In a pre-election press conference, the AU observation mission lauded the fact that 48 per cent of registered Ethiopian voters were women.

The African Union’s Long-Term Election Observation Mission on Thursday called for stepped-up efforts to empower Ethiopian women on the political level.

Until July of 2014, women had accounted for around 43.7 million of Ethiopia’s total population of 87.9 million, according to the state-run Ethiopian Central Statistical Agency.

Nevertheless, the agency said, these women continued to live in patriarchal and poor communities.

It added that more than 17.8 million of the country’s 36.8 million registered voters were women.

Some people say Ethiopian women are subject to violence and exclusion, despite government efforts to redress the trend.

The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia, however, does not agree with this assessment.

“Women are not only registered to vote – they participate in the entire electoral process,” Addisu Gebre-Egziabher, deputy chairman of the electoral board, told.

“Parties contesting the elections have fielded 301 female candidates in the election,” he added.

In 2010 polls, he noted, only 152 women had been fielded by political parties.

-Affirmative action-

In a pre-election press conference, the AU observation mission lauded the fact that 48 per cent of registered Ethiopian voters were women.

It added, however, that female participation in domestic politics was still limited for a variety of reasons.

“Some of the challenges noted by the mission included the lack of resources, cultural perceptions and responsibilities, as well as the lack of affirmative action among political parties to encourage female participation,” mission head Hifikepunye Pohamba said.

Nevertheless, the mission commended Ethiopia for ratifying the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

But it went on to note that Addis Ababa had not yet ratified the Maputo Protocol, describing the latter as a “progressive legal instrument” that provided African women and girls with a diverse range of rights.

The protocol was adopted by the AU in Maputo, Mozambique in 2003.

The AU mission, for its part, urged the Ethiopian government to consider ratifying the protocol.

Mixed perspectives

In the Ethiopian capital, female laborers said they planned to vote in Sunday’s election.

Young and educated women, however, expressed reservations about the electoral process.

“I am ready to vote,” Fatuma Hussein, a 28-year-old construction laborer, said. “I have already decided on the party I’ll vote for.”

She said her party of choice was one that advocated women’s rights.

“By casting my vote, I feel I’m equal to men,” Fatuma said.

Another female laborer likewise said that giving women the right to vote was like giving them the right to be equal to men.

“Therefore, I’ll never hesitate to cast my vote,” Be’emnet Tadesse, 39, said, adding that the elections would decide the future of the nation’s women and – hopefully – solve some of their problems.

Nevertheless, some observers are pessimistic about the political future of the country’s women.

Yetim Abdule, a 27-year-old civil engineer and lecturer, said she did not expect to see a female prime minister or president in Ethiopia within the next decade.

“Our society is a patriarchal one,” Yetim said. “It never gives women the chance to become top government officials.”

She called for changing what she described as Ethiopia’s “deeply entrenched gender perspectives and biases.”

“As I see in Ethiopia, politics is a combination of different games, risks and suffering,” Yetim said. “This could discourage political participation by women.”

Sunday’s national elections will be the fifth in Ethiopia’s history.

Source: World Bulletin / News Desk


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