Convention, despite facing poverty, natural disasters, military conflict
Autor: ---- Fuente: United Nations International

Country’s Representative Says Changing Attitudes
In Traditional, Conservative Society Will Be Long Struggle
In Ethiopia, changing men’s attitudes and strengthening women’s confidence would be a long struggle, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women was told today, as it considered the situation of Ethiopian women in two meetings.
The Committee’s 23 experts, acting in their personal capacities, monitor compliance with the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Ethiopia ratified the Convention in 1981, the same year in which the Convention entered into force.
Describing Ethiopian society as “traditional, ancient and conservative”, Netsanet Asfaw, Minister for State of Ethiopia’s Ministry of Information said overcoming “horrendous” traditional practices, such as female genital mutilation, abduction, marital rape and early marriages would require not only an attitudinal change on the part of men, but also on the part of women. Female genital mutilation, for example, had long been practised in the country and was not unique to any religious group. Throughout the ages, female genital mutilation, (a practice that affected some 80 per cent of the female population), had been endorsed by women. In her view, education, the “great liberator”, would emancipate women from such harmful traditional practices.
Providing a background for gender equality issues in Ethiopia, a country whose fragile agrarian economy suffered the effects of drought every three years, she emphasized the need to see the situation of Ethiopian women within the broader context of extreme poverty, natural disasters and military conflict. Without education and access to resources, women would never advance.
Some progress had been made despite great socio-economic, political and cultural odds, she said. The minimum punishment for rape was now five years, whereas before it had been the payment of a camel. A new family code had been adopted by some of the regional states and a revised penal code was being finalized. A growing grass-roots movement was working to bring women’s issues to the forefront. Women’s rights had first been recognized as a result of their military contribution to fighting a fascist regime and further progress would only be realized by their continued hard work and toil, she added.
In their article-by-article consideration of the Convention’s implementation experts commended Ethiopia’s Government for its political commitment to implementing the Convention despite the many obstacles facing it. Perplexed by the Convention’s actual implementation in Ethiopia’s domestic legislation, however, experts urged the Government to make Ethiopia’s population aware not only of the Convention, but also of the anti-discriminatory provisions of its own Constitution and legislation. Political ups and downs, the expert from the United Republic of Tanzania, could not act as stumbling blocks on the road to gender equality.
The expert from Egypt noted that widespread and prevalent traditions, such as the abduction of girls, marital rape, widows’ inheritance rights and women’s financial rights, would render Ethiopia’s law a mere “dead letter”. The expert from Hungary, saying she was “deeply shocked and moved” by the extreme poverty and suffering on the part of the Ethiopian people, asked how the Government intended to deal with such poverty. Echoing many other experts, she also asked if Ethiopia’s poverty reduction strategy included a gender dimension.
In a concluding statement, Committee Chairperson and expert from Turkey, Ayse Feride Acar, urged the Government to take concerted steps to adopt a strategy to address areas of critical importance for the protection and promotion of women’s rights. In the fight against poverty and the struggle towards economic development, the recognition of women’s rights constituted a basic paradigm. While education was a primary tool for changing attitudes, formal education alone would not bring about change. Informal education, information campaigns and other awareness-raising efforts would help both men and women “internalize” women’s human rights.
At the outset of the meeting, Gifti Abasiya, Minister for State for Women’s Affairs introduced Ethiopia’s combined fourth and fifth periodic reports. Also participating in Ethiopia’s delegation was Teruneh Zenna, Deputy Permanent Representative, Chargé d’Affairs, Permanent Mission of Ethiopia to the United Nations and Azanzaw T. Abreha, First Secretary, Permanent Mission of Ethiopia to the United Nations.
The Committee will meet again at a date and time to be announced.

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women met this morning to consider the situation of women in Ethiopia. Before it was Ethiopia’s combined fourth and fifth periodic reports (document CEDAW/C/ETH/4-5), which cover the period 1997 to 2002. Ethiopia ratified the Convention in 1981.
The report notes that, while attempts have been made to ensure the full implementation of the Convention’s provisions, given the diverse nature of Ethiopian society, culture and politics, the Government operates within certain limitations. Despite various policy instruments and legislative and institutional commitment to women’s causes, a vast majority of Ethiopian women, particularly in rural areas, are far from being well-off, independent and direct beneficiaries of local-level development initiatives. Societal practices, which favour men, negatively impact women’s efforts towards emancipation.
The report lists several “crucial disadvantages” facing Ethiopian women. They include: lack of access to socially and economically valued resources; disproportionately higher responsibility in the household and unrecognized contributions in social affairs; lack of educational opportunities; and under-representation in decision-making and policy-planning bodies. Persistent economic poverty has also had a direct impact on the situation of Ethiopian women.
Since the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995, the Ethiopian Government and the Women’s Affairs Office in the Office of the Prime Minister have been committed to systemic efforts for the implementation of the Platform of Action and other women’s rights treaties and conventions, including the Convention, the report states. The National Policy on Women, the guiding principle for the advancement of women, provides directives for those involved in women’s issues to translate instruments of equal rights into reality. The Women’s Affairs Office developed a National Plan of Action with clearly defined strategic objectives and key actions for specific areas of concern, such as poverty eradication; education; violence against women and girls; the girl child; and institutional mechanisms.
The report says that the Women’s Development Initiative Project and the Ethiopian Women’s Development Fund are two major initiatives to address Ethiopian women’s economic poverty, vulnerability and dependency. A grass-roots project, the main objective of the Project is to address the gender dimension of poverty and to provide women with sustainable economic ability and marketable skills. The Fund, a joint government and non-governmental initiative, was established to encourage women’s self-development by carrying out research in specific areas of concern to women.
Education has been identified as a priority area, the report notes. Affirmative action is being used to increase the enrolment of female students in educational institutions at different levels. Thirty per cent of the total number of seats has been reserved for female students at the university level. The Girls Scholarship Programme, an initiative of the Women’s Affairs Department in the Ministry of Education, has already demonstrated its effectiveness in promoting girls’ education and encouraging girls to remain in school.
