Ethiopia has taken major steps towards gender parity starting where it matters the most: right at the top. On November 1, 2018, human rights lawyer Meaza Ashenafi was sworn in as the first female Supreme Court Chief. Not only this, the country’s president too is a woman. Fifty per cent of members of the Ethiopian Cabinet are women and 38 per cent of members of the Ethiopian parliament are women too. Most importantly, all this was done without any Women’s Reservation Bill or demand by women. The credit for this welcome change is attributed to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
In October, Sahle-Work Zewde was appointed the first female President of Ethiopia. In a patriarchal nation like Ethiopia, a woman’s appointment as head of the state will pave the way for other women to break the barriers and live their dreams.
In the cabinet, women hold key positions with Aisha Mohammed heading defence and Muferiat Kamil, the Ministry of Peace.
For the people of this country, their prime minister is no less than the ‘Prophet’ who has carved out a path of ‘gender parity and liberalism’ where human rights are respected and taken care of. Abiy, after taking charge of the country’s top post on April 2 this year, took key decisions such as lifting the state of emergency, releasing thousands of prisoners and lifting a ban on TV channels and websites. People believe that the man will restore peace and stability in the country - and their prime minister has already embarked on a path never explored for fulfilling the expectations of his people.
According to a study by the United Nations, the country suffers from large gender disparities and women are more prone to diseases than men. Though half of the country’s labour force is made up of women, a majority of them are unpaid because most work as farm labourers. Female genital cutting and child marriages are prevalent, particularly in rural areas, which make up about 80 per cent of the country, revealed the study. However, this is about to change with PM Abiy’s bold and reformative decisions favouring women at large, in the second most populous nation in Africa.
Will gender parity be achieved in India?
India is also a patriarchal society and achieving gender parity is still a distant dream for the country. Ours is the world’s largest democracy but still we need a ‘Women’s Reservation Bill’. India saw its first and only female Prime Minister in Indira Gandhi who held the post from 1980-84. In 2007, India also had its first female President - Pratibha Patil. Despite women constituting 49 per cent of the country’s population, their representation in Parliament is low.
According to an Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and UN report - Women in Politics 2017 - women’s share in Lok Sabha was 11.8 per cent and in Rajya Sabha, it was 11 per cent clearly indicating that women’s participation in politics and decision making needs to be increased.
As per Economic Survey Report 2018, “Factors such as domestic responsibilities, prevailing cultural attitudes regarding roles of women in society and lack of support from family were among main reasons that prevented women from entering politics.” Though politics is mainly considered as male-dominant field and chances of women making a career in politics are less, only sheer willpower of women can change this attitude. More women should enter politics and carve out space for themselves. Similar is the case with the judiciary. Out of 28 Supreme Court judges (including CJI), only three are female, which shows that participation of women in judiciary also needs a push.
Ethiopia’s female tech genius
19-year-old Betelhem Dessie is a role model for youths in Ethiopia. The IT genius is the youngest developer in the country’s first AI lab. Coding and computer programming is her real interest. Dessie is a project manager at robotics lab, iCog, the Addis Ababa-based artificial intelligence (AI) lab that was involved in developing the world-famous ‘Sophia the robot’. She coordinates a number of nationwide projects run by iCog. She also has four software programs copyrighted to her name - including an app developed for the Ethiopian government to map rivers used for irrigation. Dessie is the face of rising women’s empowerment in Ethiopia. (Source: onlineethiopia.net)