Equality for Ethiopian Women: Is Progress for all?
Commemorating International Women’s day and International Women’s Month
The 2014 United Nations theme for International Women’s Day is “Equality for Women is Progress for all.”When we assess the current status of Ethiopian women, we have come a long way in addressing equality of women. Yet, we have more to do to achieve progress for all.
Throughout the world, March 8th is celebrated as International Women’s Day and the month of March as Women’s History Month. The reason why we commemorate March 8th is to highlight what we have achieved so far; assess our current situations; and recommit ourselves to realize progress for all.
The first International Women’s Day in Ethiopia was celebrated in 1976. Since then, International Women’s Day is commemorated each year in recognition of women’s contributions and advancement. When we look at the progress of women in Ethiopia, however, a grim statistics demonstrate the uneven progress of women. The doors for equality and progress have opened for few women. Nevertheless, the majority of Ethiopian women still faces unequal treatment and lives in abject poverty.
In recent years, many Ethiopian women leave their country and migrate to the Middle Eastern countries in search of employment in order to help themselves and their families. Once they reach their destination, however, they find very exploitative and abusive situations. They are treated inhumanly by their employers. It is reported extensively that female domestic migrant workers in the Middle Eastern countries are beaten and physically assaulted by their employers. In some cases, Ethiopian migrant workers are raped by their employers and members of the employer’s families. Some have died as a result of the abuses by their employers. When the situations became unbearable, some Ethiopian domestic workers have committed suicide.
Recently, Saudi Arabia deported more than 150,000 Ethiopian migrant workers to their country. Many of the deportees were treated cruelly by the Saudi polices and vigilantes for not having legal papers. Those who have the legal papers were also abused and deported for not renewing their permits. Those who were deported arrived home empty handed as they were not paid by their employers. Most of them were sick, morally affected, and physically weak. When they reached their homes, not only that they had no money to help their families as they hoped they would, but also they could not support themselves. We are hearing some anecdotal stories that some returnees are going to the Sudan and Yemen to reach the Gulf countries once again. The main reasons for the migration and suffering of Ethiopians are the abject poverty and lack of education and employment opportunities in their country.
Examining the above stated situations of Ethiopian women at home and abroad, how should we commemorate International Women’s Day and International Women’s Month? As part of the global community, we should continue to commemorate International Women’s Day and Month by highlighting what has been done to promote women’s equality so far. Furthermore, we should also be able to voice our opinions on the current status of women. It is not enough gathering women and celebrating March 8th as a women’s day. Women’s voices should be heard for equality and justice through different means. Having the right to freedom of speech and freedom of association are basic fundamental rights not privileges. Women should be allowed to form women’s advocacy groups that would advocate for their legal, economic, political and social rights so their voices can be heard freely.
The Center for the Rights of Ethiopian Women (CREW) will hold its third annual International Conference of Ethiopian Women in the Diaspora on March 22, 2014. CREW’s annual conference is held in the month of March to commemorate International Women’s Month. This year’s theme is “Migration of Ethiopian Women: Contemporary Issues.” Root causes for migration of Ethiopians will be discussed. The gendered nature of migration will be analyzed. Current situation of Ethiopian migrant workers in the Middle Eastern countries will be addressed. The conference will also discuss how immigrant Ethiopians can transform conflicts that they face during their transition time. At the end, the conference will provide suggestions on the protection of the rights of Ethiopian migrant workers.
Please join us for a day of dialogue, discussions and empowerment.
Conference date: March 22, 2014
Conference place: Silver Spring Sheraton, 8777 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring, Maryland
Time: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Center for the Rights of Ethiopian Women (CREW)\