The report goes on to say that significant changes have taken place in the country’s legal framework to ensure the protection of women’s rights. Changes in federal laws with regard to the Family Code have created greater rights for women, including in the areas of marriage, divorce, custody and matrimonial property rights. Finalization of revisions to the Penal Code is also under way. Under the revised law, the issue of violence against women has been considered from a point of view of women’s rights and dignity. The draft code suggests new degrees of penalty for the perpetrators of violence against women. A revision of the law of succession under the Civil Code, which is also under way, would ensure that men and women enjoy the same rights and entitlements.
Violence against women and girls, including harmful traditional practices, received increased attention during the reporting period, the report says. Activities such as public lobbying, awareness-raising and media campaigns have had a major impact on law enforcement agencies. Achievements in that field include recognition of the relationship between harmful traditional practices and HIV/AIDS; increased public awareness and media campaigns against violence; and increasing awareness of women of their constitutional rights to ensure their bodily integrity.
While the initiatives of various government machinery have led to remarkable progress, the complete elimination of discrimination against women is a long way off, the report concludes. One of the major challenges of the Women’s Affairs Office is the implementation of current policies and laws. In the country’s traditional society, subjects such as violence, reproductive health, sexuality, sexual rights and HIV/AIDS are still considered taboo.
The report points to specific challenges, including lack of sufficient human and economic resources to initiate multi-pronged programmes; the absence of gender-disaggregated data; and the absence of a strong women’s movement at the national, regional and local levels.

Introduction of Report
NETSANET ASFAW, Minister of Information, saying she wished to place Ethiopia’s combined fourth and fifth periodic reports in the proper context, noted that Ethiopia was situated in the Horn of Africa and had a population of some
70.3 million. Women comprised some 51 per cent of the population.
Ethiopia had two types of rural population, she explained. The sedentary population lived off the land, using agricultural instruments dating back to the time of the Pharaohs some 3,000 to 4,000 years ago. The pastoral people lived in the lowlands of Ethiopia and existed by means of animal husbandry. The condition of women in that area had endured a protracted and long struggle.
The condition of women had begun to improve as a part of the struggle against the military regime, she noted. Women had comprised one third of the army that defeated that regime. The genesis of women’s rights, therefore, was found in that struggle. The women of Ethiopia had bled and sweated for their rights. The problem of backwardness, lack of education and access to resources, though guaranteed by the Constitution, was still a very long way off.
GIFTI ABASIYA, Minister of State for Women’s Affairs, said the Convention was integrated in Ethiopia’s Constitution and was a law of the land. The right of thought, opinion and expression was clearly protected by the Constitution, which also recognized basic rights. The Government had initiated family based and community based organizations to promote human rights. Since 1993, efforts had been made to disseminate human rights information to the people. International aid was helping to create information programmes at the community level, including information on harmful traditional practices. Different human rights conventions had been translated into the local working language. Improvements in the education of gender issues had been reflected in the media.
The Government had adopted the definition of discrimination as stipulated by the Convention, she said. The Government had also initiated various policies and strategies to advance women. To alleviate harmful traditional practices, the National Committee on Harmful Traditional Practices had been established. Another initiative had been the establishment of the Women’s Policy to realize gender equality. A number of mechanisms for the advancement of women had been established as a result of the policy at the federal and local level. All persons were equal before the law and were entitled to equal protection by the law. Women were entitled to affirmative measures to eliminate the historical legacy of inequality against women.
She said the Government had established a National Committee on unsafe immigration. Its activities included experience sharing with countries with large immigrant populations and the issuance of visa rules.

Enhancing the participation of women in political matters was crucial to ensuring gender equality, she said. Many women had voted in the last elections. Women had been elected to Parliament. The Constitution provided them equal rights to represent their country in international fora. Many Ethiopian women worked in international organizations and companies. Nevertheless, the present number of women was not as large as it should be, due to the continuation of gender stereotypes.
On nationality, she noted that the Constitution recognized the right of nationality for both men and women. It stated that no Ethiopian national should be deprived of his or her nationality. Marriage to a foreign national did not annul Ethiopian nationality. Any national, man or woman, had the right to change their Ethiopian nationality.
Concerning the issue of employment, she said the Federal Civil Service Commission had come up with a civil service reform, which accorded women priority in the area of employment. Women, however, held lower paid jobs, and the gap between men and women became more accentuated in the higher echelons. Affirmative action provisions in employment had been introduced to improve the situation. Women were entitled to paid maternity leave and other maternity leave benefits.
Every Ethiopian had the right to equal access to publicly financed social services, she said. The Government had formulated different strategies to advance the economic situation of women, such as micro-finance programs. The right to ownership of private property was also guaranteed by the law.

Experts’ Questions, Comments
Following the oral presentation, Committee Chairperson and expert from Turkey, AYSE FERIDE ACAR, reminded the delegation of the Optional Protocol, which was an international instrument aimed at increasing the effectiveness of the Convention on the ground. She encouraged its ratification by Ethiopia. She also drew attention to article 20.1, whose entry into force, following ratification by a certain number of States, would increase the Committee’s meeting time, thereby enhancing the monitoring process. Given the Committee’s level of interest in the situation of women in Ethiopia, an unprecedented number of experts had been listed for questions on the various articles of the Convention.
HANNA BEATE SCHOPP-SCHILLING, expert from Germany, said there seemed to be a lack of available data. Did the central statistical authority of the country have the power to conduct a survey to generate sex-disaggregated data, and how did the Government plan to collect more data on women, as that was the basis for policy planning in that regard. She was glad to hear about the revision of the family code, but from independent information, she had heard that six of the nine local governments still applied their own family laws. What institutions were in place to ensure consistency with the federal family law? she asked.
