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Women sitting behind tables in a training

Women are underrepresented in politics 

After Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power in 2018, Ethiopia entered an era of democratic reforms, with major changes including the reform of electoral legislation, greater freedom for political parties and NGOs, and the release of political prisoners and the media.

However, democratic progress slowed down and took a step backwards starting in 2020, when the postponement of elections due to the COVID situation led to a conflict between Tigray state in the north of the country and the central government. The bloody conflict calmed down after a peace agreement was signed at the end of 2022. Since then, the situation in Tigray has been difficult. Much of the infrastructure was destroyed in the conflict and millions of people were forced into internal exile. Transport to and within the region is not functioning, which has prevented fertiliser and food aid from reaching the region. Post-conflict crop harvests failed and there is widespread famine in the region. Conflict reactivated in the south of the region in February 2024, causing around 50,000 people to flee their homes. This affects the priority beneficiary groups of Demo Finland’s work. These are women and persons with disabilities, the groups that are always hit hardest by conflicts.

Since the beginning of the Tigray conflict, Abiy has sought to centralise power in the federal government, which has led to regional conflicts between the federal and regional forces. A state of emergency was declared in the Amhara region in August 2023 due to the conflicts. The situation is also particularly tense in Afar, Gambella and Demo Finland’s partners’ programme area in Oromia. Between 2022 and 2024, the country has also seen an increasing number of arrests of actors critical of the central government.

Since the 2021 elections, 41.5% of MPs are women. All these women represent the ruling Prosperity Party (PP), which set a quota for the number of women MPs before the elections. Elections could not be held in all regions in 2021, which is why only 448 of the 547 seats in Parliament have been filled. A by-election will be held in June 2024.

Our work in Ethiopia

Demo Finland has worked in Ethiopia since 2019, together with its partner Network of Ethiopian Women’s Associations (NEWA). Founded in 2003, NEWA aims to promote equality and women’s rights in all areas of society. The joint project strengthens women’s capacity and their political participation on a multi-party basis.

The project aims to increase the skills of elected women, women members of political parties and women with disabilities to work as members of political parties and policymakers. The project is implemented through various training courses and workshops on the role of women in Ethiopia’s patriarchal culture, the basics of political activity and internal party politics that offer women the same opportunities for participation as men. Women with disabilities have been trained to participate in local political life. Electoral authorities and political parties have been trained on the role of people with disabilities and their participation in public and political life. The trainings have gathered women in politics from different parties and allowed the participants to also gain experience of multi-party co-operation. 

Results of our work

  • Six of the 16 political parties involved in the project amended their party documents to guide them to facilitate women’s participation.
  • Women politicians from two of the parties started training women politicians independently on the issues covered in the project’s courses.
  • Six parties started the process of setting up women’s organisations.
  • Individual political parties have started to recruit women as party leaders.
  • The Political Parties Joint Council, an Ethiopian political party co-operation organisation, established a working group on disability.
  • The National Election Board (NEBE) started working with organisations of persons with disabilities, supporting them in producing and publishing accessible materials on political issues.
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