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
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
"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