Regarding the temporary special measures in education and the civil service, who monitored the application of those policies from the point of view of affirmative action and what had been the results so far? Was there a timetable for the planned revision of the penal code?
NAELA GABRE, expert from Egypt, said that political will was vital to improving women’s status. In Ethiopia women represented 51 per cent of the overall population. She welcomed the new legislation now in force and the signing of several international conventions. She urged the Government to join other international instruments, including on the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers.
She asked about the level of participation of civil society groups in drafting the report. She also sought more details on financing and strategies aimed at increasing women’s participation in public life. The report had not followed the guidelines for the preparations, nor had the report in 1997. She asked the delegation to follow those guidelines for its next report. She understood that some temporary special measures had been undertaken, but what was the Government’s view on taking more? she asked.
SALMA KHAN, expert from Bangladesh, said that to promote and establish women’s equality and human rights, Ethiopia had introduced the national policy on women and the women’s affairs office. Concerning implementation of the national policy on women, even the report had stated that Ethiopian women were in no way better off, particularly in the rural areas. The delegation had cited the women’s development initiative and the women’s development fund to address poverty, which was a critical concern of Ethiopian women. Yet, the Government seemed to have failed to incorporate the gender dimension into the poverty plan. Also, was there any gender disaggregated data, and had the country developed any indicators in that regard? Was the lack of such data a result of budgetary problems or a lack of gender mainstreaming or of commitment? she asked.
HUGUETTE BOKPE GNACADJA, expert from Benin, said that, concerning the national mechanisms to promote women, what powers did the national commission have to combat traditional practices? Also, what was the role of the mediator entrusted to deal with women’s and children’s issues, and what coordination existed between the structure of the mediator and the office of women’s affairs?
FUMIKO SAIGA, expert from Japan, also asked about a time frame for reviewing and reforming the penal code. In the proposed revision, the delegation had referred to punishment of the perpetrator. In that connection, how would traditional harmful practitioners be dealt with under the new penal code?
HEISOO SHIN, Vice-Chairperson and expert from the Republic of Korea, said that considering the high level of poverty, especially among women and in the rural population, it was essential that the women’s plan be gender sensitive and gender friendly. She was pleased that women’s role in agriculture had been recognized and there were now various training programmes for them. Had women’s contribution been included in the calculation of gross domestic production? Also, who conducted the training programmes? Were women included as trainers?
Concerning the water committee, she asked why, out of 122 villages, only five women had been included in the water committee and why there were only two women chairpersons. Also, did women need the permission of their husbands to attend the meetings or be on the committee? Considering the fact that men headed most households, were any development programmes designed to include women who were not heads of households, and had women been included in strategies for the overall development process?
GORAN MELANDER, expert from Sweden, said that whenever the Committee asked about the extent to which development assistance took the gender aspect into account, the answer was always “yes”. But, was the development assistance, including from Sweden, gender sensitive enough? What was the relationship between the Convention and domestic law? He understood that federal law took precedence over domestic law, but there also seemed to be regional legislation, as well. What would happen in the case of a discrepancy between regional legislation and the Women’s Convention? he asked.

Country Response
Ms. ASFAW said she hoped the Optional Protocol and the amendment to article 20.1 of the Convention would soon be ratified. Ethiopia had the tradition of discussing everything at the grass-roots level before taking action. The provisions of the Optional Protocol would have to be discussed at that level. It was true that there was a lack of data. Detailed data required highly educated women and men. The Central Statistics Office sometimes carried out sex disaggregated data, but much needed to be done in that area.
Regarding the law, six of the regional states had not ratified the new family law, she said. However, the highly populated areas had ratified it. The new family law had not been ratified in the pastoral areas. The pastoral population represented a much smaller percentage of the population, however.
Affirmative action did exist in education and civil service programmes, she added. In education, for example, there were different entrance levels for university admission for men and women. Men needed much higher scores. At the civil service level, if a man and woman were tested and the man scored better by 3 per cent, the woman would still be employed.
Concerning the penal code, she said it was true that the penal code had not been totally addressed from front to back. Concerning rape, however, the minimum punishment had been raised to five years and the maximum to 25 years. That was an incredible achievement, given that before the law was revised the punishment for rape could have been payment of a camel. The context in which the law existed today must be understood. Work was underway to exact the most severe punishment for child rape.
On the issue of migrant workers, she noted that different countries respected the rights of migrant workers differently. The non-existence of consulates and embassies in some countries had severely damaged the rights of Ethiopian women in those countries. Further, was very difficult not to let women leave the country in their quest to improve their lives.
To answer the question of why women were not better off, despite the fact that the laws had existed for 12 years, she said that Ethiopia had the heavy legacy of being a traditional, ancient and conservative society. Furthermore, Ethiopia had been suffering from extreme drought. Drought had severely impacted women’s lives.
On the matter of the poverty reduction strategy paper, she said women’s issues had been made part and parcel of that strategy. Attitudinal change would only come as a result of socio-economic and political change. Unless the economic situation of the entire population improved, and unless women seized their rights, then horrendous cultural practices would not change. Women had organized at the grass-roots level to track those practices daily. Female genital mutilation was the most prevalent practice, and women were the biggest perpetrators of that practice. Women must be made to see that the practice went against their best interests.
She noted a mass movement of women in rural areas to work on those issues. In the northern part of the country, for example, the women’s movement was some 400,000 women strong. It was a slow process, but the process was in place. While laws and decrees provided a framework for change, only an improved economic situation would improve the situation of women.
Ms. ABASIYA said national machinery existed at all levels to implement the women’s policy. There was, however, a problem of capacity to implement the policy. Gender had been included in the poverty reduction strategy paper as a cross-cutting issue. Societal transformation was needed to mainstream gender issues in all programmes, however. That would not happen overnight.
