Education is key in the fight against poverty. Education overcomes borders. Education creates equality. Education enables a self-determined life. Or, in PROJECT-E’s words, “Education Empowers”. There are numerous sayings about education and its power, and yet their implementation is by no means easy. All over the world, women and young girls in particular have to fight for their right to education.
Under the motto “Empowered Women Empower Women”, PROJECT-E’s current fundraising campaign sheds light on the PEHI’s female students’ career. Within this framework, we would like to look at facts and figures on the education of girls and women in Ethiopia.
Ethiopia’s parity government
When Abiy Ahmed became Prime Minister of Ethiopia in 2018, he filled half of the government cabinet with women. They have since been in charge of important offices, which include the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Peace and the Ministry of Science and Higher Education. Sahle-Work Zewde, a politician with decades of international experience, is a symbol of the fact that women are making their way into government offices and establishing themselves publicly as decision-makers. But is the political emergence of women also reflected in other areas of Ethiopian society?
Schooling in Ethiopia
Although schooling in Ethiopia is neither free nor compulsory, the country has one of the highest enrolment rates on the African continent: 86% of males and 81% of females are enrolled in school. However, only a few children continue studying after primary school. This is especially true for women: the most recent study (2017) shows that only 44.4% of females over fifteen can read and write. The are many reasons for them dropping out of school early: in rural areas, one of the main ones is that girls are often prevented from continuing their education due to early marriages and pregnancies. On top of this, only a third of Ethiopian teachers are female, and only 11% of them work in rural areas – Hence, there is the biggest shortage of female staff where there is the greatest need for female teachers to help the students develop their self-confidence as girls.
The Ethiopian higher education system
The Ethiopian higher education landscape has developed strongly over the past twenty years: the number of female employees at public universities has increased to 12.6% (2017); and the Minister of Science and Higher Education, Prof. Hirut Woldemariam, promotes women in decision-making positions at universities. Nonetheless, only 32% (2014) of students in higher education are women, and the male quota in Masters and PhDs is even up to 90%. For these reasons, there is a growing number of feminist movements and university activist groups in Ethiopia, such as the Yellow Movement or Setaweet. While the latter informs people on women’s emancipation through cartoons distributed in printed books, the Yellow Movement raises awareness on the issue of sexual violence through lectures and sessions on the Addis Ababa University campus. Even though the popularity of such organizations is growing, there is much that remains to be done…