813 deputies elected during the Derg regime were women. The inclusion of the women, however, was not attuned to addressing the basic needs of the society. The role of these women, therefore, was nothing more
than decorating the shengo.
After the fall of the Derg regime, 41.66 per cent of the people's representatives during the transition period were women. The paper pointed out that, although few in number, those women in collaboration with male democrats have played a key role in the incorporation in the constitution of articles defending women's rights.
The paper further indicated that during the first national election held in 1987 E.C., 15 women have been elected to the parliament. Women account for 5.4 per cent of deputies in state councils and 7.1 per cent in woreda councils. W/ro Almaz said that the participation, both as candidates and voters, or women was higher than any previous elections.
Thanks to the election of these women, the Women's Standing Committee of the parliament came into being. The creation of the committee as one of the 11 committees of the parliament has played an enormous role in the incorporation of women's concerns in the policies and proclamations issued by the parliament.
The women's coming to a position of such a power is by itself a big achievement and above all what is more important is their committed efforts towards materializing women's constitutional right.
According to a report of the committee presented by Dr. Ethiopia Beyene, Secretary of the committee, it was three months after their election that the women deputies formed their committee. Shortly after its formation, the committee prepared its statute and programmes including the tabling and enactment by the legislature of proclamations ensuring women's constitutional
rights. They also devised strategies on how to follow up the impacts of the proclamations and other measures in the execution process of the five year national development plan.
Primarily, the committee, which is the first of its kind in the country, focussed on building its technical and resources capacity towards discharging its responsibility. Training, seminars and discussions were held between and among committee members as well as with foreign parliamentarians and diplomats.
One of the measures women parliamentarians are involved in with much vigour is the ongoing amendment of the civil and penal laws which played a key role in depriving women of their economic, human, political and other rights. The committee, in collaboration with pertinent organizations, has organized a series of workshops, which singled our articles disregarding women's rights. They brought community members, women and concerned bodies to discuss how to amend the laws in line with the federal constitution.
The committee has also been following up the finalization of the law ensuring women's equal rights, which is in the pipeline.
According to Dr. Ethiopia, the committee, in collaboration with the civil service commission, has ensured women's right to a paid three-month maternity leave.
They have also ensured women's constitutional right to transfer their old age pension as well as their right to own, use, transfer and administer land.
In an effort to relieve women of physical and psychological trauma as a result of employment abroad, especially in the Arab world, the committee in collaboration with the Ministry of Lbour and Social Affairs facilitated the issuance of the Employer, Employee and Brokers agency law.
The committee has also enabled females with equal educational back ground to men to have access to training at the Police College. It has also been exerting efforts to increase the number of women police recruits of the college.
In its efforts to fight rape and abduction, the committee has set up a task force against the practices. Drawn from the Women's Affairs Office at the Prime Minister's Office, justice, health and education ministries as well as the media, NGOs and other concerned bodies the task force has already started working on the issue.
According to the report, the committee in collaboration with various organizations at central and state levels has been initiating and encouraging women to participate in the election to be held in May. It has been approaching political organizations, especially in states like Afar and Benshangul Gumuz that had no female contestants in the past election to facilitate for capable women to come forward as candidates. It has also been fulfilling preconditions to enlighten female candidates from the above-mention states on election.