She said the budget for the women’s machinery was provided by the Government and international agencies. The mandate of the national machinery was to coordinate and facilitate gender issues and to combat harmful traditional practices. On harmful traditional practices, she believed the revised penal code would soon be ratified.
Responding to whether development plans were “gender friendly”, Ms. ASFAW said rural development plans did include women. Affirmative action existed for women’s participation in rural development activities. Rural development was the basis of industrial development. Ethiopian pastoralist women worked just as hard -- if not harder -- than men.
Women’s participation in water management was very low, as water was a scarce and precious commodity, she said. Women had traditionally been extremely marginalized in the management of the very scare resource. Women were included in the coordination of development work in regions where they were organized. Among pastoralists, women’s participation was very low.
Development assistance was gender sensitive, she said. The constitution was the law of the land. However, it was the woman who often opted not to go to the courts. Polygamy was allowed in some regions for religious purposes. Many women opted not to go to the courts regarding certain issues, but if the woman wanted to go to the courts, she could do so. Many women were still very traditional, mainly because they had not yet had the opportunity to be educated. Ethiopia’s education policy was targeting the girl child. The girl child received affirmative action in order for her to go to school. There was a mass movement among the children in the rural areas to go to the schools.
On the female genital mutilation practice, she said that practice was not at all religious. Among Ethiopian pastoralists, the practice had existed for thousands of years. It was called Pharaohic practice. The practitioners were not men, but women. Through the ages, it had become a practice that women themselves endorsed. Women’s attitudes towards the practice must be changed. It was a most complex issue. She believed that the greater liberator -– education -- would be the answer to all such issues.

Experts’ Questions, Comments
DUBRAVKA SIMONOVIC, expert from Croatia, said there were many different customary practices and family laws that were contrary to the Convention. Was any mechanism available to the Government to put law inconsistent with the Constitution in line with it and to uphold the principle of the supremacy of the Constitution? In terms of the new office of an ombudsman, would there be a special deputy for women’s affairs and what would be the main competence of that office?
KRISZTINA MORVAI, expert from Hungary, said she was “deeply shocked and moved” by the facts and figures in the report, which had reflected the extreme poverty and related pain and suffering in Ethiopia. She asked to what extent the developed world was shouldering its share of responsibility for the advancement of women in Ethiopia. Were Ethiopian women involved in designing those foreign development aid programmes, and to what extent was their design transparent and accessible? Also, how was the money distributed? she asked.
Concerning the national machinery, she asked for more information about the office for women’s affairs, namely, the size of the staff, its budget and how exactly it worked with the women’s affairs departments in the 16 sectoral ministries. In what way were non-governmental organizations involved in the decision-making? When was the national women’s policy issued and how long-term was it? Was it regularly updated and how was it monitored? How was the poverty reduction strategy monitored? How many women had benefited from it and in what ways? What was the Government’s vision for dealing with poverty? How many non-governmental organizations were there in Ethiopia, and how many women’s non-governmental organizations? she asked.
CORNELIS FLINTERMAN, expert from the Netherlands, asked how many institutions the federal government had at its disposal to see to it that the regional governments lived up to the commitments under the Convention? Suppose a government of a region was unwilling to live up to those obligations? Was there any sanction by the federal government? Did there exist in Ethiopia a national human rights commission? Did its mandate also cover the Women’s Convention? he asked.
FATIMA KWAKU, expert from Nigeria, recognizing the constraints experienced by Ethiopia, congratulated the Government on its efforts to overcome them. The preparation of the report was a recurring problem, for which the Committee had repeatedly made the same comment. Was there any explanation for not writing the report in accordance with the Committee’s guidelines? Would Ethiopia like some form of training or assistance in that regard? Had any non-governmental organizations participated in drafting the periodic report?
Noting that paragraph 7 of the report says that a national policy to stop harmful practices against women was being pursued by the Government, she asked what that policy entailed. What were its operational modalities, and what had it accomplished to date? Was it a long- or short-term policy? Also, was there now a national human rights commission? she asked.
MARIA REGINA TAVARES DA SILVA, expert from Portugal, congratulated the Government on its political will and its enthusiasm about change in the country. The report itself had been rather descriptive about intentions and projects, but had provided little information on results. It was important to include more evaluation, in order to understand the dimension of the changes that had been achieved. She also sought clarification on paragraph 56 of the report, specifically, how the committee on women was different from the women’s affairs office or other institutions.
On violence, the report had mentioned that phenomenon mainly with respect to its relationship with HIV/AIDS and harmful traditional practices, such as rape and abduction, but nothing had been said about other forms of violence against women or sexual harassment in the home or private sector, she noted. The presentation had indicated that measures against abduction and domestic violence could be found in the draft penal code, but with some limitations. What were those limitations? There must be very strong cultural constraints to impose them. Had that meant that the perpetrators of rape and abduction could still escape prosecution through, for example, marriage? she asked.
ROSARIO MANALO, expert from Philippines, said that, despite the revision of laws and the introduction of training programmes, surveys had shown that violence against women still prevailed. Had a Government policy been formally initiated to fight violence against women? Were there any intentions to adopt a specific law dealing with that practice? Had any steps been taken to initiate studies, and not just surveys, to address that issue? Had international cooperation or assistance been sought to fight that phenomenon? On migrant workers, had gender mainstreaming for the equality of rural men and women been envisaged in the national development plan?
MARIA YOLANDA FERRER GOMEZ, Vice-Chairperson and expert from Cuba, said there had been a long history of harmful traditional practices, for which legislation was not enough. What measures would be taken to combat those traditional practices? Had the gender dimension been included in training for teachers and had there been awareness campaigns for journalists? What measures would be taken in the future to combat stereotypes? It had been stated that in pastoral areas it had not been possible to ratify the new family law. Intensive awareness training, therefore, was required.
