Women Still Short-Changed in Ethiopian Society

Women Still Short-Changed in Ethiopian Society

 

                              Panafrican News Agency ; May 11, 2000

                              By Youhannes Rupphael, PANA Correspondent

 

                              Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (PANA) - With an annual growth rate of 3 percent and a

                              population of 60 million, out of which 52.6 million live in the rural areas, Ethiopia

                              has one of the highest growing rates in the world.

 

                              Although the age structure in the country is very young, an increasing proportion of

                              those aged 60 years and above can be observed. It is projected that by 2020 there

                              will be 5.2 million of that category.

 

                              The majority of the Ethiopian population, which is mostly rural, is poor and spends

                              less than 50 US cents per day.

 

                              Forty-year-old Gemeda Jarso ekes his living from tilling the land in central Ethiopia.

                              Like millions of others, he does not have the financial means to feed, clothe and

                              school his 10 children adequately.

 

                              But "they are the blessings of God. They all help me on the farm," he says.

 

                              One of Gemeda's children is disabled, making one of the 2.2 million children under

                              the age of 15 with disabilities in Ethiopia, where there are some 100,000 street

                              children.

 

                              The rate of fertility in Ethiopia is 6.7 births per woman.

 

                              Many Ethiopian women, like Gemeda's wife, do not have much control on the

                              number of children they may have.

 

                              The high fertility rate may continue for sometime in most of rural Ethiopia, where

                              women are not allowed to seek medical care without the consent of their

                              husbands.

 

                              "They have to have permission from their husbands to come to us," says Aregash

                              Ayele, a nurse at a health post near Addis Ababa.

 

                              As a result, says the national population office, only 2.9 percent of Ethiopia

                              couples use modern methods of family planning.

 

                              The overall status of women both at household and community levels is further

                              aggravated by the low regard towards women in Ethiopian society.

 

                              For example, households prefer to have boys educated regardless of whether girls

                              are better performers or not.

 

                              "Bias against women is still standard in the rural setting.

 

                              Men still hold those long-held cultural beliefs of man's superiority over a woman," a

                              sociology professor cites.

 

                              In this regard girls are victimised in the home where there is a deficiency of

                              income. They are often pulled out of school for early marriages or other social

                              obligations, while allowing their brothers to continue with their education.

 

                              "I was brought up in a strong cultural setting and traditions, where women have to

                              work twice as hard to be thought of half as well as men," says a women rights

                              advocate.