Women are underrepresented in politics
Ethiopia was, in effect, a single party state until 1991 when EPRDF (Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front) came into power. Even after that, the state controlled all aspects of the lives of its citizens, and civil society and political opposition were not allowed to operate freely. Since becoming Prime Minister in 2018, Abiy Ahmed Ali has launched democratic reforms, including renewal of the electoral law, increasing the freedom of political parties, NGOs and media, and release of political prisoners. However, challenges still remain. With increased freedom, the control of the state has decreased which has given space for tension and even violent clashes driven by ethnic nationalism.
Over the past year, new challenges have emerged in the development of multi-party democracy, and the postponement of the 2020 elections due to the COVID-19 situation led to an unresolved conflict between Tigray Region in the north of the country and the central government. The Tigray conflict has further increased the instability of the country’s political situation. However, the National Election Board of Ethiopia has announced that elections will be held in June 2021. Organising democratic and fair elections is an integral part of the development of multi-party co-operation and provides an opportunity for multi-party dialogue in which also women can equally participate.
New laws and the increase of political space have lead to a growth in the number of political parties. According to data in the end of 2020, 20 national and 34 local parties had re-registered for the elections in early June. Most of the parties are organised along ethnic lines. Although almost 40% of Members of the Parliament are women, there is a need to support civil and political rights of women and to strengthen their capacity.
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, and supports women’s active participation in elections both as voters and as candidates on regional and national levels. The project has produced a radio program that gives voices to women in leading positions, challenging the traditional notion that only men can be leaders. The project has also provided training for social media influencers on the barriers to political participation that women face. The project maps out gender plans of different political parties and provides a material package for training female politicians. The trainings include information on electoral laws, campaign techniques and communications. The trainings will gather women in politics from different parties and allow the participants to also gain experience of multi-party cooperation.
Results of our work
- The project has been well received in the political parties. In the project events, the representatives of parties have appreciated NEWA’s work for gender equality and been positive towards possibilities to enhance women’s participation.