PRAMILA PATTEN, expert from Mauritius, commended the Government on the significant changes to the general legal framework to eliminate discrimination against women, namely, the changes to the family and penal codes. Apart from the efforts of non-governmental organizations, what specific initiatives had been taken by the Government to sensitize women on their rights and the population at large on those recent changes? Did any programmes specifically target rural women, considering that a large percentage of the population lived in rural areas? Also, what specific programmes had been put in place for the judiciary and the police?
She said that the delegation had rightly referred to the deep-rooted cultural practices as “horrendous”. It has also stated that women often did not choose to go to court. Was there a legal aid system? Did the delegation really believe that women did not choose to go to court? She did not think they really had a choice, especially in the context of a country where women did not know their rights and did not have the means to go to court. Did any non-governmental organizations offer any form of legal assistance to those women who wanted to go to court, but who did not have the means to do so?

Country Response
Ms. ABASIYA said that polygamy was not prohibited. Concerning the relationship among the various departments and ministries dealing with women’s affairs, she said that those worked together and held a biannual meeting to review policy implementation. “We share experiences and we see the gaps and formulate ways to fill them, at regional and departmental levels”, she said. Replying to another question, she said that non-governmental organizations had not participated in the drafting of the current report, but would do so next time.
Ms. ASFAW explained that customary laws that were not consistent with the Constitution were not applicable. It was up to each individual, family, husband and wife, however, to practice what was written in the Constitution. To the question about whether there were effective mechanisms to subject the customary laws to the Constitution, a good beginning had been made, but for federal states to respect that consistently, “we need men and women willing to do so”. In most cases, “the men are very comfortable with the ways things were, let’s face it”, so that challenge had been to enlighten the women and men together, so that they will respect all of the country’s obligations and the Constitution, and do away with the customary law.
Replying to the question about whether Ethiopian women had been involved in tailoring the development aid, she said there was only one full minister at the federal level, which was still a very low figure out of 16 men. At the state ministerial level, there were about five women, and that was up from a “complete zero”. That was some progress, but if there was anyone to blame, “we Ethiopian women feel we have to blame ourselves first”. Nobody was going to give women power with a smile. “It was up to us to claim it and we have to work very hard”, she said.
At the grass-roots level, the local councils were comprised of 30 per cent women, but the higher up on the ladder, the fewer women were involved. That was due to a lack of education. Concerning the non-governmental organizations, in Ethiopia, there were many women’s non-governmental organizations, but most belonged to the elite, because that group knew how to organize itself and they knew the international language. But, the more the better. The grass-roots movements, however, had hundreds of thousands of women. The level of transparency of their operations would come to light based on which succeeded and which ones failed. Regions were willing to endorse the Constitution and all of them had endorsed it, she said.
“In the details of life, of family life”, particularly on the question of violence, the woman who had been beaten or violated should be willing to come to the courts. All women whose rights had been violated should have the courage and the confidence to come to the courts. It was true, however, that the courts were “filled with men”. The majority of judges were men, and very traditional men, who liked the old civil code. There was great resistance among a lot of men to change the civil code. Efforts must be made, therefore, to change the mentality of the judges, as well as that of law enforcement officials.
In Ethiopia, she said, it would be a long protracted struggle to change men’s attitude and strengthen women’s confidence. Incest was forbidden -- that was a “big no-no”. If abortion was ever allowed, it was when the pregnancy was the result of incest. Such crimes were not only prohibited, but also abhorred. She did not think people were ready to consider the issue of marital rape. She wanted that topic to be addressed, especially when the woman’s resistance to relations with her husband was from fear that he would pass on to her the HIV/AIDS virus. Information on whether marital rape had been considered would be included in the country’s next report to the Committee.
Regarding the marriage age, she said her grandmother had married at the age of 5. Then that number went to 9, then 15 and now it was at 18. An expert had asked about the results of change, but since the time of birth was not recorded in Ethiopia, nobody could tell whether a girl was 12, or 15 or 18. Nobody. Therefore, the parents’ guess or lies were accepted. In addition, with the surge of AIDS, people were so “dead scared” of not marrying until 18, that the age of marriage was falling again, the idea being that “the sooner the better”. Parents wanted to “fix” their daughters with a husband.
During the war, when land was issued to girls at the age of 12, men and women shared equal access to and control of land. Men had not been interested in “marrying little girls” because a girl only had a stomach to be fed and did not offer any property, but the law had changed that. A return to the requirement that only a woman of 17 and older could have land would be “very good for us”. That was the kind of challenge and opportunity that existed at the grass-roots level.
Ms. ABASIYA said that regarding planning, implementation and monitoring, Ethiopia’s gender machinery was not empowered to carry out gender mainstreaming and gender budgeting. Gender focal points had been established at various levels to mainstream gender issues. Finding the competence and financial resources to carry out gender issues was a problem.
Regarding the PRSP and the National Policy, she said the PRSP included the Millennium Development Goals, which included a gender dimension. The national policy advocated for the equality of women in all areas and the PRSP incorporated gender issues as cross-cutting issues. Attitudinal change was needed to implement the policy.
Harmful practices included not only female genital mutilation, she said, but numerous others. Priority was being given, however, to 10 practices, including early marriage, female genital mutilation and rape. Human and financial resources were needed to work on harmful traditional practices, however.

Experts’ Comments, Questions
MERIEM BELMIHOUB-ZERDANI, expert from Algeria, thanked the delegation for their sincerity. It was not an easy country for either men or women. Ethiopia had five borders and was landlocked. It had been marked by drought, floods, earthquakes -- conditions which could make people despair of life itself. Men and women had to work together. It was not a battle against men, but a battle for justice and equality. In article 7, on women in public and political life, the delegation was right in saying that it had started from zero. Differences in the involvement of men and women in the political sphere was a difficult matter. Age-old customs could be very damaging and must be overcome.
She suggested revisiting the parliamentary law, allowing for quotas for women in electoral lists. Article 4 on special temporary measures should be invoked to increase the number of women in elected positions. Women were interested in representing Ethiopia abroad. That should be encouraged, not only in United Nations organizations, but in African organizations. What number of Ethiopian women were represented in the African Union and how many were involved in the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD)?
DORCAS AMA FERMA COKER-APPIAH, the expert from Ghana, asked if an Ethiopian woman married to a non-Ethiopian man had the right to pass on her nationality. Under what condition could a foreign spouse married to an Ethiopian acquire Ethiopian citizenship? During the recent war between Ethiopian and Eritrea, a number of spouses had been deported, leading to a separation of families.
Ms. SCHOPP-SCHILING, the expert from Germany, asked for clarification between the report and the oral presentation on the women’s movement.

Country Response
Ms. ASFAW, responding to the question on the use of a quota system in Parliament, said quotas were used in the educational sector. The 30 per cent quota for women at the university level had not been met, however. The Constitution had been the result of the struggle of Ethiopian women. Ethiopian women had worked hard for it. Women had proven that, in an almost Biblical society, they could fight for their rights and bring about a Constitution. Women, moreover, had been part and parcel of the military force that had brought down the fascist regime in Ethiopia. If that could be done, women could be represented in Parliament, not as a gift, but because they claimed it on their own. Power achieved through sweat and toil would be much more valued.
Another issue with quota systems was that the elite always claimed quota seats, she said. The elite were not interested in grass-roots work. That was why the Government was emphasizing education. Also, it was not only a question of women’s, but of men’s poverty. On the representation in international organizations, she said an Ethiopian female candidate for the African Union had not been chosen. There were four women ambassadors. Much needed to be done in that regard.
She said she did not wish to discuss the Eritrean question. On another issue, men and women enjoyed exactly the same nationality rights.
On the question of a women’s movement, Ms. ABASIYA said there were women’s associations in some regions. It was not a national movement, however.
Ms. ASFAW said it was important to understand the structure of the State. Ethiopia had nine regions. Two cities had a different identity. In the four most populated areas, there were strong women’s movements. In Tigri, which had 3.5 million people, some 400,000 adult women had organized themselves. The same applied to the Amhara region, where 500,000 women had organized. Each region presented a different picture. It was difficult for the pastoral people to organize as they always moved. To address that issue from an educational perspective, schools would now be moving with the pastoral people. Among the pastoralists, there were women’s affairs offices. The women’s movement was strong among the women’s peasantry but not among the pastoralists.

Experts’ Comments, Questions
CHRISTINE KAPALATA, the expert from the United Republic of Tanzania, noted that child marriages were widespread. One of the consequences of child marriage was obstructed labour, which resulted in fistula. Were there programmes to help child mothers to deal with fistula? Also, what measures were being taken to address interruptions in education? She requested the delegation to provide information on specific programmes aimed at women with HIV/AIDS. Both poverty and HIV levels were very high in Ethiopia, she added.
SJAMSIAH ACHMAD, the expert from Indonesia, said it was important to recognize the huge restraints encountered by Ethiopia. She was concerned about the absence of information on studies on existing gender gaps. Had there been studies and, if not, did the Government envision such studies? Citizenship education should be rights-based and given by all educational institutions. Had the Government considered promoting girls and women’s education in the science and technology fields? Sensitization was not enough to eliminate gender discrimination. Training was needed for legislators and the judiciary.
Taking up the practice of female genital mutilation at the start of the afternoon session, Ms. SIMONOVIC, expert from Croatia, heard that current statistical data was at nearly 90 per cent. That meant that a very large number of women were not being protected from such a harmful practice. The penal code had not yet been adopted and sanctions for such practices were at a minimum. She encouraged the Government to take additional measures in the near future to correct those numbers.
Turning to the higher rate of maternal mortality, she asked how many were connected with unsafe abortions and what the Government planned to do to lower those numbers. Would it consider reviewing the punitive measures contained in the penal code against women who had undergone abortions? Something along those lines had been recommended in the Beijing Platform for Action, she noted.
Ms. KHAN, expert from Bangladesh, said the report had not provided much information on health, particularly on the services available for women’s reproductive health. In 2002, a study had indicated there had been very little improvement in Ethiopia in the provision of basic health care, including for mothers and children. The maternal mortality rate was higher in Ethiopia than elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa -– at 1,800 per 100,000 live births. That issue clearly had not been correctly addressed. There was also a very low rate of contraceptive use -- as few as 8 per cent of married women. That raised certain questions about the availability of family planning services for women and adolescents.
Noting that abortion was illegal, she had read where the health minister had described the number of youth undergoing abortions as “‘nothing less than shocking’” and a “‘national epidemic’”. Moreover, 70 per cent of those seeking medical help following abortions were under the age of 24. What kind of family planning services had been made available under the health sector development programme? she asked. In addition, female genital mutilation was taking place at an alarming rate of 80 per cent. The delegation today had stated that education was the only way to address that problem, but it was difficult to educate an illiterate population. Meanwhile, enforcement of the law should be given a very high priority, she said.
Ms. GABR, expert from Egypt, said it was not clear how the Government envisaged taking care of the dropout rate of girls, as well as all of the other difficulties in connection with education in the rural areas. On employment, the Government had adhered to several conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO), but there was a discrepancy in salaries between women and men in Ethiopia. Sometimes, women were not able to receive pay for their work. How did the Government envisage dealing with that discrimination and supporting women’s economic empowerment in small business, access to micro-credit, and so forth? Also, women’s participation in the informal sector was extremely important. More data was needed about their activities.
She asked about the right of rural women to property. She understood that, under the law, men and women were equal, but the de jure and de facto situations were completely different. She asked about the Government’s future plans to tackle that important issue.
Taking up the question of education, which, as the Minister today had rightly stated, was at the heart of the struggle, Mr. FLINTERMAN, expert from the Netherlands, said it was encouraging to note that the Government was making great efforts to bridge the gap between boys and girls, and men and women in the field of education and to make schooling gender sensitive. Concerning the division of power between the federal and regional governments, what were the powers of each with regard to education? For example, did the federal government have the right to make primary education compulsory, and had it done that already? If not, by which year should universal compulsory primary education have been achieved?
He also asked about the results of an analysis that had been made of primary school education, to which the country’s written response had referred, and whether any further actions had been taken in that respect. In 2004 to 2005, it had been indicated that the Government was hoping to achieve 30 per cent of women in government higher education institutions. Would that be the Government’s target in the future, and by which year did it hope to achieve “50-50” in all institutions of higher learning?
Ms. SHIN, Vice-Chairperson and expert from Republic of Korea, said that although the gender gap between girls and boys in primary and secondary school remained constant at 20 per cent, she noticed that that figure was increasing, however slightly. At the secondary level, girls’ enrolment was at 12.1 per cent two years ago, and last year that was at 14.3 per cent. Did the Government intend to formulate temporary special measures, such as scholarships or incentives for parents? Apart from the gender gap, there had also been a higher dropout rate among girls last year than two years earlier, and a higher repetition rate. Had an analysis been done of those increased rates?
Concerning health, she asked what kind of family planning, especially contraceptive use, was available to women. Was the cost of contraceptives affordable for women? If that was too expensive, the Government should make contraceptives available through a budgetary allowance, she said.

Country Response
Ms. ASFAW agreed that 80 per cent was very high level for female genital mutilation. In recent years, however, the rate had dropped by 12 per cent. She saw a relation between female genital mutilation and education and enlightenment. While female genital mutilation was considered a crime, it would be a long time before the population understood that. The practice was believed to have started as a result of men’s defence of their property rights. There were two types of female genital mutilation: the Pharaohic one, in which the girl was mutilated at eight days; and the other was sewing. She also agreed that there were many unsafe abortions. Girls never discussed abortion.
Regarding the continuation of the gender gap, she said that while many girls had started going to school, so had many boys. In a subsistence economy, children’s work was very important. Unless the farming communities had someone to look out for their livestock, the economy would collapse. As it was, the economy was very fragile. Girls almost always dropped out of school at harvest time. While parents were aware of the value of education, children were needed on the farm. Fetching water and grinding flour was the responsibility of the girls and ploughing belonged to the boy. The rural development strategy of the new economic plan, she hoped, would address the problem.
On the question of science and technology in education for girls, she said that, while there had long been female doctors, the prejudice also existed that women were not good at math. There were many more men in the scientific, legal and technological fields.
Regarding the health situation in rural areas, she said Ethiopia did have access to health clinics. It had a difficult time staffing them, however, as the education level was very low. In each county, there would be two female health workers. She hoped that programme would create a role model that women could hold good jobs. According to affirmative action programmes, 50 per cent of all teachers in rural areas had to be women. The rural development strategy included road building and the electrification of water delivery. That would be important for the emancipation of Ethiopian women.
The severe lack of food that Ethiopian women faced every three years was extremely dangerous, she added. The recurrent drought on a subsistence economy was more than the country could take and was responsible in part for the extremely high maternal mortality rates.
Differences in salary, she said, were not very great. That had been the case historically. However, it was very difficult for women to find jobs. In the private sector, women were often fired for repeated absences for childcare.
Women had full rights to own land, she said. Recently, however, there had been an interesting development. A woman could own land, but not own the oxen to plough the land. Men were needed to plough, as oxen were extremely powerful animals. The woman would pay for the man’s energy and labour for working her land, meaning she would lose at least a quarter of the income from the land.
Ms. ABASIYA said the penalty for female genital mutilation was five years. Mothers performed the female genital mutilation on their daughters. While no mother wanted to harm her daughter, the practice was a result of societal pressure. As such, only societal change could eradicate the harmful practice. Sanctions alone would not work.
On the use of contraceptives, she said traditions did not allow women to use contraceptives. Using contraceptives was seen as a sin.

Experts’ Comments, Questions
Ms. DA SILVA, expert from Portugal, noted that private employers could not be prevented from dismissing women when they had childcare responsibilities. What did the Government foresee with regard to protection of women in the private sector when it came to women’s maternal and family responsibilities? Were men totally unaware of their responsibilities in that area or had there been any sensitization in that regard? If not, women’s presence in the labour market would be harmed “very much”.
Overall, she said, the labour legislation seemed much more geared to protecting women in terms of their biological potential, and then in connection with pregnancy and motherhood, than ensuring equality in the labour market between women and men.
Ms. KWAKU, expert from Nigeria, said that the report had stated that affirmative action for girls’ enrolment in schools was already yielding results. It had stated that those measures covered only 28 schools in seven regions, and it was hoped that that would be replicated in all of the schools. Was that replication now taking place and, if not, was the Government considering that in the near future? Given the lack of data about the situation of older women and women with disabilities or special needs, could the delegation elaborate?
FUMIKO SAIGA, expert from Japan, asked how many years of education was obligatory and how many of those were free of charge. She also asked for more details about the women’s development project and fund.
Ms. PATTEN, expert from Mauritius, asked for some clarification about what was being done to reverse the desperate situation of some 85 per cent of the population living in rural areas. According to the report, regional governments had promulgated rural and land administration law, yet not all regional States had issued such land policies or laid down a system that was transparent or fair. What did the federal government intend to do to press for the promulgation of gender-sensitive land policies, and what funds were available?
Ms. MANALO, expert from the Philippines, recalled that a delegate had stated that if the girl child were brought into the school system the rural economy would collapse. That was sad, and the national development authorities should look into that matter. Emphasizing the significance of educating the girl child, she said her education was not a charitable enterprise, but a moral imperative, with which States parties to the Convention must comply. Leaving a young girl illiterate and without education would devastate the entire society. She repeated her question about whether the national development plan made gender mainstreaming an objective, especially towards the equality between rural women and men.
Ms. MORVAI, expert from Hungary, said it was clear from the oral presentation, that early marriage was an impediment to enhancing the status of Ethiopian women. Also, without birth certificates, no one really knew anyone’s true age. Was there any intention to introduce a birth registration process?
Also, she noted that the average life expectancy in Ethiopia was 44.9 years, or just a bit more than half that of “rich” countries. What were the main causes for that “shockingly short” life expectancy, and what was the vision for increasing that?
Returning to education, she said that the record should be set straight that fewer than one in five girls finished primary school without repetition. On prostitution, would the delegation enlighten the Committee about the facts and figures, and the Government’s efforts to prevent women from entering prostitution? Did it plan to address the potential clients and rehabilitate and reintegrate prostitutes into society? she asked.
Ms. ZERDANI, expert from Algeria, suggested that it was not possible to develop a country if the economic growth rate was lower than the birth rate. In that case, any efforts made, without raising the economic growth rate, would fail. Since it was difficult to increase production, given the country’s meagre resources, then the country had to work to reduce the birth rate. The birth rate of every woman in Ethiopia was 6.9 children. If every woman or family reached that rate, it would not be possible for the country to go very far. And, if among those born there were girls who underwent genital mutilation at birth, that could increase the incidence of HIV/AIDS, since that practice was often done under unsanitary conditions.
In order to change things, she said, definite action had to be taken in the field of education. All of the children of Ethiopia who were able to attend school should be enrolled, even if they had only two or three hours of schooling each day. That had been done in Algeria and Cuba, with conclusive results. The Government must also address the situation of rural women, as they represented 70 per cent of women in Ethiopia. It had been stated in the report that their contribution to farm production was between 60 and 100 per cent, depending on the region, yet the benefits they gained from that contribution was less than 2 per cent.
Rural women in Ethiopia clearly were marginalized and the poorest among the poor. If 2 per cent was their only benefit, she did not see why they would continue to work in agriculture. She said the Government could call on specialized United Nations bodies for support, such as United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Country Response
Ms. ASFAW said she did not like it that children did not have the chance to go to school, but if tomorrow the Government was to declare that all children must never work and must go to school from morning to evening, “we know what will come”. One needed to be aware of the peasant economy to understand what was being discussed here. In such an economy, unfortunately, children had a job to do. That was why the Government was insisting on rural development.
Regarding the private sector and job opportunities for women, 85 per cent of Ethiopians were peasants; only 15 per cent of the population lived in urban areas. In underdeveloped countries like Ethiopia, the biggest employer was the government. The private sector was very, very weak. Hopefully, as it grew, the issues of employment for women in the private sector would be “such a burning one” that the Government would take it up. Instead, the Government concentrated on women’s chance to be employed in that bureaucracy because that was the biggest employer.
Replying to a series of additional queries about education, she said that it was free for the primary years. There were not enough schools for all the millions of children in Ethiopia, but the real goal was to make education obligatory and to have the level of development that would allow that. Presently, education was at the parent’s discretion, but there was a big “agitation and awareness” programme to help the parents understand the value of schooling. It was not very difficult for the Government to convince parents to send their children to school, but if they did not do so, the Government did not have the capacity to take them to court. That would come later.
She said there was no separate policy for women in rural or urban areas; there was one women’s policy and that was heavily dependent on affirmative action. Results had fallen a little bit short on that, but work was ongoing to ensure that the policy on women applied to women in all areas of the country.
Registration of birth was starting, she said to another question. In the urban area, there had been a good development in birth registration. In the rural areas, first there needed to be somebody who was literate enough to write the date. She hoped the Committee understood her point. First, education had to spread before it would be possible to tell people to lower their birth rates, for example. And, education had to start in the villages.
She said that the Committee was right -– life expectancy was “shockingly” low. Because of poverty and all of the factors associated with it, life expectancy was 44 years of age. That figure had been affected by health and also greatly by the recurrent droughts. If a person did not die from hunger, she might die at childbirth three years later because her body had been so devastated, owing to the lack of appropriate nutrients. The drought, which used to come every
30 years, was now coming every three years.
What should the Government do about prostitution? she asked. Women who had not acquired land floated around the countryside, then moved to the small towns, and from there, to the big ones and into neighbouring countries. In Sudan, there were 150,000 Ethiopian prostitutes who had drifted from the countryside and had been ejected by poverty. There was a direct correlation between poverty and prostitution. In fact, a correlation had been made between prostitution and poverty and the spread of HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia. No matter what the Government might do to punish the clients or the prostitutes themselves, that practice would not stop.
She stressed that the only way to stop prostitution was through development. A woman was never a prostitute by choice; she was forced into that kind of life by poverty. Therefore, it had been deemed extremely important to have a poverty reduction plan with a women’s component in it. Attacking poverty was the appropriate solution for prostitution, she added.
Concerning the birth rate, children were old age pensions, she said. There was such a high level of child mortality that people were scared to lose their children. So, people were very much attached to having as many children as possible. Measles, for example, before immunization, took half the children in one year.
She agreed that the plight of the elderly in her country was a serious one. She did not have statistics and hoped to be able to provide some in the next report. Generally, however, the elderly had been deprived of their grandparent role, owing to the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, which was wiping out an entire generation of parents. So, grandparents were now being pushed into becoming parents of very small children. In terms of the disabled, the Government took care of the war veterans, and the non-governmental organizations looked after the rest. They were doing an especially “vibrant” job with the blind, she added.

Experts’ Comments/Questions
FRANÇOISE GASPARD, expert from France, said she had been perplexed by the report and the delegation’s replies. Today’s meeting had strengthened her question on the administrative apparatus to link political will with gender equality. She was perplexed about the implementation of the Convention itself. A new family code had been adopted which seemed to be in accordance with the Convention’s spirit. What was the application of the code? Who disseminated it, and who ensured that it was implemented? It had been said that some regions had not yet adopted the new family code. Did that mean that the federa
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